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Showing posts from June, 2012

Google's Hybrid Approach to Research

This month's Communications of the ACM features an article on Google's Hybrid Approach to Research by Alfred Spector, Peter Norvig, and Slav Petrov. Since this is a topic I've blogged about here before, I thought I'd provide a quick pointer to the article:

Overall I think the article does a nice job of summarizing Google's approach. The key takeaway is that Google doesn't separate its research and engineering activities: most "research" at Google happens during the day-to-day work of building products.

The benefit of this model is that it's easy to have real world impact, and the pace of innovation is fairly rapid, meaning research results get translated into products quickly. The possible downside is that you don't always get a chance to fork off  long-term (multi-year) projects that will take a long time to translate into a product. However, there are exc…

Startup University

The academic research process is incredibly inefficient when it comes to producing real products that shape the world. It can take decades for a good research idea to turn into a product - and of course most research never reaches this phase. However, I don't think it has to be that way: We could greatly accelerate the research-to-product pipeline if we could fix the academic value system and funding model.

Here's the problem: Some of the smartest people in the world have spent their entire careers building throwaway prototypes. I sure never built anything real until I moved to Google, after nearly ten years of college and grad school, and seven years as a faculty member. And by "real," I don't just mean a prototype that we developed for a couple of years and then threw away as soon as the papers got published. In effect, I "wasted" millions of dollars in funding, and countless man-years of development effort by my students and lab staff -- apart from a…