The More Freedom You Have, The More Structure You Need

The More Freedom You Have, The More Structure You Need

3 MinutesIn Blog

The Evangelical School Berlin Centre (ESBC).

When I left Denver, Colorado, after my husband suddenly died, one of my biggest regrets was that my boys would not be getting an education at the ‘off the wall’ Montessori school that I had enrolled them in.

Here, their chemistry lessons would have come in the kitchen, making lunch for the school; their physics lessons in the bike repair classroom; their biology lessons on the farm and in the fields.

It felt like a school that was preparing my boys for a world where they would have multiple careers, and not just for a factory job which was genesis of the Victorian school system we still mirror today. The school understood the workers of the future will be unlikely to progress by promotion but more likely through innovation and opportunity – and anyway, the definition of ‘progress’ is not what it was in the 1990s.

The Evangelical School Berlin Centre is similar too – it has ripped up the timetable and promotes students to set their own learning driven by their interests with minimal compulsory elements.

This has lessons for us in business too. If we treat our employees in the traditional Victorian manner, with diktats and rules and hierarchy, we simply do not get thinking, innovation and ideas essential to the modern world of work.

But it is absolutely true that the more freedom you give, the more you need to structure around it.

Principles and frameworks are key. Take the popular idea of ‘unlimited holiday’ being introduced by some businesses – including Netflix, LinkedIn and parts of the Virgin empire. Staff cannot just disappear off for as long as they like – it only works if there are explicit objectives on what individuals have to deliver and it is unlikely targets will be so low as to allow someone to only work half the year.

But for many managers it is simply easier to give a set allowance and micromanage the couple of weeks off.

Giving your teams the freedom on when or how to meet or report is motivating – and only works if there is a structure for how and when information needs to come to the centre. Yes, it might be easier and neater to micromanage but if people are given freedom, results are enormous.

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