Healthy competition inspires innovation

When Google introduced Gmail and YouTube, they knew that their data storage system was not adequate. They had to figure out what to do about this situation. The head of the infrastructure group at that time was a man named Bill Coughran. Bill allowed two teams to work differently, one team to build on the current system and the other team to build from scratch. Bill’s role was to spark the debate between the two teams.

When Build It from Scratch team shared their prototype with the group. Their design had many limitations. As the need for a solution became more urgent, it became clear that the existing solution was the right one for the moment. So, they selected that one. 

The whole process took nearly two years. Early in that process, one of the engineers had gone to Bill and said, “We are all too busy for this inefficient system of running parallel experiments. But as the process unfolded, he began to understand the wisdom of allowing talented people to play out their passions. He admitted, “If you had forced us to all be on one team, we might have focused on proving who was right and winning and not on learning and discovering what was the best answer for Google”.

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