How Employees Can Boost the Bottom Line by Wasting Time*

flying_tiesEver wonder how many brilliant ideas go wasted inside your company?

Maybe you don’t have to.

For years, Google has been providing engineers with “20 percent time,” a policy that grants programmers 20 percent of their time to work on independent projects of their own creation. The policy has generated such successful programs as Google Suggest, Adsense for Content, and Orkut. Perhaps more importantly, it contributes to Google’s ability to attract and retain the best and brightest. 

But what works for Google may not work for everyone. Some argue that Google’s “20 percent time” operates as an extension of their company culture. The type A, driven programmers interested in working at Google aren’t exactly your 9 to 5 types. “20 percent time,” to them, often means evening and weekends working on the fun stuff.

However, just because your employees may not fit the Google mold doesn’t mean that they don’t have valuable ideas to contribute. I spent my former life as a manager in a 9 to 5 industrial environment. I never ceased to be amazed by how effectively my people could solve problems and make processes more efficient. All it took was me taking the time to get their input. More importantly, few things breed loyalty like making sure your employees know that they have something to contribute beyond their standard duties.

So, maybe you’re not ready for “20 percent time.” But, next time you’ve got a problem to solve, experiment with getting some input from the people who work in the problem everyday. You may be surprised by the solutions you never would have thought of.

You may want to review this interesting dialogue about the benefits and drawbacks of a program structured to fit the Google model.

*This post was written by guest blogger, Thomas Williams, a summer associate in Young Conaway’s 2009 Summer Associate Program.  Thanks, Thomas!