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July 07, 2005

Radical company ideas

Gold Systems is moving!  It's a good thing, better space, better lease, new paint in the offices.  I've been pretty busy though, so I haven't put much effort into the blog.  Here's something that was passed on to me that I can't quite imagine working here, but who knows, it is fun to think about.
Thanks to Don for passing this on to me.  It does sound radical, but interesting.
He said:
"I thought you might be interested in this. It's an interview with employees and the owner of Semco in Brazil where the employees have wide latitude in how the job gets done. They even set their own salary (although if someone sets it too high they risk being fired by their coworkers). It's pretty radical and I'm not sure it would work in the US, but there are some interesting ideas. He's also applying his ideas to the school system and letting the kids decide how they want to be taught and who they want to do it."

July 7, 2005 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink


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I don't know if this exact model would work, but one thing I think *would* work is for everyone's salary at a company to be public information. As it stands, the only salaries that are regularly disclosed to the general public are those of key executives at public companies and professional athletes. And guess what? Their salaries have been going up and up and up at a rate much faster than inflation.

Information is power. If you know what your coworkers are making as well as what comparable positions at competitors are making, you're much more likely to bargain for your fair share (or, conversely, leave a position that doesn't have high market value). I have no way to prove it, but I suspect that this system would narrow the gap between CEOs and the line workers. At a minimum it would re-allocate some of the CEOs' salaries to the true stars of their teams for the same reason that the CEO of the Yankees doesn't make as much as Derek Jeter, or probably even as much as Joe Torre.

Posted by: Derek Scruggs | Jul 7, 2005 4:27:03 PM

Well, it's an interesting concept and I'll give my two cents with regard to both business and education. I think that this sort of thing can work in a small business with a strong culture around performance, but it would be much harder in a large, integrated business. Accountability is hard enough in large companies, and I think that it is made even harder by requiring that all employees are involved with assessment and evaluations. "HR" execs and departments exist (presumably) because they have a core competency around evaluating employees and holding them accountable. That doesn't necessarily need to be one of the skills that you hire for in a line worker, engineer, etc.

With regard to education, while I agree that along the continuum we are currently too centralized and our system generates students who are, all too frequently, "uniformalised and homogenised over the years and calcified in the school system," I think the extreme viewpoint of a democratic school run by students is equally problematic. Young children lack the wisdom to know what they want to learn. They would vote for recess and games all day.

What Semco gets which could apply more to schools is that students (and their parents) should have more of a role in the evaluative process of teachers, the setting of the school schedule, course offerings, etc.

Posted by: Jared Polis | Jul 11, 2005 1:25:46 AM