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Blackbird Ventures host weekly AMAs over on The Sunrise. Tune in Thursdays from 1pm AEST to take part or sign up to be notified via email.

Ben Sze Why do you give a $h1t about changing the education industry?

Duncan Anderson How could you not give a sh1t about changing the education industry? Everyone should get ‘an education’ and almost everyone has been through some part of the education system. I don’t see how any one could look at what we have and think ‘this can’t be improved’. Want to do something that touches everyone in the world? Education is one answer. Want to do something that can affect people in a big way? Education is one answer. The intersection of those two circles is pretty rare and BLOODY cool.

Herk Kailis How much of a factor (% terms) has external advice helped you achieve success at Edrolo?

Duncan I would say the single most important thing Edrolo did outside of Edrolo was Startmate. At a crucial point in our development we were put in an environment and had access to people that to me significantly changed the trajectory of Edrolo. However there wasn’t one mentor or one event that changed things. It was the accumulation. So in case it’s not clear, do Startmate :)!

However I think that it’s really important to be constantly importing external data points into your decision making set (why I read so much). As Warren Buffett says “it’s good to learn from your mistakes, it’s better to learn from others”. I don’t view external advice as this thing I did for 3 months or one person I met, it’s a constant 10–20 hour a week mission!

Daniel Petre How do you see the role of teachers changing (or not) with increased use of platforms like Edrolo?

Duncan In the short term our goal is to give teachers better resources than they currently have. This will allow them to do things like flipped learning (better allocation of time) and have access to data on where their class is so they can adapt their teaching to fit the knowledge gaps students have. However it’s still the same subjects with periods in year levels.

Your grandparents know what your schooling is like because it is 80% the same as what they did, I don’t think our grandchildren will have 80% the same primary education and secondary experience students today have… well not if Edrolo has anything to do with it!

Chris Hexton What tools have stuck and actually provided value over the long-term? What sort of culture do you think this creates? Is it all positive?

Duncan I love data.

I think we have built a pretty unique culture.

For instance: everyone in my team tracks every minute of what they do in time sheets. They plan every week with trello. They write weekly email reviews and next week plans that include: motivation out of 10, stress out of 10, execution out of 10, plan out of 10, key learnings, highest ROI activity, lowest ROI activity and on.

Everyone is required to give feedback at least once a week. Later today everyone in my team is standing up in front of the team and giving me a piece of positive and constructive feedback and saying how they think we can improve as a team.

Nothing is 100% positive. I’ve tried hard in the last 4 months to build a culture of feedback and radical candor. I think we’ve made huge strides, but you need to be really careful and make sure everyone is opting in (this isn’t forced on people). If you go to fast you can push people away. Also as the company grows people start to treat me differently (HIPPO syndrome) which really worries me. I need constant, honest feedback (hence the activity today :) ).

Paul Bennetts Please give the benefit to this audience of your weekly time management routine. ?

Duncan I try and track as much stuff as possible (see below for a bit of it).

  • I track every minute of work I do and exactly what I do so I can see back years of where I was spending time on. Eg I know that email and meetings time hasn’t gone up from when we had 5 people to now we have 40. This is because we grind out efficiency.
  • I track every minute of exercise (apple watch).
  • I track my sleep.
  • I have wifi scales so I weigh myself every day.
  • I track motivation, stress, what I’m grateful for.

I try to understand everything that is going on in my life and see what is affecting me and why and then get proactive about it.

I’ve looked at how I spend my time and engineered what I want to do and gotten rid of what I don’t want to do. I now spend 90%+ of my time on things I want to do. This took years to achieve, but it’s very cool. I’m very fortunate and I’m happy!

Nathan McGinness You’ve hired quite a lot of people in the last year or two, and it’s unlikely to slow down. Even with lots of interviews, or even by attempting to do a piece of work with a candidate when trying to determine if someone is a fit — it’s still very much a gut-feel thing. How do you reconcile this with trying to be systematic and data-driven?

Duncan We’ve learned a lot about hiring, onboarding and training people (and hopefully we will continue to learn a lot). When hiring: we do a phone screen, next step is that people have to do an actual task they would do on the job for Edrolo (1–4 hours), then we have 1–2 more in person interviews and then we all rank interviewees on a custom rubric per job.

At the moment we are just writing down what we think makes an ‘A-Player’ for each role and adjusting the rubrics slightly to this. After this process we have a lot of ‘data’ on the person. I have literally ranked all employees this year on rubrics and know what I thought of each person before they came in.

Then the fun begins, you get to calibrate if you were right or wrong. We haven’t been right on 100% of things of course, and if we aren’t we do a ‘post-mortem’ and review what happened and what we think of someone vs what we thought coming in and then we adjust the hiring process to take into account our false positive.

This is typical fun problem solving to me. No framework = no good!

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