CVHS alum presents to students, staff

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published October 15, 2019

 Rich Sheridan, a 1975 Chippewa Valley High School graduate and co-founder and CEO of Menlo Innovations, visits his former school Oct. 2, delivering a presentation to staff.

Rich Sheridan, a 1975 Chippewa Valley High School graduate and co-founder and CEO of Menlo Innovations, visits his former school Oct. 2, delivering a presentation to staff.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In the time since Rich Sheridan graduated from Chippewa Valley High School, he’s focused a great deal on building learning organizations.

Sheridan visited Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township Oct. 2. After meeting with students in career and technical education classes, he delivered a presentation to staff.

Sheridan is a 1975 CVHS graduate and the co-founder and CEO of Menlo Innovations, a software and IT consulting firm, located in Ann Arbor.

Angela Manzella, CVHS assistant principal said his story is great for students to hear.

“Menlo has a teamwork effort where they work in pairs. I think it was great for the kids to hear a different aspect of doing business,” she said.

One point in Sheridan’s presentation was that the opposite of courage is not cowardice, but conformity.

“Way back in 1971, when I was a freshman, Chippewa Valley was one of the nonconforming schools,” he said. “I had the nonconforming idea that the business world might appreciate a book that has the words joy and love on the cover.”

While in high school, Sheridan began work at the Macomb Intermediate School District. There, he created the first email system that Macomb County schools used.

He went on to the University of Michigan, graduating with degrees in computer science and computer engineering.

“I had a career that looked perfect,” he said. “I went from programmer in 1982 to vice president in 1997. I had everything the world measures as success, and by my mid-30s, I was falling out of love with the profession I thought would carry me for a lifetime. I wanted out.”

He soon realized there was chaos in his work.

“That lead to process and procedures, a full-blown bureaucracy,” he said. “You go from chaos to bureaucracy, from the land of getting everything done, to the land of never getting started.”

Described by others as chief optimist, Sheridan worded it this way: “I was stuck in a room full of manure, and I knew there was a pony in here somewhere,” he said.    

After digging his way out, he began writing books, and focusing on how to build a learning organization. Sheridan has authored two books: “Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love,” and “Chief Joy Officer.”

Sheridan visualized what it means to create an organization that gets off the ground everyday with joy, comparing it with an airplane.

“There are four forces: lift, weight, thrust and drag. Nothing can replace the lift of human energy,” he said.

He added that what holds companies back is an unnecessary number of meetings.

“If you want to drown the human energy of an organization, have lots of meetings, don’t make any decisions in those meetings, and if you make a decision by mistake, do not act on it.”

He compared thrust of purpose to who workers serve.

“With drag of fear, I think one of the things that holds back our education system is state-mandated tests,” he said. “If you want to get your team off the ground, you better have less fear, less bureaucracy, more human energy and more thrust. ”

After visiting with students, Sheridan said the best thing adults can do is inspire students on a journey of their own.

“I hope by example there might be some kids who say ‘Hey, this guy went to Chippewa Valley and did that. Maybe I can, too,’” he said.

Sheridan launched Menlo in 2001. The company offers a unique work environment where a pair of employees work at one computer, working on the same tasks at the same time. Pairs are switched every five working days.

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