Why less is more and 20-percent is a great thing

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What is 20 percent?

“20 percent time” is one of the highlights in Google culture. It is mostly seen as the amount of time the employees are given to do whatever they want.

In fact, it is more like 120% where people spend extra 20% of their time at night and weekends researching or building things outside of their daily cycle.

In fact, Google is not the first company which has this program. Most of it come from 3M. In the past, many products which came out of its “15-percent time” became quite successful, including Post-It note and Scotch tape.

At Google,  some prominent examples of “20 percent time” include Gmail, AdSense, Google Transit, Google News. Google AdSense and Gmail became widely used with hundreds of million users, everything started from an idea to global coverage within just a few years.

Why less is more?

How could these products be built with such limited resource?

It turns out that Darwinism (or natural selection) brings the best out of Google employees. With limited time, they got to pick the best ideas and projects to work on. The best ideas attract the best employees and the less prominent ones die out (eventually).


Limited resource sparks innovation! Constrained environment is one of the best test beds for ideas and execution. Everyone else can do it given abundant resources and all the time in the world, but that’s not how the world operates.

Thoughts after reading “How Google works” by Eric Schmidt (former Google CEO) and Jonathan Rosenberg (former Google SVP of Products)

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