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Is 20% Enough For Innovation?

It’s pretty well documented that Google dedicate 20% of their employee’s time to working on their own innovative products. Lots of their best work has come from this 20%, including Gmail, Google News, Buzz and more, and Google attribute 50% to the innovation time out.

This 20% leaves employees 250% more productive, and helps the business massively.

3M place a heavy focus on innovation too. Despite being over 100 years old they constantly create innovative products due to the amount of support they place on their employees to create, and place 6% of their entire revenue on R&D. This has resulted in them creating tons of new products, from post-it notes to masking tape.

Facebook take a different but similar approach, allowing their engineers to have complete free reign of the projects they work on. They have very few production managers in comparison to engineers, and encourage the employees ability to decide on work for themselves.

All of these case studies make it glaringly apparent that innovation is an important part of business. However, is it enough? If Google are getting 50% of their products from that 20%, why not dedicate 25%? That time spent is being 4x more effective than the more controlled and planned time, so why not place a higher priority on it? Would 3M reap more benefits if they dedicated 12% instead of 8% to innovation? How can anyone draw the line on what amount of time should be set apart for innovation?

Of the 3, I think Facebook have got it best. Rather than setting aside a certain amount of time, or creating departments dedicated to it, Facebook have instilled a corporate culture that encourages continuous innovation. Their employees are always trying to find innovative solutions to projects, and have creative control over their contributions. Innovation shouldn’t be an after thought you cram in at the end of the week, or something you have to dedicate a section of the budget to, because it should be an integral part of your corporate environment, so heavily intertwined with the rest of working life that they are inseparable