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10 percent time

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Tristan Ferne | 12:13 UK time, Tuesday, 8 January 2008


I've been triggered by a mention over on the Backstage mailing list to write about our 10% time initiative. You might have heard of Google's 20% time? Well ours is only half (or maybe twice) as good.

All of our team (designers, developers, project managers etc) are allowed to spend 10% of their time working on something different - it can be anything they like as long as it is related to work and will benefit the business. Obviously not everyone has time or inclination to do this and it's not mandatory but we try to support and encourage it.

We keep it fairly informal and it is all self-scheduled. I just keep a list of ideas and projects on a wiki and arrange monthly catch-ups where people can talk about what they're doing. The idea is to get lots of ideas and quickly built prototypes rather than complete solutions. Then, if the idea is good, it will get picked up by our normal production process.

The first visible results of this are the iPhone podcast pages but there are a few more projects in progress right now, including some work on gaming and radio, music reviews and even my Archers visualisations. Expect posts here on these projects soon.

We're doing 10% time because it's a great way to get ideas and try them out quickly. It's an excellent chance to learn a new skill, which benefits the other 90% of work too. I think it's widely agreed that no-one is ever effective 100% of the time and it can work really well to have a side project that you can work on when you get stuck or need a change, and so far we certainly don't spend 10% of our collective time on this. But best of all, it makes FM&T A&Mi a more fun place to work.

There are a number of other 10%-like schemes going on around other areas of BBC Future Media and Technology and by all accounts they are pretty successful.

(Awesome logo created by Sarah)


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