Learn How To Make Work More Fun From 6 New Workplace Pioneers

Joost Minnaar
Written by Joost Minnaar October 11, 2017

A big part of our Corporate Rebels adventure is the Bucket List. It features entrepreneurs, pioneers, academics, organizations and business leaders that show that there are radically different ways to work.

It is central to accomplishing our mission: to make work more fun. We visit workplace pioneers, we learn from them, and we share their unique stories: all to inspire other engaging workplaces.

We started out with a list of around 30 pioneers. But we have been constantly discovering new ones. As a result, our list has grown to around 85 people and organizations. Of these, we have so far visited 60. Who are these other pioneers?

Exciting new names

Let’s highlight 6 of the new names to show why we think they are exciting.

Haier (and its CEO Zhang Ruimin)

Haier is the world’s largest home appliance manufacturer, and a Chinese company. Of interest to us is its reputation as one of the most innovative companies in the world. Founded in 1984, Haier was then organized as a hierarchy with ‘traditional’ command-and-control structures.

In 2009, Zhang Ruimin radically transformed the organization and put it on the path toward self-management. Today, thousands of employees work in independent operating units made up of ~2000 self-managed teams.

Haier intrigues us because it defies some serious prejudices. For example, many people think such ways of working couldn’t succeed in China—and especially not in manufacturing. Well, Haier shatters both these stereotypes.

Clóvis Bojikian

Clóvis Bojikian is a former HR director of Brazilian company Semco. He worked with Ricardo Semler to effect a radical transformation of Semco in the 1980’s. As a result, Semco became one of the most famous (and successful) Brazilian companies in the world.

As HR director, Clóvis was able to create a manufacturing company that treats its 4.000 employees as responsible adults. For example, factory workers make important decisions,; like setting their working hours, and even their salaries and bonuses.

While Semco has been on our list since the beginning, we thought Clovis—as HR Director and Semler’s partner—should be added to our list.


Enspiral is an entrepreneurial collective in New Zealand. It functions as a support umbrella for freelancers and social enterprises. Its unique structure offers members both a strong sense of community and creative independence.

It’s a novel example of independent workers drawing strength from shared ownership of a platform and membership of a supportive network.


Haufe-Umantis is a Swiss-based, global human resources company with a very interesting leadership practice. Notably, employees elect the entire senior leadership team (including the CEO) every year.

We look forward to uncovering the pros and cons of this practice in real life.

John Lewis

John Lewis is a chain of department stores operating in the UK. Its nearly 40.000 employees work in a unique partnership model as co-owners the business. This was the idea of the founder, John Spedan Lewis. He based his totally new approach on strong beliefs in the ‘happiness of all its members’ and their ‘worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business’.

153 years after its inception, John Lewis still challenges the status quo.

WP Haton

WP Haton is a Dutch factory specializing in the manufacturing of industrial bakery equipment. Over the last 15 years, its 120 employees have transformed the traditional company into one that is modern, progressive and innovative. Consider their flexible working hours, employee co-ownership and self-managed teams.

They seem to have it all. We want to learn more.


Let the exploration continue

It is a diverse list, and only a few of the Bucket List organizations we have added recently. All of them feature at least one particular progressive aspect of doing business that has caught our eye

It’s important to visit these places to find out what they are really like. We won’t rely on stories put out by PR departments. We want to talk, in person, to founders, CEOs and employees. We want to ask: What are the upsides, the downsides, and the practical realities that separate these companies from traditional organizations?

Our Bucket List exploration will continue as we visit more pioneers in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Written by Joost Minnaar
Joost Minnaar
Co-founder Corporate Rebels. My daily focus is on research, writing, and anything else related to making work more fun.
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