“Why Can’t Our Business Be More Like Schools?”

“I’ll take  “Things You Never Hear” for $1000 Alex.”

The Internet is full of “Make Schools More like a Starbucks” Or “What if Schools Were More like Google” or like Minecraft.


For years, schools have been looking everywhere for models of what to do differently. I get it. Schools as an institution are in need of a makeover and are still mired in outdated practices and systems.

But I’m also fully aware of many schools that are creating wonderful learning opportunities and spaces that take full advantage of limited resources. The aren’t really like a Starbucks or like Google but are uniquely like themselves. Schools like SAIL in Surrey, BC, Caufeild Elementary in West Vancouver and H. B. Beal in London, ON. These aren’t perfect and they aren’t much alike in some respects but like hundreds of schools around the world, they don’t need to be envious of any business culture because they’re too busy creating their own unique space.

This is not to say we can’t learn from others or other organizations but my argument is that schools aren’t like businesses or video games in most respects. The danger is leaning too heavily on metaphors which have very different objectives. The “make school more like a business” mantra creates all kinds of bad scenarios. Indeed, our obsession with data is partially due to the influence of business practices.

So instead, we should be learning more from one another. As well, I’d love to see other institutions asking how they can be more like their neighbourhood school. Businesses should be sending their emerging leaders to watch people like Chris Kennedy and Jordan Tinney or Kevin Worthy in action. They should see teachers like Kelli Holden co-teach with her colleagues. They would learn lots from seeing Sara Badiner keep 9th graders focused and learning despite raging hormones. I could spend the rest of my day listing all the amazing, talented educators who are pure artists. Starbucks and Google should be sending employees to these classrooms to learn a thing or two.

I know, it’s not likely going to happen. But my belief is that schools have some great unfair advantages and opportunities. Spend a little time combing the #LoveMySchool hashtag to see just a sampling of unique greatness that’s unlike any business or institution. Until we start seeing schools great potential as unique, vibrant spaces, we’ll always be looking for others to show us the way.