The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work
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Learning Is No Joke

But let’s laugh anyway!

I like physics but I love cartoons. Stephen Hawking


In a Nutshell

Soon after Ricardo Semler democratized the management style at Semco, the company felt the need to create a manual for helping new hires to navigate its new practices and culture. But, they wished to avoid the pitfall of a lengthy manifesto that codified rules. So, they came up with the “Simple Manual On Survival”, a 50-page handbook that could be read in minutes. Instead of large chunks of text, that no one would have read, they chose to add more visuals and presented information on even “serious matters” with appropriate humor.

The visuals instantly hit home because they were done by the famous Brazillian cartoonist, Miguel Pavia, whose comics were featured regularly in newspapers. The result was an accessible document that represented the essence of the company and its values; and made clear the company’s expectations from employees.

How was this made possible? First, they acknowledged that information is meant to educate. Then they thought about how employees processed such information. Next, they focussed on creating educative information that was also accessible. For instance, when new employees found Pavia’s highly-recognizable style of cartoons in the handbook, it created an immediate sense of connection. Pavia’s comics were complemented with funny captions and the manual was able to easily explain some very complex concepts this way.

Now, there’s nothing unusual with large organizations obsessively codifying information into huge tomes of rules that breed rigid corporate cultures. In this obsession, the fundamental tenet that information is only as good as it’s understood and implemented gets overlooked.

Instead, if we are empathetic to how people process information, we improve the probability of it being properly absorbed. In other words, presenting financial numbers to the CFO is different from presenting it to your factory employees, who don’t use excel spreadsheets or read balance sheets as part of their work.

Which is why using visuals, particularly cartoons and comics, makes it easy to teach complex concepts in a fun, playful and friendly way. Visuals make information more accessible and have virtually infinite applications. They can be used in several different contexts – the onboarding employee manual, financial reports, technical information like security, instructions for evacuation, safety guidelines, instructions for safety in the plants.

 

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