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    Google’s 80/20 Formula – It can work for you!

    It’s a well-known fact that Google employees are encouraged to spend 80% of their time on core projects, and 20% of their time on “innovation” activities that peak their own personal interests. This 80/20 formula can also work for any organization that desires to ramp up its innovation spirits. Here are some helpful tips we found on the Mama Bee blog. Mama Bee is an information site for working mothers in the corporate world.

    google_80-20logo

    Google’s 80/20 Innovation Model

    The ITO (Innovation Time out) policy encourages Google employees to spend 80% of their time on core projects, and roughly 20% (or one day per week) on “innovation” activities that speak to their personal interests and passions. These activities may benefit the company’s bottom line – as in the case of Gmail, Google News, AdSense and Orkut. But more importantly they keep employees challenged and engaged in ways that aid retention and keep staff learning and growing.

    Imagine a scenario where you could spend 20% of your time on projects that you think could benefit your company or world, and that you “own.” That could stimulate you to think differently and passionately about the other 80% of your work, leading to a more fulfilling professional experience

    Of course, this model works well for developers, engineers and other creative types. What about for the rest of us? Is there an 80/20 innovation model that could help your administrative assistant do his or her job better? Help middle managers make the leap more effectively to senior staff? Energize senior staff by offering mentoring and stewardship opportunities around such projects?

    Innovation is the key for companies surviving this economic downturn. Here are some thoughts on implementing an innovation policy in your workplace:

    1. Create a formal process for project selection, monitoring, and evaluation. At Google they track innovation time and know exactly which projects are being pursued. Employees who want to take advantage of innovation time off should submit a brief proposal and timeline, and be able to articulate how they will measure success.

    2. Don’t worry about failure. In some ways innovation, like so many other things, is a numbers game. You throw up 50 projects, and maybe one or two stick. Most will fail, but you can’t know which will work unless you try. Failure is a critical p[art of true innovation.

    3. Start small. Successful pilot projects help to leverage support and build awareness. Encourage your employees to create scalable projects that can be launched with relatively little investment.

    4. Let your staff shine. Champion good ideas by facilitating and advocating, but let your employee present directly to senior management. Managers benefit when CEOs see that they have recruited intelligent and insightful staff.

    5. Manage expectations. Not every project can be seen to fruition – in fact 95% of projects generated by your innovation policy won’t go anywhere. You don’t want disappointed, disillusioned employees, so manage their expectations.

    About The Mama Bee:

    The Mama Bee offers tips, news and commentary for mothers working in the corporate world. For more information visit:

    http://themamabee.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/management-friday-googles-8020-innovation-model/

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    11 Responses to “Google’s 80/20 Formula – It can work for you!”

    1. Great article. I just met a lead executive in engineering at Google who was part of an innovation panel I sat on in Chicago last week.

      He would definitely say he practiced the 80/20 Rule at Google.

    2. [...] it with acknowledgment, training, tools – and rewards for achievement. In a recent post here, “Google’s 80/20 Formula – It can work for you!” we briefly described Google’s take on the issue… encourage employees to spend 80% of [...]

    3. test says:

      Would you have any insight into how the ITO is addressed in a company’s vision and strategy? There’s a lot of generic terms that gloss over this concept, “innovate”, “leadership”, “dynamic”, “empower”, etc. However, I feel like a program such as ITO could be captured more concretely and specifically. Is it?

    4. admin says:

      An interesting question, and timely. We are working with a client right now on re-crafting their Vision, Mission and Values statements; and this very question came up during a recent SmartStorm on the topic. No doubt the cliches of business jargon do an inadequate job of communicating the real meaning of the words in regards to how they apply to a specific organization. With that in mind, I’m not sure there is any one-size-fits-all answer to your question, since the meaning of all the terms you list varies among organizations and business situations. Our insight would be the same we shared with our client – we need to dig deeper to determine just what “innovation” means to YOU and your company, and then craft language that clearly reflects that meaning. A powerful Vision, Mission and Values statement can be a real guiding force for a company and its employees, but only if it is meaningful and relevant. Best of luck!

    5. [...] att förlora sin innovativa förmåga, vilket Google har förstått och försökt tackla med sin implementering av 80/20-regeln. Därför är det extra spännande med revolutionerande idéer när det handlar om jätteföretag [...]

    6. George says:

      Great article. I just met a lead executive in engineering at Google who was part of an innovation panel I sat on in Chicago last week.

      He would definitely say he practiced the 80/20 Rule at Google.

    7. Dennis says:

      Would you have any insight into how the ITO is addressed in a company’s vision and strategy? There’s a lot of generic terms that gloss over this concept, “innovate”, “leadership”, “dynamic”, “empower”, etc. However, I feel like a program such as ITO could be captured more concretely and specifically. Is it?

    8. admin says:

      Not entirely sure I understand your question. But clearly ITO must be “real,” supported by management and a believable and executable part of the organization’s culture. The further up the culture chain it is established (as in the vision, mission and values), the greater the chance it will be real and sustainable. For example, we recently worked with a client in redefining their VMV and instituting systems and policies to support them within the organization. One Value statement was specifically focused on entrepreneurship and taking ownership for ongoing innovation. A training program is being launched along with the VMV, and will support this and other core values. Clearly this kind of commitment and follow-through increases the odds that such an initiative will succeed.

    9. [...] giant Google has become a model of resource extraction of a different type – human capital. Google’s 80/20 work design allows employees to spend 20 percent of their time on their own projects. Google credits its [...]

    10. What is the ownership rights of the employee that comes up with a successful idea, which gets developed and launched within the 80/20 system at Google.

      Is the ownership 50/50 between them and Google? 80/20? 100% Google?

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