Breaking All the Rules in School?

Those of us who are struggling with the challenge of making our enterprises "Future Winners" are wrestling with an almost impossible paradox—how to be well enough organised so that we can reliably produce an output, and yet leave space for our people to "screw around vigorously" in the interests of doing the best work of their lives!

A revolution is what is called for, so it's heartening to see that some of our schools are getting in on the act! Just take a look at the pioneering Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough, UK, where they are abandoning many of the familiar planks of the school structure—playground, break times, school bells, and registers—in favour of much more flexibility; mixed-aged tutor groups, 90-minute lesson periods, time out when it's needed, pupils taking responsibility for themselves. You can read about it in this recent Observer article.

There are echoes here of another pioneering educational project in the USA, The Big Picture. This fabulously successful experiment was co-founded by an old friend of Tom Peters, Dennis Littky. The Met School began its life in a tough neighbourhood of Providence, Rhode Island, and has now spread to over 30 more locations across the country. It's certainly an education system, but one that caters to the individual learning needs of every pupil through completely re-imagining the way pupils' learning is organised.

What examples have you seen of organisations that have shifted away from conventional wisdom in the way they structure work? More to the point, can established organisations ever really take on this kind of revolution, or does it have to be new start-ups that set the pattern for the organisation of work in the future?