An Introduction to Genius Hour and Its Benefits

Read Time: 4 minutes

Students in school and adults in the workplace often find themselves facing the same dilemma. They have tasks to complete and a limited amount of time to carry them out. This leaves little to no time for hobbies or passion projects that might set their mind and soul aflame. Passion projects must take place in the precious hours outside work or school — where they’re often unable to access the necessary resources to bring their project to fruition. To most, whether student, parent, teacher or worker, this might sound like a tragedy. That is where the concept of genius hour comes in. What is genius hour, when did it start and what are the benefits of this unique type of time management?

What is Genius Hour and Who Created It?

There is no definitive source for the concept of genius hour, but two sources often get equal credit. The first is Google. The tech giant lets its engineers spend up to 20% of their time on the clock working on any pet project they want, as long as it benefits the company. Many of Google’s most significant innovations in the last decade, from Google Glass to Adsense and Gmail, all came about during this time.

The second source is a book named Drive by Daniel Pink. In his book, Pink describes how taking 60 minutes a week can revitalize workers by giving them time to work on their passion projects, master new skills or adopt new techniques. An hour a week might not sound like much, but sometimes it’s all we can manage with our busy schedules.

The Three Rules of Genius Hour

When answering the question, “What is genius hour,” keep in mind that there’s a lot more to a genius hour than a weekly hour of self-directed research or creation. Ideally, there are no hard-and-fast rules for what a genius hour looks like. Yet in a classroom or a workplace, that can be a risky proposition. You could end up with an hour wasted on social media or YouTube instead of reaching toward goals. With that in mind, teachers and supervisors can lay out some ground rules for their genius hour to ensure productivity and growth.

A set of rules might look something like this:

  1. You must choose a driving question.
  2. Your genius hour must involve research.
  3. You must publish or share the product or result of your project.

That’s it. Your exact rules will vary depending on the needs of your team or classroom, but you don’t want to restrict their creativity. Instead, you want to gently nudge them in the right direction and let them create.


What Will Scientists Discover Next?

Science news delivered weekly!

The Benefits of Genius Hour in the Classroom

While it might sound like a smart idea for big companies like Google, lucrative contracts aren’t the only reason to introduce genius hour. Contracts don’t really apply to classrooms. Nonetheless, it gives teachers and supervisors to think outside the box to meet educational standards in unique and innovative ways. Meeting curriculum standards in public schools — especially now that Common Core is the gold standard — can be challenging. By creating a generic objective that meets those standards and allowing students to approach it in their way, you’ve essentially created your genius hour.

This style of teaching also helps foster the kind of creativity and critical thinking that will serve your students for decades to come as they graduate from school and move into the workforce. These soft skills can be challenging to teach, but are essential to overall success in the workplace. In many cases, this is one of the best way to get students working with technologies they’ll need to understand to thrive once they graduate. Creativity — in both digital and physical media — is going to continue to be in demand, regardless of changes to the workplace, and by introducing students to these technologies, you’re giving them an advantage before they start hunting for their first job.

The Benefits of Genius Hour in the Workplace

Students aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a weekly genius hour, as Google has already demonstrated. Some of their best ideas have come from the 20% time they’ve implemented. Nearly every worker can benefit from spending an hour a day on projects that are meaningful to them. The significant difference between Google’s 20% time and a regular genius hour is that Google limits its engineers to working on passion projects that could benefit the company. During your company’s genius hour, you could offer your employees the option to work on creative projects, regardless of how it will affect your bottom line.

These hours don’t have to take place every day, but when they do, they offer better relaxation for employees. Some studies have even found that creative activities may be as essential as physical exercise when it comes to an employee’s overall physical and mental health. If you’re looking for a way to get your team excited about work, consider implementing a daily or weekly genius hour to encourage employees to put more effort into creative passion projects they might not otherwise have time for.

Looking Forward

You don’t need to compromise education or customer service in favor of creativity. Instead, the two — work and play — should go hand in hand. Now that you understand what genius hour is, see how implementing one could improve your workplace or classroom.

If you opt to subscribe to to the Schooled By Science Newsletter, your email address will only be used to send you my newsletter, and at any time you may unsubscribe. For more information, see my Privacy Policy.

Category: Education


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.