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The 20% Doctrine [Kindle Edition]

Ryan Tate
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Gawker tech-blogger and journalist Ryan Tate reveals how businesses can inspire greater creativity and productivity by allowing their employees to pursue their own passions at work. In The 20% Doctrine, Tate examines how companies large and small can incubate valuable innovative advances by making small, specific changes to how work time is approached within their corporate cultures. The concept of “20% Time” originated at Google, but Tate takes examples from all around the business world—from Yahoo! and Condé Nast to the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, National Public Radio, Flickr and the Huffington Post—to demonstrate how flexibility and experimentation can revolutionize any business model, including yours.

Editorial Reviews


“Tate’s enthusiastic but objective study gathers momentum as the book progresses; each chapter builds on the previous one, and he’s quick to point out the practicality of the process. Whether readers are in the corner office or the boiler room, they’ll likely find Tate’s opus to be inspiring and informative.” (Publishers Weekly )

“Useful and inspiring advice for tinkerers.” (Kirkus Reviews )

“In any organization a lot of the rank-and-file are ready to start efforts which will contribute to their community, maybe building the bottom line. The 20 % Doctrine shows how organizations have made that work in real life, and how you might make that happen where you work.” (Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Craigconnects )

“The most innovative companies in America are those that are willing to let employees explore their own pet projects on company time. The 20% Doctrine is a smart, well-written look at this new path to innovation, full of examples that are engaging, thought provoking, and intriguingly diverse.” (Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine )

From the Back Cover

An inspiring exploration of how unorthodox business practices and the freedom to experiment can fuel innovation

We're at a crossroads. Many iconic American companies have been bailed out or gone bankrupt; others are struggling to survive as digitization and globalization remake their industries. At the same time, the tectonic forces disrupting U.S. corporations—ubiquitous bandwidth and computing power, cheap manufacturing and distribution—have enabled large organizations to foster new innovations and products through experiments that are at once more aggressive and less risky than they would have been twenty years ago. At companies such as Google, employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time on projects they're personally interested in. Almost half of Google's new product launches have originated from this policy, including Gmail and AdSense. Now other companies have adopted the concept, providing them a path to innovation and profits at a time of peril and uncertainty and offering employees creative freedom when many are feeling restless.

The 20% Doctrine is about goofing off at work, and how that goofing off can drive innovation and profit. Here Ryan Tate examines the origins and implementation of 20% time at Google, then looks at how other organizations such as Flickr, the Huffington Post, and even a school in the Bronx have adapted or reinvented the same overall concept, intentionally and serendipitously. Along the way, he distills a series of common themes and lessons that can help workers initiate successful 20% style projects within their own organizations. Only through a new devotion to the unhinged and the ad hoc can American businesses resume a steady pace of development and profitability.

Product Details

  • File Size: 447 KB
  • Print Length: 213 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0062003232
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness (April 17, 2012)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005HFHWN6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #548,124 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Why the MBA's Are Scratchig Their Heads! September 13, 2012
A candid look at the companies that use the 20% doctrine to cultivate each employee's created passion for a particular project or idea. Wish all companies and non-profits thought this way. Even MBA's are scratching their heads on why this works so well and not taught in school.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it! May 18, 2012
"This was a unique focus on our changing business practices and culture. I loved the variety of passionate pursuits that resulted in business successes--a teacher and a chef amongst the tech-world ventures. Tate truly captured the precipice of where we are with our changing workplace. We spend so much of our lives working, and the combination of the new technology and upcoming, younger generation of workers has humanized the workplace. Tate stated it well: "...we should end up with more innovation, creativity, emotional touch points, and indeed more humanity in the modern workplace." This was a fun, touching, and inspiring read on so many levels--one of those rare books that leaves you sad when it's over precisely because it's over. Truly unique and timely!"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read on an interesting topic January 15, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this book on the subject of taking a fresh look at the way that companies can nurture a culture of innovation and creativity. I recently took on a pet project of seeing if I could bring the idea of a Hackathon to the company I work at, and came across this book as I was researching the topic online. I had been struggling with the fact that 20% projects at companies like Google seemed more easily achieved since the engineering resources are more fungible than what you might expect at a company that also does a lot of hardware design.

What I liked about it is that the author did a nice job of looking at the subject of "tinkering" in a relatively broad way that made the prospect of doing something similar at any sort of company seem more tenable. There were several case studies that were intended to support the thesis stated in the title, and I think that they served their purpose well.

I ended up using several key concepts from the various case studies for my company's Hackathon, and felt that this was a credible playbook for how to instill this type of culture beyond its traditional software domain.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I loved this book. Someone recommended it to me and I liked it even more that I thought I would. It really made me think about how different things are now than when I was growing up. I found the book to be through in making it's point and really well researched. It shows a great understanding of this generation and will give a good idea of how college grads should now be thinking when they are entering the work force.
I bought it for my father and a friend and found that even with a 30 year age span between them they both found it not only equally as interesting but a great read.
I like the author's style and will definitely be looking for his next book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting & Informative March 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A worthwhile read about an interesting business practice. Although 20% time wouldn't necessarily work for my organization, this book did cause me to stop and consider that there are probably some gems hidden amongst our human resources. This short book could be finished in an afternoon, and should be read by anyone interested in business or business leadership.
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4.0 out of 5 stars quick and fun... March 1, 2014
By Rydia
Cut to the Chase:
This was a quick and fun read, though, like many other business novels, I’m not sure how much of what I learned is applicable to real life/my business as opposed to just interesting trivia/anecdotes. Tate interviewed and researched not just the history of 20% time, but shares with us the process by which some 20% projects have transformed a company’s mission/history/etc (e.g. how a Google engineer invented Gmail, which then required AdSense to fund it, etc). I found it to be enjoyable and interesting, though again, I’m not terribly certain how well it fulfills my “I’ve learned something new from this nonfiction book” requirement.

Greater Detail:
The idea of the book is an interesting one — it starts with Tate talking to a business school professor who realized that not only were many of his graduates not going on to some of the best business positions out there, but increasingly, that some of the biggest companies were headed by people with little or no formal business education.

He talks about how companies have kind of waxed and waned on the 20% idea (that Google, which was once a big proponent of it, has shifted and, though it’s still allowed, it isn’t as actively championed and free-form as before), how it started long before the current Silicon Valley upstarts (a 3M engineer bootstrapped his own project, hence the title of the first chapter: that 20% time allows employees to “scratch” at their own itches).

I found some of the how-did-it-happen stories fascinating: how one Google founder was originally very against the idea of shifting their company’s focus away from search, how they felt Gmail might be brand destroying, how it was two and a half years in the making… and all of this before the company had 20% time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Goal but Some Bad Examples October 2, 2012
This book lauds the policy of setting aside 20% of an employee's time to work on side projects. This has worked in various companies, most dramatically at Google. The idea is that employees are allowed to work on projects that are not part of their regular assignment; that is, they can carve out the time to work on their own interests and passions. Naturally, projects like these will be driven by added motivation. The result has been terrific ideas, like Google AdSense and gmail, for example. The author takes case studies like the Google experience and others and gleans from them lessons for "20 percenters": scratch your own itch, build something simple and quick, bend over backward to make do with existing systems. I think the advice is right on the mark and should help companies or individuals who venture into side projects to do well. My major criticism of the book is that not all the examples, in my opinion, are real 20% projects. The Huffington Post's Off the Bus experiment, where individuals were recruited to provide "citizen journalism", was not something that was done on the side by a current employee; in fact, someone was hired to focus only on that. The same goes with the Bronx Charter school. Charter schools are a supported program of New York City's Department of Education; they're not something that some principals are doing on the side, in addition to their regular job. One of the additional shortcomings that I found in the charter school story was that the author didn't specify exactly what helped them succeed in the classroom - that would have been good to know. Perhaps the problem is that there really aren't that many 20% success stories, not because the idea doesn't work, but because it isn't tried.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I love the stories of how the guts and dedication of ...
I love the stories of how the guts and dedication of each person behind a 20% projects gave it the momentum to become a real public thing. Read more
Published 6 months ago by William J. Schultz
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Grat book that helps you understand the basic concepts of the 20% principle. Easy to read and understand.

Should read it!
Published 9 months ago by Jose Troncoso
2.0 out of 5 stars Tries to be a book on productivity, fails horribly
More "here's what other people do" than actual useful advice, steer clear if you're looking for actual help in productivity.
Published 11 months ago by MozillaMonks
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a great boook, but interesting
Not a particularly well written book, it explores with some liberties its main premise but sometimes fails to show how these stories of success are replicable. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Valentín
3.0 out of 5 stars I Recommend Reading 20% of the Book
The author presents a handful of successful 20% projects in a range of industries. If you have done any reading about or working in the computing industry, the idea of 20% time... Read more
Published 12 months ago by See Reverse
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, wish it had more detials
About halfway through the book and so far I like it. Personally I though the book would take a bit more about the nitty gritty of creating projects using the 20% but it seemed a... Read more
Published 18 months ago by E. Janis
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read and good ideas
I really enjoyed the chapters on Google mail, twitter, Flickr, etc. I felt the Huffington chapter went on way too long, I got the picture early on but perhaps I just preferred the... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Shimska
4.0 out of 5 stars The 20% - I liked 80% of it.
Very engaging, interesting narratives about how the 20% doctrine
was born and works for Silicon Valley and similar companies,
but how does it work for places like where... Read more
Published on May 9, 2013 by Kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling case for letting your employees' creativity run
Veteran business journalist Ryan Tate explores how firms generate innovation based on Google's approach, which allows employees to spend 20% of their paid time on personal... Read more
Published on October 23, 2012 by Rolf Dobelli
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