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  • 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.