But according to Robert Cringely (remember Nerd TV), this 20% time is a terribly fatally flawed strategy and will ultimately kill the company.
Bob's arguement is that thousand of ideas are brewing in the minds of intelligent Googlers, some of them are stunning but the management may not turn all of them into live projects.
And these Google Geeks who are feeling bitter because their ideas were turned down may be cooking with up with peers:
By design each worker is no more than 100 feet from a bathroom or food and drink. This creates an environment where people tend not to go home, which Microsoft discovered and leveraged decades ago.The Final Days of Google
But nobody works every minute they are AT work, which means the Google Geeks are constantly talking with each other, team building, bonding, and goofing off.
And for 20 percent of that goofing-off time I'll guarantee you that many of these people are discussing their pet projects, which have been REJECTED by the company.
While Robert has given an interesting perspective, the problem he mentions is almost universal to every big organization - some disgruntled employees will leave when their ideas go unrecognized but a whole bunch of smarter people are waiting outside the Googleplex gates to fill the vacant seats.