Thursday 26 September, 2013

Google’s 20 Percent Time – Where the Real Work Gets Done

Google is a company that’s known for its creative corporate culture. It has brought us world-changing technology that changes the way we live. Perhaps the secret to all of this wild creativity is its most famous policy – Google’s 20 percent time.

This is a rule Google has had since the beginning. The company makes each employee spend 20 percent of their working time on individual creative projects and new ideas. Instead of doing the day-to-day work they have to do, they can explore and tinker with new ideas.

If you do the math, that’s 1/5th of your working time. If you work a five-day work week, that’s an entire day of the week. 20 percent time is part of the company’s casual, unorthodox approach to doing business.

The Benefits of Goofing Off

It’s often said that this creative time has yielded some of the company’s best ideas, innovations and products. Supposedly, this creative goof-off time brought us Gmail, AdSense, Google Maps and a whole list of other major products. In fact, it’s predicted that 50 percent of the company’s projects originated during this 20 percent time.

How could this possibly be productive? Well, people need creative time and a space to create. Everything you do can’t be structured or you’d just be doing monotonous busy work. The best ideas come when you’re tinkering, exploring and playing just like a child.

What if you implemented a policy like this in your company (or for yourself if you’re a solo entrepreneur)? You could see a major flood in the flow of creativity.

The Death of 20 Percent Time

Recently, it’s been widely reported that Google’s 20 percent time is as good as dead. Several anonymous ex-Google employees have told tech blogs that it’s not really dead, but technically no longer in effect. With heavier workloads than before, the 20 percent time is more like an extra 20 percent time. Employees need approval to work on their projects which also makes it difficult because there’s a bit of red tape involved.

But does the company really need it anymore? It could be argued that yes, every company needs it, even one as big as Google. But pundits say that through policies such as 20 percent time, the company has fostered a creative culture, and even without this especially set-aside time, the creative juices still flow.

The Legacy of 20 Percent Time

In any case, 20 percent time served its purpose well. Not only has it brought us a wealth of unique, revolutionary products, but it has also inspired small start-ups to do the same. This is one reason why small start-ups are so innovative. This creative time is the fuel for their ideas.

If you’re a small business or solo entrepreneur, you need to make that creative time for yourself or your employees. It doesn’t have to be 20 percent of your working time. It may be just an hour a day, but give yourself the time and space to explore new ideas and play with them.

Bob Steele

Bob Steele

Bob Steele is an entrepreneur, software developer, marketer, and author living in the Denver metropolitan area. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing, hiking, fishing, boating, and just plain having fun. His interests include games, space, technology, physics, cooking (well eating actually), economics, business, internationalism, and team sports. With over thirty years of professional consulting experience, Bob has been exposed to many diverse business models and has gained a sensible approach to life. Bob’s company, WaveCentric is focused on commerce, marketing, and entertainment related products.

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