Working Wildly Outside Your Job Description: How Google and LinkedIn Get This Right

Posted December 19, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder
passion project

Google is renowned worldwide for its innovative policy of not just allowing, but requiring employees to spend 20% of their time on projects unrelated to their jobs. Google admits that some of its most innovative technologies have come from this one day a week focused on something else. Gmail, for instance, came out of a “passion project” taken on by a Google employee.

Now, LinkedIn is following suit and starting a program aptly named (in)cubator. FastCompany describes it as a program “that allows any company employee with an idea to organize a team and pitch their project to executive staff once a quarter. Those whose ideas are greenlit by cofounder Reid Hoffman and CEO Jeff Weiner, among others, then get up to three months to spend developing that project.”

Amazing, right? How many ideas do you have in your own career for the business you work for that could make your workplace or industry inherently better? Probably thousands, you simply haven’t had the encouragement or time to get them done.

How can you work wildly outside your job description and still be rewarded for it?

  • Form a team. Approaching your boss to get a one day per week break to work on something or a three month incubation period may not be the easiest ask. But if you have an idea in mind, you might get greater traction behind it if you form a team interested in accomplishing your goals with you. Ask your colleagues to get on board and consider approaching the higher ups as a group. You’ll have more power that way.
  • Show benefits, not reasons. Often, when employees have new ideas, it’s for the purpose of fixing a problem Therefore, when you present that idea, you’ll often be talking through the reasons you need to implement this idea. Think instead about showing how your idea can benefit the company long term. Those benefits are the kinds of points that will convince leadership.
  • Get a sponsor/champion in leadership. New ideas can be difficult to implement when they must float past an entire leadership team. Rather than approaching them as a group, consider taking the time to float the idea past one person and gain a champion in that individual. The belief in your idea by one member of leadership may be the key to getting everyone else on board.

Whatever your company’s rules, take the time to think through the ways you can innovate every day. Only through innovation will your bosses and leadership see the benefits of increased innovation for everyone!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."