November 23, 2005


So as anyone within earshot of me knows, we’ve been on the grand tour of grade schools for the last couple of months, looking at the public and “independent” schools in our (extended) neighborhood. I could (and do!) go on for hours about what we’ve been seeing and learning, but that would bore you to tears. Instead, I’ll share with you the results of a little between-classroom brainstorming about how office life could learn a little bit from grade school life

So, in no particular order, here are some ideas for how to run your next Web 2.0 startup:

  • Forget calendars, try periods!  Every period is 50 minutes, with a 10 minute break in between.  “What are you doing 4th period?  Wanna get together to talk about our alpha invite strategy?”  “I have a yellow fade discussion then.”  “How about 5th period?” “Sounds good.”  Make a rule that no meeting can span two periods without a good reason, and why not actually ring a bell at the start and end of each period.
  • Cubbies!  Everyone needs somewhere to hang their coat and stash their lunch box.
  • Lots of wall art!  The best thing about grade school classrooms are the walls – they’re covered with great stuff!  Charts of the alphabet or the periodic table, ground rules about about classroom behavior, plus lots and lots of stuff produced by the kids.  Artifacts everywhere, and in color!
  • Specialists and counselors!  Find the equivalent of the “wacky art teacher” or the “geeky person who runs the computer lab” for your business, and make sure to have outsiders on retainer who can help manage your equivalent of the ADHD kids.
  • Morning meeting!  In high school we called it home room – use it to take attendance, lay out the daily schedule and talk about what’s happening at home.
  • Nap area!  Of course.
  • Snack time!  Juice, graham crackers or even the occasional quesadilla on a hot plate, which turns an everyday snack into a project!
  • PE!  Whether it’s frisbee, yoga, spinning, volleyball, kickball or dodgeball, everyone needs to get their ya-ya’s out.  You may even consider requiring a note from a doctor to skip it.  Up to you.
  • Child of the week!  Everyone needs to feel special; put their name on the board, let them present their latest and pick their favorite snack.
  • Field trips!  Everyone needs to get out and see the big bad world…whether it’s market research, a trip to the local geek museum or even the bar down the street.  After all, what would you rather go on – a strategic planning offsite, or a field trip!

The list could go on and on; you get the gist.  The benefits could be huge – employee satisfaction goes up, it’s a hook for recruiting young talent, and even the grizzled veterans get to feel like kids again.