For his book The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun researched lots of mechanisms similar to Google’s 20% time. He summarizes some observations regarding the most common misconceptions of the concept in a helpful post from a few years ago.
Tom Peters is right in Re-Imagine! when he writes:
We avoid words like “beauty” — and the concept of beauty — between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Especially if we work in the likes of HR or IS or Logistics.) But as part of the urgent process of re-imagining organizations, we must embrace both the word and the concept — and make beauty the primary attribute not only of product design but also of process design.
In short, we must create an enterprise environment in which enterprise systems are no less than … Beautiful Systems.
“An effective leader must be the master of two ends of the spectrum: ideas at the highest level of abstraction and actions at the most mundane level of detail.”
That’s from Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in In Search of Excellence. They elaborate in this way:
“The value-shaping leader is concerned, on the one hand, with soaring, lofty visions that will generate excitement and enthusiasm for tens or hundreds of thousands of people. That’s where the pathfinding role is critically important. On the other hand, it seems the only way to instill enthusiasm is through scores of daily events, with the value-shaping manager becoming an implementer par excellence. In this role, the leader is a bug for detail, and directly instills values through deeds rather than words: no opportunity is too small. So it is at once attention to ideas and attention to detail.