Many companies miss a trick by not having in place an open discussion, for their staff to discuss solutions to problems, or to discuss and develop business ideas that they may have, and that you may not have thought of.
Granted some of these ideas may not be the direction you wish the business to go in, they may also be completely rubbish ideas, but the point is, they are ideas. Regardless of whether they are useful or not now, you are cultivating an environment where your staff feel comfortable bringing these to the table, without either feeling ashamed at being shot down, or brushed to the side and told to get back to work. They will respect that you have the power to dismiss them, but thank them for coming with ideas to your desk.
If you are employing monkeys to do what you want, when you want to do it, you are missing out on ideas / spin off businesses / products that could be floating around in these people’s heads that could potentially help to grow your business, and particularly in the creative / small business sector you should be looking out for mini CEO’s types.
Its no secret that Google, nutures their employees to do just that, and rewards them for doing so. The real value of 20% time is that Google gets ideas for free, and at the same time employees feel they can express their creativity by doing so. In fact many state 20% time as one of the reasons they love working for Google so much.
Many companies can’t fathom giving so much allocated time to personal projects, but it isnt hard to have one meeting a week to discuss ideas, or brainstorm products. Even an anonymous suggestion box can be enough for some. (maybe implement on a corporate intranet?) Do so, and your employees will love you for it, and maybe even come up with some of the most creative products in the industry.