Corporate Kindergarten: How A Montessori Mindset Can Transform Your Business

POST WRITTEN BY Justin Wasserman

Managing Director at Kotter International, Justin Wasserman helps leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations.

Montessori students working on their lessons at Green Hedges School, Vienna, Virginia. (Photo credit: Michael Branscom)

I’ll spare you the perfunctory context setting about how our globalized economy is moving at a rate of change unimaginable even a decade ago. It’s a given. Business models, product cycle times and even the Fortune 500 had a much longer shelf life in the 20th century than they do today.

To remain competitive – or, dare I say, relevant – organizations must achieve vastly higher levels of strategic agility, or face the foul risk of becoming “Blockbustered.” And by strategic agility I mean the ability to tactically pivot at the drop of a hat, to launch novel initiatives and kill off those that are no longer serving you.

At its apex in 2004, Blockbuster Video had nearly 60,000 employees and over 9,000 stores worldwide. Its market value and annual revenues each exceeded $5 billion, and it boasted a #1 position in the space by a long shot. In fact, CEO John Antioco was doing such a stellar job that his compensation that year totaled $51.6 million.

Yet the writing on the proverbial wall had been glaringly apparent for years. New threats and opportunities were ever present. It seemed obvious that Blockbuster’s dinosaur retail business model had to change, but did it have the desire or strategic agility to course correct and reinvent itself?

Rewind the clock to 2000, when Blockbuster turned down a chance to purchase the still struggling Netflix for $50 million. Cue forehead slap. Humming a worn out tune, fingers in ears and blinders securely fastened, it continued ignoring new entrants and technologies – think Redbox and video streaming. Fast forward six short years from its peak in 2004, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy protection. By 2011, the company and its remaining assets were auctioned off for a paltry $233 million to Dish Network. (Fun fact, Netflix is now worth over $50 billion.)

So what does this story have to do with Montessori and what kindergarteners inherently know about strategic agility? Quite a lot. Hint: if you’re thinking dinosaurs, that’s not it.

Montessori kids are unique. They’re taught differently and they learn differently. Just ask 15 time Grammy Award-winning musician Yo-Yo Ma, author and Nobel Prize recipient Gabriel Garcia Marquez or the founders of Google and Amazon. As entrepreneur Peter Sims explains, “the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by the school’s alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia.”

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2 thoughts on “Corporate Kindergarten: How A Montessori Mindset Can Transform Your Business”

  1. I have one son who attended Montessori for 3 years and one who was always home schooled. Most of the schooling at home has been done with gentle persuasion, although we did lose our way for a couple of yeas and were more coercive.They are both doing well, but our 5-1/2 year younger son who never went to school is more advanced academically and emotionally. I attribute that to our own learning from which he got more of the benefit.
    The point of this that it could be that the success of Montessori children is as much or more attributable to the parents in those homes as to the school.


    1. You make a great point. Parents that take responsibility for the education of their children rather than mindlessly send them to a government school are typically more active in their child’s life.


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