the margin

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a change is as good as a rest

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If we accept the general idea that people need a break from constant work, “a change is as good as a rest” is an old saying that might not seem applicable in a business environment. If you’re paying someone to do a job, where’s the advantage in letting someone do something they’re not being paid for?

This is where the idea of a flexible company comes in to play. Is it possible for a company’s business to be flexible? For at least part of the agenda to be set by the people working there?

Google, the Internet company founded on internet search, is the best-known example of such a company today. Whole books have been written on Google, so I don’t need to tell you much more about them, but I would like to say a bit about a particular perk of working there: 20 percent time.

Google employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their time, or one day a week, working on ideas not directly related to their main work project. Some of Google’s more interesting products have come directly from this process, including Orkut, their “social networking” system.

For a quick example of how this works, here’s a blog entry from a Google employee, describing how he was able to add a simple feature to Google Reader: 20 percent time in action. The feature in question is hardly ground-breaking – a new keyboard shortcut – but this same process has led to the real products described, and will lead to more.

The key point to be read from this is that the interests pursued by Google employees, in their 20 percent time, can be related to their personal interests. Getting paid for pursuing your personal interests might be interpreted by some companies, especially smaller ones, as “goofing off”, but… so what? Google’s financial success means that they can employ more people than they need to, and offer this 20 percent time perk in the hope that it leads to products with a stronger connection with what users actually want.

That’s enough for the moment – but you can bet I’ll be coming back to this topic as more information comes in. It will be interesting to compare and contrast how different companies approach the need to keep their employees motivated and creative. Plus, how they deal with forced breaks due to parenthood, illness, or family obligations, without estranging the people involved.


Written by brian t

May 20, 2006 at 12:24 pm

Posted in business, margin

One Response

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  1. The post a change is as good as a rest i have aready write before, if i was you i will shorten it using, or…. to share it on social

    Margin Lee

    November 4, 2016 at 9:03 pm

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