- Do you need to take permission from your manager if you have to do an experiment – assuming no impact on your deliveries?
- Does your team member need to take your permission for performing an experiment – assuming no impact on deliveries?
- Legitimacy: When an organization formally or informally approves a “20% time”, it makes “right to experiment” legitimate. The legitimacy makes a difference to many employees who don’t have to worry about whether what they are doing is “right” or “wrong”. Even if it is not a formal policy, it still sends a message that management values experimentation.
- Infrastructure: If you want to run a 20% project, you may need additional help. How do you communicate your intent to other engineers? Google-like organizations create bulletin boards where such projects can be announced where people can enrol etc. It makes it easy to implement such a policy.
- Senior management attention: Perhaps the most important aspect of 20 percent time is that somebody from senior management is watching the progress of at least the interesting 20 percent projects. As in Paul Buchheit’s story of AdSense, when a project shows significant promise, resources are put behind the project and it is incubated. If such a mechanism is absent, the motivation to work on the project inside the company is low.
Last year we saw a debate as to whether Google has killed 20 percent time. Ryan Tate has argued nicely that Google couldn’t kill 20 percent time even if it wanted to.