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I suspect that google knows this, had made a calculation that the downsides are worth the real estate cost, and is spinning it in a more positive light.

Why pay $300k+ a year for a developer then just to go and save a few hundred a month on real estate costs, sacrificing some percentage of productivity?

Because not everyone in Google (or any other open-office space) is a developer. In fact, most are not, and most are getting way less pay.

Its interesting to consider if Google is innovative when you take a bucket of corporate innovation and divide by the (immense) number of employees. I'm not asking if they purchase innovative new/little companies, I'm well aware they do that. I'm not claiming no innovation comes out of Google HQ, why I'm sure they output at least as much innovation as perhaps a 1000 person research lab, maybe even twice that, of course the whole point of the problem is they have 60K employees...

All I'm claiming is you pour the innovation out of Google Corp Hq into a bucket and, um, how about MIT Media Lab into a bucket, and measure the two buckets on a scale. I feel MIT wins handily. But for the sake of argument lets say Google kicks the MIT Media Lab's butt to the tune of 10x as much innovation. There is still a slight problem in that the MIT lab is about 100 people (to one sig fig) and Google Corp is just under 60K according to a Google search. Assuming similar quality of "human resources" Google should be consistently producing 600 times as much innovation per year as MIT Media Lab. Maybe when you factor in Google's company purchases, after which all innovation at the purchased company traditionally ceases...

Isn't Google fundamentally on the scales of justice more of a profitable advertising sales boiler room than a source of innovation?

If as a company, its mostly about being a sales boiler room, then it should look like a sales boiler room, shouldn't it? Perhaps there is less inconsistency between what is observed vs theory after all.

Then put those people in open office plan, and give developers offices.

THIS. Fact is, mixing number crunchers with sales folk is the crux of the problem. If light/personal conversation took place away from the work area, both open offices and cubes would be much more productive and pleasant.

The essence of making workspaces work is minimizing distractions. Any layout can work if you take the chatter ELSEWHERE.

Then it's unfair to the others :)

If you're worried about fairness why pay the developers $300k and pay the other people some much smaller fraction of that?

Others might not know you're getting 300k man

I imagine most are not making 300k. Also, like many things Google does, I'm guessing it's partially because scaling is becoming an issue.

It takes a while to get a space ready, and it's also not easy to just expand around existing offices when they're already quite large.

Admittedly, much of this would probably be solved if they were more OK with remote working, as there's a high emphasis on in person collaboration. I suspect they've done some studies on this matter though.

I work for Google but opinions are my own.

The standard corporate cost estimate for an employee is to double their salary. Thus someone paid $150k costs the company $300k

Ah I appreciate the correction.

Those numbers don't add up, but there are others that do: thousands a month for more space + less productivity loss after an initial shock period could be a potential equilibrium.

Ah, but is there a productivity loss only initially? I'd argue the productivity loss will remain. After a while developers may get used to the lower productivity as a fact of life and not report it as such.

I know I got used to a lower productivity after spending some time in open offices. Then one day I was sitting in a private office again and felt my productivity surge and felt: "WOW! This is the way programming should feel like!"

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