Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles On Mondays and Thursdays, I learn how to die. I call them my terminal days. My wife Fernanda doesn't like the term, but a lot of people in my family died of melanoma cancer and my parents and grandparents had it. And I kept thinking, one day I could be sitting in front of a doctor who looks at my exams and says, "Ricardo, things don't look very good. You have six months or a year to live." And you start thinking about what you would do with this time. And you say, "I'm going to spend more time with the kids. I'm going to visit these places, I'm going to go up and down mountains and places and I'm going to do all the things I didn't do when I had the time." But of course, we all know these are very bittersweet memories we're going to have. It's very difficult to do. You spend a good part of the time crying, probably. So I said, I'm going to do something else. Every Monday and Thursday, I'm going use my terminal days. And I will do, during those days, whatever it is I was going to do if I had received that piece of news. (Laughter) When you think about -- (Applause) when you think about the opposite of work, we, many times, think it's leisure. And you say, ah, I need some leisure time, and so forth. But the fact is that, leisure is a very busy thing. You go play golf and tennis, and you meet people, and you're going for lunch, and you're late for the movies. It's a very crowded thing that we do. The opposite of work is idleness. But very few of us know what to do with idleness. When you look at the way that we distribute our lives in general, you realize that in the periods in which we have a lot of money, we have very little time. And then when we finally have time, we have neither the money nor the health. So we started thinking about that as a company for the last 30 years. This is a complicated company with thousands of employees, hundreds of millions of dollars of business that makes rocket fuel propellent systems, runs 4,000 ATMs in Brazil, does income tax preparation for dozens of thousands. So this is not a simple business. We looked at it and we said, let's devolve to these people, let's give these people a company where we take away all the boarding school aspects of, this is when you arrive, this is how you dress, this is how you go to meetings, this is what you say, this is what you don't say, and let's see what's left. So we started this about 30 years ago, and we started dealing with this very issue. And so we said, look, the retirement, the whole issue of how we distribute our graph of life. Instead of going mountain climbing when you're 82, why don't you do it next week? And we'll do it like this, we'll sell you back your Wednesdays for 10 percent of your salary. So now, if you were going to be a violinist, which you probably weren't, you go and do this on Wednesday. And what we found -- we thought, these are the older people who are going to be really interested in this program. And the average age of the first people who adhered were 29, of course. And so we started looking, and we said, we have to do things in a different way. So we started saying things like, why do we want to know what time you came to work, what time you left, etc.? Can't we exchange this for a contract for buying something from you, some kind of work? Why are we building these headquarters? Is it not an ego issue that we want to look solid and big and important? But we're dragging you two hours across town because of it? So we started asking questions one by one. We'd say it like this: One: How do we find people? We'd go out and try and recruit people and we'd say, look, when you come to us, we're not going to have two or three interviews and then you're going to be married to us for life. That's not how we do the rest of our lives. So, come have your interviews. Anyone who's interested in interviewing, you will show up. And then we'll see what happens out of the intuition that rises from that, instead of just filling out the little items of whether you're the right person. And then, come back. Spend an afternoon, spend a whole day, talk to anybody you want. Make sure we are the bride you thought we were and not all the bullshit we put into our own ads. (Laughter) Slowly we went to a process where we'd say things like, we don't want anyone to be a leader in the company if they haven't been interviewed and approved by their future subordinates. Every six months, everyone gets evaluated, anonymously, as a leader. And this determines whether they should continue in that leadership position, which is many times situational, as you know. And so if they don't have 70, 80 percent of a grade, they don't stay, which is probably the reason why I haven't been CEO for more than 10 years. And over time, we started asking other questions. We said things like, why can't people set their own salaries? What do they need to know? There's only three things you need to know: how much people make inside the company, how much people make somewhere else in a similar business and how much we make in general to see whether we can afford it. So let's give people these three pieces of information. So we started having, in the cafeteria, a computer where you could go in and you could ask what someone spent, how much someone makes, what they make in benefits, what the company makes, what the margins are, and so forth. And this is 25 years ago. As this information started coming to people, we said things like, we don't want to see your expense report, we don't want to know how many holidays you're taking, we don't want to know where you work. We had, at one point, 14 different offices around town, and we'd say, go to the one that's closest to your house, to the customer that you're going to visit today. Don't tell us where you are. And more, even when we had thousands of people, 5,000 people, we had two people in the H.R. department, and thankfully one of them has retired. (Laughter) And so, the question we were asking was, how can we be taking care of people? People are the only thing we have. We can't have a department that runs after people and looks after people. So as we started finding that this worked, and we'd say, we're looking for -- and this is, I think, the main thing I was looking for in the terminal days and in the company, which is, how do you set up for wisdom? We've come from an age of revolution, industrial revolution, an age of information, an age of knowledge, but we're not any closer to the age of wisdom. How we design, how do we organize, for more wisdom? So for example, many times, what's the smartest or the intelligent decision doesn't jive. So we'd say things like, let's agree that you're going to sell 57 widgets per week. If you sell them by Wednesday, please go to the beach. Don't create a problem for us, for manufacturing, for application, then we have to buy new companies, we have to buy our competitors, we have to do all kinds of things because you sold too many widgets. So go to the beach and start again on Monday. (Laughter) (Applause) So the process is looking for wisdom. And in the process, of course, we wanted people to know everything, and we wanted to be truly democratic about the way we ran things. So our board had two seats open with the same voting rights, for the first two people who showed up. (Laughter) And so we had cleaning ladies voting on a board meeting, which had a lot of other very important people in suits and ties. And the fact is that they kept us honest. This process, as we started looking at the people who came to us, we'd say, now wait a second, people come to us and they say, where am I supposed to sit? How am I supposed to work? Where am I going to be in 5 years' time? And we looked at that and we said, we have to start much earlier. Where do we start? We said, oh, kindergarten seems like a good place. So we set up a foundation, which now has, for 11 years, three schools, where we started asking the same questions, how do you redesign school for wisdom? It is one thing to say, we need to recycle the teachers, we need the directors to do more. But the fact is that what we do with education is entirely obsolete. The teacher's role is entirely obsolete. Going from a math class, to biology, to 14th-century France is very silly. (Applause) So we started thinking, what could it look like? And we put together people, including people who like education, people like Paulo Freire, and two ministers of education in Brazil and we said, if we were to design a school from scratch, what would it look like? And so we created this school, which is called Lumiar, and Lumiar, one of them is a public school, and Lumiar says the following: Let's divide this role of the teacher into two. One guy, we'll call a tutor. A tutor, in the old sense of the Greek "paideia": Look after the kid. What's happening at home, what's their moment in life, etc.. But please don't teach, because the little you know compared to Google, we don't want to know. Keep that to yourself. (Laughter) Now, we'll bring in people who have two things: passion and expertise, and it could be their profession or not. And we use the senior citizens, who are 25 percent of the population with wisdom that nobody wants anymore. So we bring them to school and we say, teach these kids whatever you really believe in. So we have violinists teaching math. We have all kinds of things where we say, don't worry about the course material anymore. We have approximately 10 great threads that go from 2 to 17. Things like, how do we measure ourselves as humans? So there's a place for math and physics and all that there. How do we express ourselves? So there's a place for music and literature, etc., but also for grammar. And then we have things that everyone has forgotten, which are probably the most important things in life. The very important things in life, we know nothing about. We know nothing about love, we know nothing about death, we know nothing about why we're here. So we need a thread in school that talks about everything we don't know. So that's a big part of what we do. (Applause) So over the years, we started going into other things. We'd say, why do we have to scold the kids and say, sit down and come here and do that, and so forth. We said, let's get the kids to do something we call a circle, which meets once a week. And we'd say, you put the rules together and then you decide what you want to do with it. So can you all hit yourself on the head? Sure, for a week, try. They came up with the very same rules that we had, except they're theirs. And then, they have the power, which means, they can and do suspend and expel kids so that we're not playing school, they really decide. And then, in this same vein, we keep a digital mosaic, because this is not constructivist or Montessori or something. It's something where we keep the Brazilian curriculum with 600 tiles of a mosaic, which we want to expose these kids to by the time they're 17. And follow this all the time and we know how they're doing and we say, you're not interested in this now, let's wait a year. And the kids are in groups that don't have an age category, so the six-year-old kid who is ready for that with an 11-year-old, that eliminates all of the gangs and the groups and this stuff that we have in the schools, in general. And they have a zero to 100 percent grading, which they do themselves with an app every couple of hours. Until we know they're 37 percent of the way we'd like them to be on this issue, so that we can send them out in the world with them knowing enough about it. And so the courses are World Cup Soccer, or building a bicycle. And people will sign up for a 45-day course on building a bicycle.