The new-skool workplace..?

Yesterday I wrote about a new kind of school (well, new-ish, it’s been around for 35 years) where students and teachers make decisions democratically, there are no classes, students do whatever they want all day, and if they want to study something they have to find a teacher and arrange for it to happen.

In the comments to that post, Danny Mydlack, the director of the video about the Fairhaven School, reminded me that the full video is available at

The father of one of the children in the school also commented:

My son is one of those in the trailer, and in The New American Schoolhouse documentary, which I strongly recommend to anyone interested in this topic.

Because of my son’s six years at Fairhaven, or perhaps *inspired* by those six years, he is an original. He is himself, crafted by himself over 13-19, hanging out and doing what he wanted. Six years during which he took no classes, but had the opportunity to excel in the ways he found, and wanted, to excel, in an honest and functional educational community.

On the standardized SAT he took pre-college, he got a 99th percentile on the verbal, and upper-third on the math. He got a scholarship as a consequence. More importantly, he is someone who can make choices on his own, can make eminent sense in any public setting, makes evidence-based decisions, knows what he thinks, and is a pleasure to talk to.

That sounds absolutely wonderful!

Now this blog is not really about schools, it’s about happiness at work. I just got so excited about the concept that I had to share it :o)

But here’s a question for ya: What if we organized our workplaces in the same way as these schools? What if people came to work and could spend their time doing whatever they wanted? What if the company was run not by a few executives, but democratically by everybody in the company?

Conventional wisdom says that it could never work, but that wouldn’t exactly be the first time that conventional wisdom turns out to be dead wrong. It was certainly wrong about these new-skool schools.

Here’s what I believe: Not only would it work, it would blow traditionally-run competitors out of the water.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “The new-skool workplace..?”

  1. Oh wow – deep thoughts…
    Don’t know how I feel?*@!

    I commented on the school blog saying how wonderful I thought the school was and I do believe it would work. But – big But

    I own my own company and when it comes to down to it – how much money are you willing to risk trying this out? How much capital do you have to play with? and how does it work with client deadlines… Risky – but would love somebody to try it out and tell me how it goes.
    Then maybe I’ll put my money where my mouth is… for now – I’ll crack the whip… just kidding… I don’t lead with that style.

  2. I know exactly what you mean, Lucia – we have the old-skool way down pat. We’ve been doing it for hundreds of years, and it holds few surprises.

    The new-skool way however – how well does that work? What are the challenges and problems? What are the pay-offs?

    What do you think, Lucia – what would it take to get you to take your company in this direction?

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