Working within the box is not something Ryan Carson, Founder and CEO of online learning portal Treehouse, is comfortable with.
In fact, from his keynote session at this year’s Mesh Conference in Toronto this week, one could surmise his mandate is to break through traditional paradigms which are beginning to have no real validity in today’s technological age.
Ryan’s disruptive crusade is at the core of Treehouse whose mission is to bring affordable technology education to the masses in order to unlock their potential and allow them to live their dreams. Treehouse aims to right the wrongs of formal education by reducing the cost to acquire knowledge as well as to efficiently provide the tools and connections students need to leave with a job.
Carson believes that technology is changing the face of education and that in 10 years it won’t be the same. He predicts that most of the sub-par universities will die off and a focus on online learning and trade-based schooling will emerge. Carson has little faith in current state university or what he calls “a four-year education vacation” which leaves students with a massive amount of debt and without the real hands-on tools and skills to find employment.
But Ryan’s desire to challenge the status quo is not just a business driver for Treehouse, it’s also influencing the way he is running his business.
Carson spent the first half of his keynote creating a picture of what some would call a utopic view of a working environment which included a four-day work week, the ability to work from home and mandated use of social networks—all of which are concepts employed at Treehouse. He explained that these management choices have all been rooted in a fundamental belief that people can work smarter and therefore faster which allows them to have more time with their family and for themselves making them better employees and people. In fact, Carson listed personal time as Treehouse’s number one value for the company and said it was an active choice which they made for the team despite any impact it may have to the overall bottom line.
Ryan explained that “people work much harder when they like each other,” which is the reason the 55-plus Treehouse employees attend a week-long meetup, usually in Orlando where most of them are based, where there is no agenda, no business—just a celebration and time for the team to get to know each other personally and bond.
This seemingly relaxed approach to business is not for the faint of heart however. Carson explained that as much as Treehouse is generous, they are demanding. Employees are expected to deliver results in order to continue as part of the team making accountability just as important as flexibility.