THE head of learning at Google has cited the creative freedom it provides staff as being crucial to the technology giant's capacity to bring a steady stream of new innovations to the market.

But he insisted the organisation would descend into chaos if that flexibility was not underpinned by "top down" governance guiding its overarching goals.

Stephan Thoma was giving an insight into the people culture at Google in a keynote address to the 2014 CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) Scotland Conference in Glasgow.

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He told an audience of human resources professionals the free-thinking ethos nurtured by Google - which allows staff to devote 20% of their time to pursue their own projects - has been key as it has brought innovations such as Google Chrome and Android to market in recent years.

Google is known for in the corporate world for the "funky and creative" working conditions it provides its 40,000 staff around the world, which includes such perks as free gourmet food for staff. Mr Thoma said this environment helps ensure the "product pipeline is continuous and bountiful", noting the idea for Gmail came about in a conversation during game of table football.

But he noted that freedom was built on solid foundations.

He said: "We need to provide enough freedom and independence and autonomy in the system to allow people to come up with that creative spark.

"But we would have abject chaos if that's how it reigned. That kind of bottom up space for people has to be mirrored by top-down guidance on our priorities.

"It's a huge organisational paradox, really, on how we balance those things."

The Herald is the media partner for the CIPD event, which continues today.