We are often asked, "Why is Sidewalk so different from other vendors?” CEO Alan Martin didn't start out with the intent of creating an unusual culture at an enterprise focused on higher ed course materials. He began with the problem, “Why?” -- as in "Why are college textbooks so expensive and how could I help bring that cost down?" That was in 2007 and now, nine years later, Sidewalk is intentionally answering those questions with a corporate culture best served to accomplish the solution in innovative and effective ways. Here's a little window into the Culture Statement that drives and inspires Sidewalk to approach things differently every day.
Complete transcript below:
CONTEXT, NOT CONTROL
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"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
This quote has been attributed to Antoine De Saint-Exupery, but we can't verify it. We don't care who said it. It captures the power of context over control almost perfectly.
The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people. Context, not control means providing the insight and understanding to enable sound decisions from talented and reasonable people. This means we embrace strategy, metrics, assumptions, objectives, clearly-defined roles, knowledge of the stakes, and transparency around decision-making. We avoid top-down decision-making, management approval, committees, and planning and processes (if they are valued more than results). Good context includes: clear ties to company and functional goals, relative priority (how important or time sensitive something is), level of precision and refinement (no errors at all, pretty good because errors can be corrected, totally experimental... failure is expected), who the key stakeholders are, and key metrics/definition of success.