February 28, 2009 / Google’s industrial model is about appropriating a specific kind of value from a privileged demographic.

Ted Dziuba on Google’s employee culture:

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, on the other hand, realized that not only do you need to hire the best engineers to have a successful software company, you also need to make them love you unconditionally. To cultivate that kind of blind faith, a quality Loompah needs an interesting project. It may not always make immediate business sense, but it’s the only way, if you want the servitude just right. Once you’ve convinced a Loompah that you really have his best interest at heart, you can put him on a boring, money-making project for a while. It’s this machinery that has kept Wonka rolling in cash, but made every product beyond Gmail a dud.

Speaking overconfidently as an ill-informed observer, this seems exactly right to me: that the key to the Google-type industrialism is 20% time. Many employee perks apply within the Google ecosystem, and job listings for small tech companies often fall over themselves trying to replicate something of this model—bring your dog to work, Aeron chairs, new MacBooks, widescreen displays, espresso machine—but it would seem that many of them miss the organisation’s cultural lynch-pin—one day a week, at work, to build whatever your heart desires.

† Carsonified, for example, give employees a four-day work week; apparently similar, though to my mind it lacks some of the underlying genius of 20% time: getting employees to associate ungoverned creativity with their employer by institutionalising personal interest in the workplace.

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