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Montessori in the workplace

24.11.22
Applying Montessori principles in the workplace: lessons from a design studio

If you have children, you must have heard about Montessori schools. The Montessori approach to education has been around for over a century and is gaining popularity, especially in recent years. It's all about allowing children to explore their world the way they want to and teaching them through hands-on activities that facilitate self-directed learning.

But did you know that Montessori principles can be applied to an office or workplace setting?

At its core, the Montessori Method is centered around empowering individuals to reach their full potential.

The three key Montessori principles that we adapted at our design studio with great success are a "designer-centered approach," a "place for everything and everything in its place," and "freedom within limits."

Applying basic Montessori principles has made a huge difference in how productive and happy our team is. The goal is to create an environment where designers can do their best work. Here are some of the lessons we learned from this experience:

The key elements for a Montessori workplace
Freedom within limits
Collaboration
Respect for the individual
#1 Make Creating a Designer-Centered Studio Your Goal

Designers are people, and people's moods, passions, and environments are not set in stone.
That is why rigid work environments stifle the creative process in the long term.

As a manager, it's my job to be vigilant and adapt the workload to the current needs of each designer. I can't change the designer's internal state. What I can influence is their workload.

Some things that I can adapt to match the current needs of the designer are:
The type of projects they work on
How many tasks do they work on at a time
The length of tasks
The amount of client-designer interaction required
Who do they collaborate with

If I see that a designer is struggling with too many tasks, I'll lighten their load. If I see they're bored with the project they're working on, I'll try to switch them to something more interesting.
The key is to always adapt the workload to the needs of the designer, so they can do their best work.

What does a designer-centered environment look like?

There are a few key things:

1
The right tools for the job: Make sure your designers have access to the best tools for their needs. This includes both physical tools and software.
2
The right space: The workspace should be designed to support the creative process, so it should be comfortable, well-lit, and free of distractions.
3
The right team: A designer needs a supportive team that understands their creative process,and that can help whenever they need it.
4
The right mindset: A designer-centered environment is one where creativity and innovation
are valued above all else.

When all of these elements come together, you have a studio that is truly centered around the needs of the designers. This environment fosters creativity and allows designers to do their best work.

#2 Reduce stress by enforcing the "A Place for Everything, and Everything in its Place" principle

The stress of not finding a design asset right away when it's needed can quickly derail the creative process.
So one way to reduce this stress is by "having a place for everything and everything in its place."

What are some ways you can keep everything in its place?
Naming conventions are a great way to keep everything organized. Having a clear naming convention for all files, folders, and projects can help everyone in the studio find what they need quickly and without stress.
Versions are also important to keep track of. This can be done by tagging versions in the file name.
This way, everyone knows which is the most recent version of the file.
Utilize project management tools: It's also helpful to leave a link or path to the file in the Asana (or other project management tool) task so people can easily find it.

Being vigilant about having everything in its right place can make a huge difference. When designers know where to find everything they need and that it will be the most updated version, they can relax and focus on being creative.

#3 Boost creativity with "Freedom within limits."

Freedom within limits means that employees are given autonomy to do their work as they see fit within the parameters set by the company. This allows for creativity and innovation, as well as a sense of ownership and responsibility.

But what does that mean in practice? At Mondeo, we give our team members clear objectives and trust them to use their creativity and expertise to achieve those goals. This involves:

Open-ended tasks that encourage creativity and problem-solving
A variety of work tools and materials so they can choose what works best for them
The ability to move around freely and work in different areas, as long as it doesn't disturb others

What's important is that employees feel trusted and respected and have the freedom to experiment and find their way of doing things.

I have found that by applying these key principles, my team is more productive and happy.
So, what do you think about applying Montessori principles in the workplace?