As it turns out, rumors of the demise of Google’s 20-percent time have been greatly exaggerated.
A Google spokesperson confirmed today that employees are still encouraged to pursue ideas that might fall outside of their normal work scope, or what has commonly been referred to as Google’s “20% time.”
A story earlier today from Quartz.com claimed Google’s 20-percent time was “as good as dead.” The report sparked a debate on Hacker News, and has now resulted in a follow-up article with comments from anonymous Googlers alleging Quartz.com’s earlier report was “flat-out” wrong.
“As a Googler, I can confirm that this article is… completely wrong,” said one anonymous commenter on Hacker News, “I don’t have to get approval to take 20% time, and I work with a number of people on their 20% projects.”
According to Google, empowering employees to run with their ideas and contribute in a meaningful way to different projects is still core to the company’s culture, even if the side projects may not represent an exact number of hours each week.
A Google spokesperson told Marketing Land that the company recognizes people are more productive when they are working on projects that excite them. Google engineers are given a lot of flexibility when choosing projects, and encouraged to pursue company-related interests.
Google’s 20-percent time, a policy allowing employees to devote one day a week to side projects, has often been cited as the primary reason behind Google’s innovation. Quartz.com listed a number of Google products they claimed were the result the 20-percent policy, including AdSense, Gmail, Google Talk and Google News.
While Google’s 20-percent rule may not be as relevant to the company as it once was, the lack of commitment to it does appear to fall in line with CEO Larry Page’s focus on streamlining Google’s product efforts. Shortly after taking over as CEO in April 2011, Page elected to close Google Labs, the experimental playground where many side projects were developed.