How 'EVERY STUDENT STARTS A BUSINESS' can teach REAL teamwork

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Last week, I introduced a novel curriculum piece for our new kind of school — "Every student starts a business", and explored how starting a business might push our students into more complex thinking than anything else we can set for them. Today, I'd like to explore how making social entrepreneurships can help our kids learn another ridiculously important superpower: working in a real team.

Emphasis on the real — not the sort of fake teamwork so many of us have experienced in school.


It's really, really difficult to be part of a real team.

By "real team" I mean a closely-knit group of people who operate as one mind — who share a mission, information, and responsibility.

Most groups that use the word "team" don't measure up to this. Rather, as business theorist Patrick Leoncini writes in his (excellent) book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business,

The truth is, few groups of leaders actually work like a team, at least not the kind that is required to lead a healthy organization.

He compares most workplace "teams" to golf teams: members go off and do their own thing, and then total up their combined work at the end of the day.

To achieve the difficult, complex work of an entrepreneurship, what's needed is something quite different: something more akin to a basketball team, which

plays together simultaneously, in an interactive, mutually dependent, and often interchangeable way.

I did a lot of group work in middle and high school classes. But I never once did anything like this.


Working as a member of a real team is damned hard.

You have to learn to share a mission.

You have to sacrifice for others.

You have to learn to argue productively, to flush out the flaws in strategy.

You have to learn to commit to moving forward in a direction that the team decides — even when you privately remain unconvinced that it's the best direction to go.

In short, to work in a real team you have to grow as a person: you have to learn to be a good human being under extreme pressure.


If we can provide students ample opportunities to learn this — to grow like this — we'll have helped them developed superpowers that few schools do.

(See also one of our first posts: There is power in a teaching team!)

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA