Recently there's been some buzz about Google's allocation of employee time, the "70/20/10" split as reported by EWeek. Basically, employees spend 70% of their time working on main projects, 20% of their time working on adjacent projects (like Froogle, Google News, and other beta projects), and 10% of their time working on personal pet projects that may or may not pan out, may or may not be useful, but that are sure fun to play around with.
How brilliant! At other businesses, spending time off-project working on things you like would be called "wasting your time" or "being distracted at work." But Google calls it "innovation." THAT'S why Google is the hottest company out there right now, and will stay that way for a while. As Paul Allen put it:
"Most companies operate from the top-down. Managers tell employees what to do. Executives make all the resource allocation decisions. But Google has embraced a philosophy which I think can revolutionize the business world--if other companies are smart enough to adopt it. While the most talented, creative, and entrepreneurial people leave companies like Microsoft in frustration in order to start their own enterprises, Google has created an environment where the most talented, creative, and entrepreneurial employees can play in their own sandbox, attract attention and support from top management, and have their pet projected funded within the company. I understand that Larry and Sergei keep a list of the top 100 pet projects in the company. Many of the existing services which Google offers (including Orkut and Google News) were developed by employees. I expect to see hundreds more innovating and exciting free services coming from Google in the coming years. I see more innovation here than from almost all the other top internet companies combined."