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I recently read about a high school in the Midwest that structures “transformational learning,” as they put it, into their schedule. Four times a week, they offer a 35-minute open period called WIN time – “What I Need.” This allows time for their students to delve deeper into a personal interest. Some advance a pet project, building robots or writing poetry. Some explore inter-curricular study. Others receive one-on-one tutoring.
“It gives the students more ownership,” the president said. “It also helps ward off burn-out.”
It’s refreshing to see this policy implemented at the high-school level. It has echoes of Google’s famous 20 percent time, which allows employees to allocate 20 percent of their paid time to personal projects. Those have included the development of Google News, Gmail and AdSense.
“This empowers them to be more creative and innovative,” founders Larry Page and Surgey Brin wrote of the policy. “Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”
Google’s celebrated policy was predated by 3M’s lesser-known 15 percent policy, which gave birth to innovations like the Post-It Note and advanced other bestselling products. Over the decades, it has allowed 3M employees to stay curious, rewarding them with exactly what they need, when they need it. It allows them to collaborate with like-minded colleagues or immerse in individual study. It gives them a meeting-free zone to simply think, tinker and tweak.
Maybe it’s time you implemented a similar policy – or lobbied for one.
It can feel like a big leap, but the payoffs are profound: greater workplace satisfaction, heightened creativity, increased productivity and, maybe, million-dollar innovation.
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