Launched in 2010, AO Gijuku was not an early entry in the industry but they have achieved a strong track record of getting students accepted into famous universities in the second year after their launch, and the attention they received in the industry increased rapidly.
This time, we interviewed Yuki Minei, Vice President and COO of the company (above left).
A cram school that changes the direction of students' lives
First of all, please tell us what kind of school is AO Gijuku.
Since the founder is from Keio University, it had an advantage in AO entrance examinations such as at Keio University from the early days of its launch. The policy of the cram school is not to judge the possibility of students based on academic ability alone, but to accept students as excellent, regardless of their official ranking. We support their growth simply from the perspective of how we can enrich lives.
How did you (Minei) join the company?
For many years before joining the company, I was acquainted with the founder and sometimes helped with the business. I have started many startup companies until then, but as I repeated business startups, I started to want to do business that can contribute to society.
In that respect, AO Gijuku is a business that can change the lives of students. The university entrance examination reform is scheduled for 2020, and there is also the background that the elements that were used in the AO entrance examination will be incorporated more than ever. I participated in 2015, thinking that I could expand the social significance of the business by myself.
Accurate accompaniment requires a space for innovation
From the left, Toma, Deputy General Manager, and Minei, VP and COO.
Please tell us how you came to improve information sharing since joining the company.
Immediately after joining the company, the challenge was how to expand as an organization. That is to say, until then, we had a high success rate, the number of applicants for enrollment increased, and the cycle of business expansion continued to increase staff and classrooms accordingly.
On the other hand, because I had to give priority to educational aspects such as attending students, back-office operations such as enrollment procedures and deposit / withdrawal management were patchy. I think that if we continue to expand this way, it will cause problems someday, and for the two years after joining the company, we focused on improving the operations of the back office.
Once the improvement of the back office was completed, the next issue was how to build a system that can respond to the expansion of the organization and how to improve the efficiency of operations. To that end, we believe that the way information is shared is important, and we worked to improve it.
Did the need for information sharing increase in education?
As for the usual entrance exam measures, there is an easy-to-understand composition in which the grades will increase if you teach certain knowledge and ideas. On the other hand, there is no fixed knowledge for the admissions office (AO) entrance examination, and the ability to think for yourself is important. For that reason, AO Gijuku does not teach unilaterally, but rather takes the stance of "Because your life is yours, let's think together what to do in the future". We call this style of tutor a sherpa.
Since there is no one-size-fits-all instruction method, there are some areas where the method is left to the Sherpa. In the past, graduate students were often responsible for being the Sherpa, so people who knew that style were able to follow right along with the style of AO Gijuku.
However, in recent years, we are increasing the number of offices outside of Kanto (Tokyo area), so it is necessary for even people who do not know AO Gijuku style to be able to work as a sherpa to tutor students. Unlike Kanto, there are limits to what you can see and remember, so you need an environment where you can learn the concept of AO Gijuku and the knowledge of AO entrance examinations.
In addition, even if a graduate student takes the role of a sherpa, if another person spends time thinking about the same advice that someone had thought of last year, it feels like past knowledge couldn't be put to good use. I had this feeling.
As a solution, I thought about using information sharing tools.
Adopting Scrapbox to accumulate know-how without management stumbles.
I used to use a document sharing tool until then, but I could not find the required file in the folder without permission, and I could not find a specific sentence without hunting around. This is partly because we did not organize the rules for storing folders and the storage location.
In that case, I thought that I had to organize the storage location in a hierarchical manner and set the rules for storage, but it is difficult to keep organizing, and if this is the case, management will not catch up and eventually it will become inaccessible. This was a concern.
While I was wondering what to do, I met Scrapbox at just the right time. Scrapbox has the characteristic that information can be connected and organized afterwards, without having to organize the storage location or set rules from the beginning, so there is an advantage that you can concentrate on discharging information. I thought that with this people would be able to continuously share information and decided to start using Scrapbox.
How do you use Scrapbox now?
In terms of back office maintenance, we accumulate and share operation manuals, rules, and event plans such as minutes and briefings. For example, what kind of activities a sherpa does, what range of activities are recognized as working hours, etc. are some of the contents that have been prepared so far.
It is often used for event planning, and we use it extensively from discussing plans and sharing how to move on the day, such as what kind of briefing session and camps are held, and what procedures to follow in each case.
I also use it for task management or management support. The staff's tasks and progress are listed on Scrapbox as much as possible. When you wonder "Is that task progressing?", you can see how far people are progressing and where you should be concerned by looking at Scrapbox. Since I often travel to other offices such as in Osaka, it helps me to understand the situation and give advice as to whether they are making good progress compared to the head office in Tokyo.
How do you use it in education?
In terms of education, in addition to the knowledge, know-how, and teaching methods regarding the AO entrance examination, we may record the results of interviews with students such as student grade charts. Basically, we ask the Sherpa to add things in Scrapbox as much as possible so that we can utilize their knowledge.
We also share sales information and student's school acceptance status in the hope that all staff will consider the interests of AO Gijuku as their own.
Currently, more than 150 people in 11 classrooms are using Scrapbox, so it is increasing by 500 pages or more every month, and the total number is over 6,000 pages (as of August 2018).
You are certainly using it a lot. If that number increases, wouldn't some say that it will be difficult to find information?
I think it's difficult for new staff to get the whole picture from the beginning, so we have prepared some menu pages to guide how to view information. This information on the subject is written there. With this, you can start to use it to some extent.
However, the current situation is that everyone is finding all of the information they need. Moreover, until now, we have focused on outputting and growing information, but depending on the information, it may be necessary to judge whether it is needed or not. There is a possibility that the minimum organization and guides including it will be necessary, so I would like to work on it in the future.
Cases that make good use of know-how are appearing one after another.
What do you feel has been the effect of introducing Scrapbox?
It's true that work has become easier to do because of the explosive increase in information. I feel that it has a great effect on project management, as it allows task management and advice even from the remote locations mentioned above.
In addition, there are an increasing number of cases where the accumulated know-how was successfully used. For example, when making a pamphlet for student recruitment, I told the creator of the original draft that improving it from this perspective would make it even better, and the creator systematically used Scrapbox for pamphlet creation know-how based on the feedback content I had summarized. Then, the staff of other classrooms who saw it started to produce pamphlets with the same quality.
Thank you to Toma and Minei!
This is translated from the original interview, with writing and photos by Shingo Shimojo on November 5, 2018
Scrapbox lets you instantly capture and find knowhow at any scale, both solo and with a team.
You can rapidly capture things like notes, manuals, tasks, code, meeting minutes, and research results. All pages are automatically connected with bi-directional links, allowing you to seamlessly work across even tens of thousands of pages.