By Stewart Morse, president of Softec

To learn how companies are leveraging machine learning, artificial intelligence and even good old-fashioned mission statements, we didn’t just Google it — we went to Google itself.

The SLO Chamber’s Insight Studio trip to Google began early March 9, with 65 adults as excited as school kids waiting eagerly for their field trip to begin. Conjuring images of yellow school buses, we loaded up and headed north. I even made a new field-trip buddy, and we watched out for each other through the day.

The goal of this sojourn was to learn how the tech giant innovates and thrives and then bring back the pieces we can use at home — a mission that interested me as president of Softec. One of my duties as head of the regional tech alliance is to connect the tech community to people and the region and vice versa, and a full third of our volunteer board joined the trip with me and other business leaders and lifelong learners.

Throughout the day, Cal Poly alumni now at Google offered insight on using familiar and emerging tools to grow and innovate in a rapidly changing world.

Here are three takeaways from a day packed with learning.

Keep humans at the center of technology. We dove into the concepts of machine learning and artificial intelligence, which sound similar, but our Google guides delineated the differences. Under machine learning, computers look for patterns humans cannot see, while with AI, humans provide examples that computers can learn from as a basis for later decisions. But humans should always be involved, especially in determining what data the computer is fed.

Live your mission statement.  Through rapid growth, Google leaders relied on the company’s mission statement to engage employees in the pursuit of progress. How? Simply point a problem or issue back at the statement, former VP of Finance at Alphabet Jim Marocco advised, and ask, does this fit into the mission? Fairly straight forward, but a good reminder to direct your staff back to the original statement agreed upon as describing what you’re about.

Practice psychological safety. This concept was presented to us as a valuable collaboration tool. It describes when team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. Show understanding when working through decisions, one Googler told us, and be inclusive in decision-making. That means even in interpersonal settings, such as making sure you’ve invited everyone when going to lunch. Every process can’t be shared before decisions are made, but those should be the exception, not the rule.

Click the picture below to view photos from the trip.

Insight Studio | Trip to Google 2018