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Silicon Valley blog Valleywag had a post yesterday about “Google’s Ever-Shrinking 20% Time.” Google’s now infamous management practice, which allows employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects of their choosing, is supposedly getting the crack down, according to the widely read blog. Not for everyone, apparently—just those whose projects are behind schedule. “A sensible management move,” writes managing editor Owen Thomas, “but against the spirit of 20 percent time, which was meant to liberate creative employees from meddling middle management.” It also reports Googlers are having a harder time getting side projects approved.
If Valleywag is right, it fits perfectly with what usually happens in a downturn: Innovation gets squeezed. Management cuts risky projects, ramps up efforts at efficiency, and cuts down on dabble time. Thomas raises a good question: Where does Google’s management draw the line between making more time for delayed projects and meddling?
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