We like Google. It’s a pretty cool company. They do a lot of good things – and some crappy things (Google Wave, anyone?), but mostly good stuff.
One of the things we particularly like about Google is “Google Twenty Percent Time“. It’s a program where Google engineers are encouraged “to spend one day per week working on projects that aren’t necessarily in their job description”.
The intention behind it has been to stop a brain-drain away from Google, the theory being that if you allow really really smart people (who are making your company a bucket-load of money) to work on projects that really interest them and they see as “fun”, they’re less likely to up and leave. Especially if you’re allowing them to work on those projects on company time. The added bonus of course being that you may get to help commercialise some of the cool stuff that those engineers come up with during their “day off”.
Whether it’s actually worked or not is open to debate. There’s lots to suggest that Twenty Percent Time is dead and buried. Or at least dying slowly. And what, if any results it has produced for Google are unknown.
But a lot of companies have adopted the program and the philosophy behind it: the idea of letting smart people inside your company work on “cool stuff”, in the hope that it keeps brains fresh and the “cool stuff” turns into something the company can benefit from and commercialise. Atlassian (one of our favourite companies) has put in great controls to get the best out of their version of the Twenty Percent Time.
And given that we here at Favourite Fruit like to do cool stuff and throw around new ideas, we’ve implemented our own version of Twenty Percent Time. But because we’re a start-up and we’re busy working on keeping clients happy and development of set projects and applications, we really can’t afford to be spending one day per week on said “cool stuff”. So ours is more like “Seven Point Five Percent Time”. It actually works out to be about a day every 18 days. And it’s not “hard and fast”. If we’ve got deadlines, we’ll skip it. Hey, it’s the nature of the beast.
Recognising the fact that calling our day “Seven Point Five Percent Time” was actually a really bad way to refer to something that’s supposed to drive innovation and creativity, we came up with a far better name: Work On Fun Shit Day.
That’s right, about every 18 days, you’ll find us here at Favourite Fruit enjoying “Work On Fun Shit Day”. Or, if we’re amongst polite company (we try to avoid that as much as possible), WOFSD.
We have a few criteria that we try to follow to justify WOFSD:
- You have to spend your day working on a project that is on our Project Board. So it might mean working on a project that we haven’t even started yet – so an idea for an app that you want to see come alive. (And we have rules about what projects get onto the Project Board to make it doubly difficult.)
- That said, we break rule Number 1 a lot, so if it’s not something for one of our projects, then it has to in some way benefit the company (i.e. it has to pass the “How the fuck are we going to make money out of that?” test).
- If it isn’t going to benefit the company in the short term, how will it benefit us in the long term?
- Does it solve a problem?
- Is it going to cost much?
- Is there a chance of this ever being useful, or are you just really throwing your day away? AND FINALLY…
- Is it fun?
And even after all of that, we’re happy to admit that sometimes we really do stuff just because it’s crazy and stupid and has no commercial purpose whatsoever other than relieve our tired brains and overworked keyboard fingers. Like a 3G remote controlled car. Yes. That’s actually happening.
So join us, as we track what goes on at Favourite Fruit during Work On Fun Shit Day. It’s a great insight into what we’re working on and how we’re having fun. We’ll be blogging about what we get up on each WOFSD and posting the results and pictures here.