Trivia

Hard

When Employees Are Encouraged To Experiment And Develop On Company Time, It’s Called?

Innovation Hours
Permitted Bootlegging
Flex Time
Brain Trusting
A bright yellow Post-It Note with hello written on it.
Pavel Krok/Wikimedia

Answer: Permitted Bootlegging

You may have heard of companies—especially tech companies like Google—encouraging employees to use a percentage of their working hours to focus on personal projects and experiments. While the practice is common in tech companies, it’s certainly not a new practice. Historically, large and innovative companies like 3M and Hewlett-Packard have also encouraged their employees to be creative on the company dime.

The act of using company time for personal projects is referred to as bootlegging (a term brought into use in 1960s business management lingo by David A. Schon), so naturally, the term for company sanctioned bootlegging is “permitted bootlegging”. The concept is found in business outside the U.S., but what it’s called in different regions varies significantly.

In the United Kingdom, two of the many commonly used terms are “Friday afternoon work” and “discretionary research”. In France, two of the many popular terms for it translate as “camouflaged research” (recherche camouflée) and “submarine research” (recherche sous-marine). Interestingly, the submarine theme pops up in Germany too where one of the terms for it translates as “submarine science” (U-Boot-Forschung).

The practice has been quite fruitful for many of the companies that practice it and there’s a good chance that you’ve enjoyed the results of permitted bootlegging. The Post-It Note, for example, was created by a pair of 3M employees pursuing a personal project, and employees at Google created Gmail as a personal project.

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