Some call it anarchic socialism, some cutting edge capitalism. At Brazilian manufacturer Semco, the workers have sacked the boss, and run the company themselves.
At the lavish reception, one of two receptionists meet and greet the great and mighty. But no-one really ever knows which one it will be at any given time. “‘We are not sure which one will be there, because they set their own schedule” explains IT worker boss Joao Neto. There are hammocks to help workers think in comfort, and departments can choose their own furniture. Even salaries are set by the employees themselves, and bosses are just as likely to tell you to ask for more money than less. But although it sounds like a workers dream, the rest of the department keeps an eagle eye on lazy employees: “There is peer pressure for bad behaviour. If you’re here just to profit from other people’s efforts, you’re not wanted”. The easy going atmosphere has paid dividends — annual profits at Semco are up to US$ 160m these days, from $ 4m when owner Ricardo Semler (author of the titles The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works and Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace and Managing Without Managers) took over 25 years ago. Now he has turned his attention to teaching — without the teachers. Like Semco, pupils at Lumiar primary school in Sao Paulo dictate the rules. Viva La Revolucion?