Culture Statement Highlight : People Development

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.

 

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Complete transcript below:

PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT

[ page 22 ]

We support self improvement, based on our core belief in agency, and since high performance people are generally self-improving through experience, observation, introspection, reading, and discussion, this usually works out. If our talented people are surrounded by stunning colleagues who are honest with them, and if we provide big challenges to work on, the framework is set for personal development. This allows talented people to manage their own career based on their skills and reputation. We try hard to provide opportunity to grow by surrounding our people with great talent and big challenges.

Culture Statement Highlight : Principles of Scientific Method

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.

 

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Complete transcript below:

WE HAVE OPERATING PRINCIPLES TAKEN FROM THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

[ page 2-3 ]

1. Question Authority. No idea is true just because someone says so.

2. Think For Yourself. Question yourself. Don’t believe anything just because you want to. Believing something doesn’t make it so.

3. Test Ideas By The Evidence Gained Through Observation And Experiment. If a favorite idea fails a well designed test, it’s wrong. Get over it.

4. Follow The Evidence Wherever It Leads. If you have no evidence, reserve judgment.

5. Remember, You Could Be Wrong.

Every interaction we have is fueled by the desire for truth. This requires every person to think for themselves and speak for themselves. Anything other than thinking for yourself would be bending to authority. We of course disagree on ideas themselves, maybe furiously, but not in our honest desire for truth. Our mission is very hard. We are surrounded by bureaucracy, decades old traditions and technology, and extremely well-funded competitors. Anything short of the best ideas winning isn’t acceptable when laid against the backdrop of the challenge ahead of us.

Culture Statement Highlight : Context, Not Control

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.

 

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Complete transcript below:

CONTEXT, NOT CONTROL

[ page 17 ]

“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.

Culture Statement Highlight : We Are Ruled By Ideas

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.

 

Sidewalk Culture: Ruled By Ideas

 

 

Complete transcript below:

WE ARE RULED BY IDEAS, NOT STRUCTURE, PROCESS, OR HIERARCHY

[ page 2 ]

An idea is a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action. The best ideas are the things that are most likely to create success if we act on them. Nobody gets past the threshold of our front door if they don’t believe and embrace the concept of being ruled by the best ideas. We respect ideas more than people; more than ourselves. We are discerning and have energy to discern good ideas from bad ideas based on merit and evidence at the time. This isn’t something we just do. This is something we are. We hold this higher than any other value because it allows us to cut through hierarchy, personalities, emotions, prejudices and defaults, and increases the chances we’ll find the truth. 

Culture Statement Highlight : We Can Do Impossible Things

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.

 

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Complete transcript below:

WE BELIEVE WE CAN DO IMPOSSIBLE THINGS

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Steve Jobs said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” We believe this is true. It’s OK that we sometimes fail. It’s OK that we make mistakes. We embrace mistakes, failure, and change as a byproduct of risk taking and invention. This causes us to be misunderstood at times, and we willingly accept it. We believe we will ultimately succeed, even against difficult odds. This drives us to solve really hard problems that most organizations won’t genuinely attempt to solve. Our believing attitude paints us at optimists at core. That’s not a bad word for it. But it’s really the joy and perspective that comes from creating something meaningful, and bringing positive change to the world in the process.