Can other companies emulate Google's famous model of letting engineers spend
about 20% of their time on projects outside their main job?
The story of innovation has not changed. It has always been a small team of
people who have a new idea, typically not understood by people around them and
their executives. [This is] a systematic way of making sure a middle manager
does not eliminate that innovation. If you're the employee and I'm the manager,
and I sit down and say, "Our product's late, and you screwed up, and you gotta
work on this really hard," you can legally say to me, "I will give you
everything I've got, 80% of [my time]." It means the managers can't screw around
with the employees beyond some limit. I believe that this innovation
escape-valve model is applicable to essentially every business that has
technology as a component.
Can innovation really be managed, or is it a case where you have to keep the
company and its managers out of the way?
I disagree with the word "managed." You have to have a set of necessary
conditions for innovation to occur. To start with, you have to listen to people.
Pretty basic, no?
But not often practiced. Innovation comes from places that you don't expect.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!