Google's famous "20% time" which created Gmail, GTalk, and Google Sky may be dead

Google's famous
One of the most famous tenets of Google life has been the idea of "20% time", which dictated that 80% of your time working at Google would be spent on company mandated projects, and 20% of the time (or one day out of five) could be used to work on whatever projects you wanted to. The 20% time list of products is pretty impressive, including (most famously) Gmail, AdSense, GTalk, Google Sky, and Google News.

Of course, you may notice that none of those products are especially new, and that may be because Google has been moving away from the idea of 20% time. When Google first started, Larry Page and Sergey Brin described the use of 20% time as a way to keep the company innovating. Unfortunately, employees are finding it harder and harder to find the 20% time in their schedules. 

It started with Google implementing a policy where employees would have to request permission to work on a 20% project, but recently it has been reported that Google's higher-ups have begun instructing managers not to approve 20% time requests. Various employees have confirmed this move. 

This all could be simply another part of Larry Page's attempt to focus Google. The idea is that rather than have the someone haphazard and unsupervised experimentation of 20% time, Google is pushing more to centralize the experimentation into its Google X Lab, which is where many expect Android's creator Andy Rubin is now working.

source: Quartz



1. DaNTRoN

Posts: 135; Member since: Jul 23, 2012

the idea of 20% is a big part of why i liked google. i hope they can continue to innovate. x labs is cool, but to remove gifted engineers from floor production to x lab stops productivity of consumer level goods in the short run. i hope they can keep focus.

11. designerfx

Posts: 76; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

20% time means a LOT more than the just "20% innovation time". It's been proven time and time again, study after study that giving employees a break from their regular work makes them better employees. I really hope they don't kill this.

18. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Empire raise empire fall. Just keep an open mind and move with time.

2. ilia1986 unregistered

I am also certain that these 20% have created google buzz and google wave. Don't worry - unlike Apple - google will never stop innovating.

3. gazmatic

Posts: 822; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

dont kill this google... you cannot get despotic now dont stifle innovation long live the 20%

6. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

I think they are moving to maximize the time since things are starting to move faster, they to put the thinkers together in Google X that way they can focus more. Streamlining is the way to go, I agree it may not be beneficial to everyone but to the company as a whole it's a good idea to move it to a particular branch of Google instead of leaving it open to just everyone. It will more than likely come back when this way proves a problem to creative innovation. A company that is unwilling to change and try new things will die, they are just trying a different thing and if it doesn't work they can always go back to something that did. These guys are a pretty innovative company, no matter how nasty the corporate heads can actually be, as long as the core of the company remains genuine and caring they will always nurture creativity. I'm itching to see what kind of innovative things Google + Motorola can come up with.

4. ZeroCide

Posts: 818; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

Why is google being so angry/evil latly. First against MS for no HTML5 and now against its employees. Whos next?..... its users.

7. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

I am not sure how removing this 20% quote will affect google, but saying that they are against employees? Do you even have a clue what you talking about? Employees were given the option to work 20% of time on other non-essential experiments. Removing it doesn't mean that they are suddenly against employees. First of all most companies never has such a culture. It was extremely good of google's part that they allowed it in past. You get paid 100%, you are expected to also work 100%. if you worked only 80% in past, it simply means I was very generous in past. Now you work 100% according to what I say. Afterall I pay you to do that. If someone doesn't like it, let him search for a better job where you have to work only 80% of time.

8. marbovo

Posts: 658; Member since: May 16, 2013

This is not against employees, it is against inovation, Have you seen the bunch os products that started with 20% time projects, can you imagine Google without those products? Now they are just like any other company, instead of inovate, they buy smaller companys(Android, Waze...) Too sad for google, we wont see any brand new product coming from scratch inside google anymore

9. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

I hope you are not occupying a managerial spot where you work. The way you speak is reminiscent of mainstream corporate culture, which is as close to innovative corporate culture as Beethoven is to Bieber. I suppose suits and ties impress you, as well?

15. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

You are right. I am not in a managerial position. I run my own business. Nothing too big, but decent enough. I hire so-called managers (we call them here as supervisors) to handle the workers. I don't have authority to tell google what they should do. But I do know that when you pay someone, make sure he earns that. I will pay what I am supposed to, but I will ensure it was worth it. That means no funny 80% business. No suits don't impress me. Only thing that impresses me is work and success.

10. ZeroCide

Posts: 818; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

I do have a clue what i'm talking about. Taking away a freedom that emloyees used and relished is counter employee/innovation. Especially when this freedom came up with useful google products. It is a step backwords as far as the google employee may see it. which usually causes a lose of moral and the employees are less productive. I'm sure you spending time here on PA while at work is part of your 20% right. You may want to get that stick that is up your A** looked at. It is impeding your judgement. If you ever get into a managerial position do the employees a favor fire yourself. You don't seem to be cut out for that job.

14. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

Employees are not paid for their 'freedom'. They are paid to 'work'. That means to work the 100% of your time mentioned in the contract/offer. It's none of your business to check my work. No, I am not in a managerial position. I OWN my business. When I say I hire, I hire guys like you to work for me. They do as I tell them. None of you will get hired to work just 80% of time. You work 80%, you will get paid only 80%. Don't like it, then get out of here. I will get another dozen within a day.

16. rawbow

Posts: 428; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

well Mr Nest, should you choose to get out of the nest, i *ex employee* shall be waiting with a shotgun bought with the 80% of the money "you" paid me :P On a more serious note, 20% innovative work time would have a good success at the start but I am sure employees would soon start abusing it. Thus the move , i Presume

19. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

People *here* are not trigger-happy like in US. Normally in our culture we don't greet each other with a gun in hand. Most businesses have a simple rule - we hire people with a set objective. We expect employees to respect that and work accordingly. If google gave 20% free time to employees in past, that their business. I am sure there were merits. If they are stopping it now, it means that the management found that the additional 20% can be better utilized.

17. blazee

Posts: 414; Member since: Jan 02, 2012

He really doesn't know what he's talking about. He probably owns a windows 8 device and is just mad at Google for shutting down the YouTube app for not complying w their terms of service.

20. marbovo

Posts: 658; Member since: May 16, 2013

Ok, so you have a bakery, and If you workers had 20% of their time to invent better kinds os bread that would help you to sell more products and by this, raise your profit, they are not working just 80% they are working even more than 100%, because they are creating amazing new stuff that you alone couldn´t do it. But you with your little mind, you can´t think that way, thats why your shop is nothing too big

12. designerfx

Posts: 76; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

MS's lack of HTML5 isn't angry/evil. It's MS being incredibly lazy.

13. ZeroCide

Posts: 818; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

Lazy... because they wanted to develop it in something that may work better in WP. So google was being lazy too when they developed the Android and iOS youtube app to because there is in HTML5 there. And the App on me ICS tab doesn't work right anyways.

5. starandmountain

Posts: 53; Member since: Apr 01, 2012

this is a bad move from google! People get ideas thanks to regular working, they do have the oppurtunity to explore their ideas. Thereby more people do have more ideas than a few people continuously thinking about what could be a good idea. I also liked the way google was working. If I was an employee i would defenitely make us of the oppurtunity!!!

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