Regular Joe

Unfiltered (and totally caffeinated)

How schools could learn from Zappos

I think any organization could learn a lot from Zappos.  This is a highly successful business built from the ground up on guidelines that emphasize efficiency and function over form, for example they chose their location because of proximity to easy shipping because the culture of Vegas was more customer oriented, something they wanted to reflect in their business.  I’ve bought shoes from them several times and have always been pleasantly surprised when the shoes show up the very next day (instead of 3-5 days later), free.  There are 10 guidelines, or “core values” instituted by Zappos (Tony Hsieh) himself, they are: 

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

They even have a book containing essays about the 10 core values.  I’m particularly drawn to 2, 3, 5 and 8.  If these were the guidelines of a school, I think it would be groundbreaking!  

Imagine a school that embraces and drives change (rather than resisting new technologies).  One of my contacts in school was talking about the difficulty in being able to upgrade from IE6 to 7.  I know it’s driven by time constraints, but surely there is a solution to get computers optimized.  Same goes for arguments against using Linux and other FOSS, letting students work on computers or letting students bring their own laptops to school.  

Fun at school?  Imagine that.  It’s funny, when I read articles about KIPP the students strike me as having fun.  They learn in an environment that is more strict than most schools, and some of the rules may be weird, but overall the students seem to embrace the challenge and they even crack a smile!

Learning: it’s the goal of schools (I hope), and if teachers aren’t pursuing growth and learning then students are in big trouble.  Luckily states are mandating lots of Professional Development, otherwise, we’d probably be screwed.

Finally, do more with less.  As state budgets shrink this is evermore important, but it’s probably the hardest thing states are attempting.  It’s hard to argue with the perspective of not cutting education funding.  And more so, the mindset is to at least maintain current funding levels.  But the solution is doing more with less.  There are ways to find educational efficiencies (I think one way would be through national standards), schools just need to have the mindset that they can.  In fact, we should reward schools that find ways to do more with less.  Achievement, success and total funding can all be measured, as success goes up (or stays the same) maybe schools retain some of their savings (this is how some efficiency utilities work).  

What would be the guiding principles if you built a school from scratch?

PS: note that Zappos has a very unique strategy of paying employees to quit…1000 bucks! (Harvard Business Review has a great video interview)

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Filed under: Education

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