I just learned that google employees are contracted for four days a week to develop google projects, and are paid for the fifth day per week, under the twenty percent rule, to pursue their own work. Google earth was created in that twenty percent time.
I think there’s something very clever about harnessing that vital energy that surrounds new projects, crazy ideas and crackpot schemes. I know myself that having time to be creative, exploratory and playful has a very positive impact on my work, because it charges my brain in different ways.
There’s also an element of ego here – the prospect of working for a company that aren’t just interested in what you can do for them, but what you want to do for yourself, has a definite appeal.