So, the cornerstone for industry innovation is seemingly gone for good. Word is leaking out that Google's famed 20% time has gone the way of Google Buzz, Pets.com, and AOL... wait, AOL still exists? OK, MySpace... wow, that too?? Um...Geocities!
In an article published on Quartz, Google tipsters are sounding the alert that the company has officially killed its "20% time" policy. The perk of Silicon Valley perks, 20% time was an allowance, available to anyone in the company, to use 20% of their work time to work on something not in their primary line of work. Essentially, 20% of your work time could be used on side projects.
This 20% time is what birthed the company's wildly successful, and now world-standard Gmail email service. It also is what allowed for the development of Google's insanely profitable AdSense -- the web-ad platform responsible for 25% of the company's $50 billion in revenue last year. Additionally, the 20% time policy allowed for the incubation of other Google services like Google Talk and Google News.
The death of this policy has occurred slowly. First, taking advantage of it quit being a right. It became something requiring permission from management. Now, word comes that managers are being discouraged from ever granting permission. Sort of like the old days of drug regulation -- you could buy marijuana if you had a marijuana stamp, but the government never printed any stamps. The death comes not only slowly, but intentionally, as the company adopts a "more wood behind less arrows" approach. They want to put more manpower behind their core products. Bluntly, they want people working on the products that make them money now, not the products that could make money some indeterminate time in the future.
As the procurement industry adapts to the changes required from it, the word everywhere is that it is an industry in need of cultivating innovations. Google used to be the first name spoken as an example of an innovative company. Apple is likely number two. By clamping down on innovation time, and focusing its efforts on existing product streams, Google is setting itself up to eventually flounder.
Growth comes from innovation. Innovation comes from freedom. As your organization looks to advance itself and its industry, look for the methods that encourage innovation. Don't just focus on what makes you money today.
Photo courtesy of InventionMachine.com