Aug 16, 2013

Will the loss of “20% time” at Google stifle innovation in the company?

Google has apparently eliminated the former practice of letting employees spend 20% of their time on independent projects since Larry Page took over the helm. You might say, hey, this is a business not a playground, suck it up and do work 100% of the time like the rest of us. Well, that 20% time led to the development of “toys” such as AdSense, Google Talk and Gmail. By eliminating this and moving into a more rigidly structured, traditionally corporate work environment, will Google damage it’s ability to develop innovative products?

Yep it'll hurt them eventually. But it should come as no surprise. Google's fledgeling days are long, long behind it. It's a giant corporation now, and thus the old ways are being steadily eliminated or changed. Sad to see, but very predictable.

 While I can see upper management viewing this as goof off time, I think they are being short sighted. You mented several examples of products that resulted, at least in part, from 20% time. While they do have the Google X Labs where new and frankly exciting projects are developed, can there really be any doubt that having hundreds of very talented people working one day a week on pet projects will not be duplicated by a development team working on what they are told? I think that the more people there are working "off script", the more likely it is that something truly innovative will result.

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