Code Play a software blog by tim benke

20% time projects at Google based on Montessori

Kathereine von Jan wrote about how their Montessori schooling influenced them to allow every Google employee to work on their own projects 20% of their time:

Google's "20% Time", inspired by Sergey Brin's and Larry Page's Montessori School experience, is a philosophy and policy that every Google employee spend 20% of their time (the equivalent of a full work day each week) working on ideas and projects that interest that employee. They are encouraged to explore anything other than their normal day-to-day job. As a result 50% of all Google's products by 2009 originated from the 20% free time, including Gmail. Real break-through happens when we are free from others' expectations and driven by individual passion.

Link to article

I was only vaguely familiar with the idea of Montessori, so I looked it up on Wikipedia:

Prepared environment Montessori's education method called for free activity within a "prepared environment", meaning an educational environment tailored to basic human characteristics and to the specific characteristics of children at different ages. The function of the environment is to allow the child to develop independence in all areas according to his or her inner psychological directives.

I think this idea of a prepared environment is immensely interesting as anybody knows that an exercise that is too loosely defined is very exhausting, but also an exercise that is too well defined becomes dull and tedious. The other aspect I like about this, is how a concept for school children was transferred to working adults. There’s a huge apparatus for research on education for children, but still not much has changed for university students. At most universities professors do not undergo a comprehensive education for teaching and thus just repeat how courses were always given. In work life there’s also not very much of a habit of improving working life and certainly not any kind of standardized research and exploration as for school children. Why is that?