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’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.
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