Why Google’s 20% time was a perk and not a part of the freedom-of-initiative culture


Recent reports indicate that Google has been effectively zeroing out employees’ “20% time”—the policy of letting Googlers spend a fifth of their time working on whatever innovative, maybe even crazy, projects they wished.

The news is a shocker. Google had widely touted its 20% time as a cornerstone of its “innovation machine.” Larry Page and Sergey Brin also cited 20% time as leading to many of Google’s “most significant advances.” These include Gmail, Google News and Adsense—and that last one accounts for a quarter of Google’s $50 billion-plus in annual revenue.

Founders Page and Brin, together with ex-CEO Eric Schmidt, reportedly used it personally. So what explains Google’s push to reduce the number of such projects, to put “more wood behind fewer arrows”? The short answer: ignorance. Google’s top brass seems not to understand the reasons for their company’s success…

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