Testing on the Toilet...and Other Things I Learned at Google

Author: Katherine Ratkiewicz | Source: HCI | Published: August 4, 2010

I had the opportunity this past weekend to take a tour of Google’s NYC office for the first time and it was fantastic! From the game room, to the lego room, to the micro-kitchens every 100 feet, to the whiteboards filled with magnetic poetry, formulas, and of course doodles. Googlers rode by me in their scooters to get from one side of the building to the other(the building is one city block long), and I couldn’t help but notice the unofficial motto “Don’t Be Evil” plastered all over the walls. On our way up to the beautiful roof deck (where they grow their own veggies), we passed by a museum-esque wing devoted to the evolution of the computer from pre-punch card computers through to Atari. It was incredible! The OD/Learning practitioner in me was wondering how all of this great Google culture fits into their overall Performance Management and L&D philosophy.

And then it hit me, well, all of the complimentary vitamin waters actually hit me, and I visited the Google restroom.  And there it was on the stall door, “Testing on the Toilet”. It was a one-pager guide for Google Engineers to learn a new testing process while they’re in the bathroom. At first this seemed a bit over-the-top, learning even when you’re in the bathroom? And then I realized, learning happens at all different times, in all different ways

This was just one example of Google’s philosophy towards work – unusual perks keep employees happy and thinking in unconventional ways, and learning should happen in quick snippets all of the time. After all, what better way to keep your organization’s most important assets engaged, productive, and most importantly for Google, Innovative? Encourage continuous learning, development and participation across the organization.

What a wonderful sneak peek into the world of a Googler! The only other place that comes close to as intriguing as a tour of Google is maybe one of the White House. I’d love to be a fly on the wall, or in their bathroom, hearing the hallway conversations, picking up on their Learning & Development techniques. The closest opportunity I’ll have for that is actually coming up soon! HCI’s Government Talent Management Summit is happening on September 20-22. While we won’t get a private tour of the White House, we will certainly get to hear from leading Government and Militiary leaders who will be sharing knowledge on a whole host of interesting and relevant topics. Not to mention, one of my all time favorites, Richard Florida will be there too! Hopefully I’ll see you there, you never know, we might bump into each other in the restroom!