Lessons from Netflix & The Little Prince

Netflix has a “culture” document that’s achieved great notoriety from diverse organizations and has even spawned a new book, Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, published this week. Its core elements, might be summarized as “Radical Honesty.” Lately, I’ve been thinking and speaking about “Radical Hospitality,” where opening our kitchen table or other safe space can serve as a powerful unifier; and I love adding “Radical” to so many common terms. As with honesty and hospitality, adding the adjective “radical” offers a whole new dimension to an otherwise tame (not radical) idea.

Netflix contends these five points that fuel their unique culture make the company special, and are summarized by how much they:netflix_web_logo

  1. Encourage independent decision-making by employees
  2. Share information openly, broadly and deliberately
  3. Are extraordinarily candid with each other
  4. Keep only our highly effective people
  5. Avoid rules

Items 1-3 seem like good principles for learning and innovation environments (e.g, schools). If a school wanted to operate in a truly innovative manner, I don’t see how maintaining #4, and to a lesser degree, #5 would work, without really stretching the meaning of these points. Is this an example of how education, as a public good, really is distinct from for-profit business, or is it a lack of imagination on my part? Either way, it’s healthy to learn innovations and best practices across distinct sectors.

At the very end of the rather long Netflix document, we read: Little Prince cover

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, shows us the way:

If you want to build a ship,

don’t drum up the people

to gather wood, divide the

work, and give orders.

Instead, teach them to yearn

for the vast and endless sea.

If you’re a parent or educator reading this, this closing statement might really resonate, as it does with me. This quote embodies both the power of student-driven learning, AND the way imagination and learning are unlocked by looking beyond one’s immediate environment, to the horizon of the unknown. For the Little Prince, learning, rigor, discovery and the wider world all go together. And like a Netflix employee document, lessons that can improve how we might learn and thrive, are found in all kinds of places.




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