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Google keeps it fresh

BY SAMUEL CLEARY | NOVEMBER 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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Elevators to space; cars that can drive themselves; refrigerators that can order new shipments of food when supplies run short.

In light of a new project on behalf of one of the world's fastest-expanding companies, such fantasies might one day become reality.

This past Sunday, a few New York Times reporters interviewed dozens of people knowledgeable of — but, because of secrecy, not directly involved with — Google's Google X headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The top-secret lab is home to a new initiative by the mega-corporation Google that seeks to tackle a list of roughly 100 "shoot-for-the-stars ideas."

The new project is a testament to not only what remains of a dwindling American dominance of technological ingenuity but also the innovative potential of corporations even in times of recession. Amid the trying backdrop of economic sluggishness, Google continues to prove that with a concentration on research and continual investment in innovation, expansion is possible, even against the odds.

While most of the ideas on Google X's hit list are in the abstract stages — mere projections of hopeful advancements to come — it's in the nature of the company's endeavors that we find promise.

Google's success isn't by any means a reflection of the norm. Since the official declaration of a recession in late 2007, the financial times have taken a toll on an innumerable number of domestic and global corporations, from Blockbuster and Borders to SkyBus and Circuit City. So what, then, makes Google so special?

The answer, simply put, is innovation. Despite the long list of failed companies, the names of those that flourished during economic crises is just as shocking. Thomas Edison's General Electric, for instance, was founded during the Panic of 1873; MTV spawned amid the chaotic rubble of the early 1980s economy; more recently, Wikipedia rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the 9/11 recession.

The Wall Street Journal released the winner of its 2011 "Small Business, Big Innovation" competition Tuesday. The award went to Quadlogic Controls Corporation, a New York City-based manufacturer of electricity-metering systems. While the company is no Google, don't dis its style — after years of record lows following the economic downturn, Quadlogic is on track to bring in $20 million in revenue this year.

Its secret? Like Google, Quadlogic's claim to fame is innovation. The company's partners found success in a calculated gamble born from desperate circumstances, increasing research and funding for a new, experimental branch of its production and restructuring its marketing strategy.

Endeavors such as the Google X project seek to facilitate advancements in robotics, automobile technology, and aerospace engineering, as it looks to become a catalyst for new ideas and a workplace for genius minds. The trend of Google's innovative scope seems to represent the same stroke of calculated risk seen in Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic project, in Zuckerberg's social-networking brainchild; in Neil Clark Warren's eHarmony.

The instinctive reaction of many businesses during recession is often one marked by paralysis, with a business strategy emphasizing maintenance instead of proactivity. Yet, by re-evaluating marketing strategies and increasing funding for research, expansion is a real possibility. As they say, fortune favors the bold.

Google and its "X" project shouldn't serve as a demonstration of extraordinary corporate ambition but an indicator of a necessary mentality: Innovation of such a degree is directly linked to the vitality of any corporation today, especially in America. Since its founding and resultant popularization as a search engine, Google has continually proven itself as a vessel of progress and ingenuity — it has created jobs, supported the arts, revolutionized the contemporary workplace, and facilitated both technological and social advancements. Despite the company's trial early this year on suspicions of being a monopoly, Google represents everything that American business should aspire to become.


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