Google's Innovative Employees Could Be Enemy Within

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In an age where products and services become commodities practically as soon as they hit the market, companies increasingly see innovation as the "secret sauce" that can set them apart from the competition.


But can too many chefs ruin the sauce?


Search giant Google is often held up as the gold standard of innovation. Yet some analysts say Google has become so enamored with the idea of innovation that it finds it difficult to focus on ideas that matter.


With the exception of its flagship search business, the products and services emerging from Google over the last two years have been mostly flops. The results have been especially lacking as Google attempts to move beyond its consumer comfort zone and crack the enterprise market.


Not only that, but blogger Robert Cringely says Google's famed policy of allowing employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on new ideas of their own rather than company-sanctioned projects will ultimately prove to be its undoing.


The result of this policy, says Cringely, is a mind-boggling array of new ideas, "far too high to be practical and too high even to be considered safe." Many promising ideas will fester because while Google has plenty of money to burn on new projects, it just can't spare the human resources to work on them.


So while Google is a famously good place to work, many of its workers will end up feeling frustrated that their ideas were passed over. A good number of them may leave the Googleplex to strike out on their own, says Cringely.


Interestingly, Google is reportedly rethinking the "20 percent policy." In a spring 2006 interview, co-founder Larry Page told a reporter from The Independent that his company was "a little over the edge" in terms of disorganization. Internal audits proved that Google engineers were spending up to 40 percent of their time, rather than the approved 20 percent, on their own ideas.