Knowledge Workers – academia and the Google 20%

Michael posts a coupla interesting thoughts on the Scoble & Tony Chang discussion about whether Google’s 20% of time to explore areas of interest (which Tony likes & thinks works for various reasons) that are of benefit to Google and the MS alternative favoured by Scoble – ‘work on what you actually want to work on’).

Well, the tech industry might be surprised to know that they’re not the first to have this revolutionary idea ;o) In fact, us in ol’ academia have been working on the 40:40:20 rule for some time now where 40% is teaching, 40% research and 20% admin… hence I get to spend 40% of my time doing exactly this as it’s my research field (believe me, if I was General staff I think I would’ve been sunk a looooooong time ago!!!)

“But that’s a Uni”… I hear you but in fact we’ve always been and are becoming more obviously so a knowledge industry, just like, say, Google… or MS… that is we spend this whopping great portion of time thinking, studying, writing and talking about stuff that interests us & consequently our employer gets work, students, publicity and cold hard $s , we get consultancy, recognition and to be relatively happy despite the fact that we work somewhere that pays us peanuts (believe me, it’s close to being an even smaller nut) and the world gets to be a better place (perhaps).

Now how you implement that in other organisations is another thing. Personally I reckon that you already do or don’t have innovative, interesting people working on stuff they think is really cool so that’s not so much a problem… what you want to do is to give them some security to play (please don’t mention ROI), some respect for their playing and a technical and physical environment in which they can play… that is you just need to incorporate some subversion into your workplace!