LRN

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LRN Reviews

Updated March 3, 2015
Updated March 3, 2015
152 Reviews
2.5
152 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
LRN Chairman and CEO Dov L. Seidman
Dov L. Seidman
139 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • comfortable work timings, work from home option, decent office space (in 5 reviews)

  • Excellent work-life balance and culture (in 5 reviews)


Cons
  • Preach flatness but there is still the feeling of top down decision making (in 8 reviews)

  • There cannot be a self-governing culture if there is fear and there is (in 8 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

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  1.  

    Fragmentary, unstructured, lack of vision from management.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Business Analyst in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Business Analyst in New York, NY

    I worked at LRN

    Pros

    Excellent work-life balance. The office location could not be beat, and snacks. A number of interesting projects.

    Cons

    Lack of structure, unity in vision and strategy. Compensation left something to be desired and leadership was at best nebulous and disengaged.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Set a clear strategic vision and implement. Value employees as an asset

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  2.  

    Meaningful work, in an intense but stimulating environment.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at LRN

    Pros

    The quality of the people is, on the whole, impressive - and new, more professionalized leadership in sales, marketing and operations is making itself felt.

    Cons

    As the Company itself recognizes, a greater emphasis on organizational infrastructure will help LRN better achieve its business- and mission-related goals.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    By nature and inclination, I am neither a reader of, nor certainly a contributor to, websites such as this.

    But having a decent respect for one’s employer (even while acknowledging its imperfections, and working to address them) does imply, in this Brave New World of social media, an occasional obligation to air one’s views – if only to provide some reasonable balance, and to push back on W.B. Yeats’s claim that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

    The various negative comments one reads in this space often display a form of “passionate intensity” – but to the extent they relate to my own employer, LRN, or to its CEO, Dov Seidman, they do not describe my experience, or the Company (or CEO) I know.

    I have worked at LRN for three years. The Company is not perfect, and does not claim to be – although I can say that LRN is the most self-reflective organization known to me, and that its aspirations to improve its own culture, while working to improve the cultures of the Fortune 1000 companies it serves, are authentic and laudable.

    The expected standard of performance at LRN is high, but attainable – witness the many LRN colleagues, in the United States and abroad, who have worked at the Company for more than five, ten, or fifteen years. I regularly collaborate with three senior Sales executives (two of whom are women, and co-lead the Company’s Sales efforts) who, among them, boast a total of more than thirty years of experience at LRN.

    And being myself a great believer in vacations, it is simply not true that one is not afforded reasonable vacation time at LRN; what is true is that the Company does expect all colleagues to plan and coordinate their vacations so that the Company’s orderly functioning is not unduly affected by unplanned-for absences – a reasonable expectation, surely.

    And in terms of flexible hours and the like, many LRN colleagues, some of whom occupy quite senior roles, work from home in remote locales (and have done so, productively, for many years), with the Company’s full backing and blessing. Because of my own special family circumstances, the Company has also afforded me some flexibility in that regard, which I appreciate – and which I know, for a fact, would not be granted by many other employers.

    For me, at least, the highlight of each year at LRN is the evening in September when LRN hosts, at its New York headquarters, the annual Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity Prize in Ethics – including podium remarks, and the award of the prizes, by Elie Wiesel himself. Of the five Ethics prizes awarded in 2014, three of the prize-winners were women, including the First Prize winner (whose winning essay was inspired by her time volunteering on a Lakota reservation in South Dakota.) Each Elie Wiesel Foundation Ethics Prize winner is invited by LRN to join the Company’s ranks as an intern (LRN pays its interns quite generously, unlike many other companies). This year, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with one of the 2014 Prize winners during his current internship in New York, and my LRN colleagues have put a good deal of thought into ensuring that the internship experience we provide is a rich and rewarding one, and aligned, as best we can, with each intern’s personal and professional goals.

    Another annual LRN highlight is the conferral of the Raj Hotanalli Award, which is awarded to the LRN colleague who best exemplifies the better angels of LRN’s culture and leadership framework (since the Award’s inception, eight of the nine Raj Hotanalli Award winners have been women.)

    LRN is not for everyone. There is an unmistakable intensity about the place – but I have found it to be an energizing intensity, where very smart and principled people work, collaboratively but intensely, to create solutions, customer experiences and, ultimately, changes in corporate culture (and in the Company’s own culture) which are worth being intense about.

    Most of us, by sheer financial necessity, have to work somewhere. To be employed by a Company which not only expects, but requires, its colleagues to do meaningful work to effect positive change – and exists for the very purpose of having that work be increasingly meaningful and impactful – is no small thing. LRN is notable in that respect.

    So if any of this resonates with you – if you are intrigued by the prospect of performing meaningful work, along lines of excellence, and of having some fun, into the bargain – please “connect.”

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3. 8 people found this helpful  

    Working here will make company insolvency wishful thinking.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at LRN

    Pros

    Pay
    Office environment
    Nice location

    Cons

    The CEO is plain cuckoo.

    The people directly surrounding the CEO (both physically and org chart wise - same) are smart at best, at worst maybe sycophants who have a thing for being humiliated.

    Dov is nuts and a phony relative to the inspirational ideas that he preaches about.
    The HOW book is awful, but a lot of business books are I guess.
    Almost anyone can get a foreword from Bill Clinton (or any former President) with a big check. Nothing special there.

    My regret is trying to understand Dov while working at LRN instead realizing he's just a bully and pushing back.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    It's financially okay as a small company and will pay Dov's bills.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
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  5. 13 people found this helpful  

    A truly horrible gig.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Contractor - Senior Consultant in Los Angeles, CA
    Former Contractor - Senior Consultant in Los Angeles, CA

    I worked at LRN as a contractor (less than a year)

    Pros

    Great location in Westwood (UCLA campus) with free parking and the ability to walk to all kinds of stores and businesses. Highly educated and previously successful workforce.

    Cons

    Much more literate ex-employees than me have already described LRN more accurately than I can here. Dov is a self-centered ego maniac with zero people skills: he hires A-listers as direct reports and then sets out to prove that he knows more about their field of expertise than they do. A back office employee once told me that "your tenure with LRN directly corrallates with the distance between your office and Dov's, i.e. the shorter, the shorter.

    Someone I worked with at a previous employer once expected a job offer to join LRN and called me to ask what she needed most to be successful there: I told her "a genuine lack of self-respect". One thing I picked up on at LRN that I don't think anyone else has mentioned directly is that Dov bullies women more than men. He was well known to the local temporary employment agencies and they refuse to send him any more Executive Assistants to pick on.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Completing this section would be equivalent to trying to teach a pig to sing.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  6. 12 people found this helpful  

    Have you read "the book"?

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - There Are No Titles At LRN
    Current Employee - There Are No Titles At LRN

    I have been working at LRN full-time (more than a year)

    Pros

    Smart, talented colleagues (we don't have co-workers) dedicated to changing the world.

    They have a incredible vacation policy -- there is none

    Benefits are very generous

    Cons

    Everyone who interviews at LRN MUST read "the book". Unfortunately the mission of the company that is on paper (in the book) and is preached whenever an opportunity arises is not followed through in practice. This is a company that does not practice what it preaches which is ethics, compliance and governance. The company was once considered the leader in a growing sector, but due to the CEO having to control everyone and everything they can't seem to get out of their own way. Blind devotion to the mission is celebrated rather than rewarding employees that either out-perform or have innovative ideas.

    They also take a very perverse pleasure in knowingly underpaying their employees -- you should be thrilled to be there just to support "the mission". What happened to wanting to be successful and make some $$? Is that a bad thing?

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    They have hired some very talented leaders recently. Let them do their jobs and clean house, implement policies and procedures and fix the comp structure. Move the CEO to his own office across town.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  7. 18 people found this helpful  

    Cult of Dov, or HOW to kill a business through the Looking Glass

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at LRN

    Pros

    Astonishing quality of people, minus the CEO and a handful of his blind zealots

    Cons

    Those astonishing people are quickly driven off in droves. The How book by the CEO is a simplistic bunch of metaphors and aphorisms used daily by the CEO to justify his inability to manage the company and his complete lack of integrity. After years of trying to sell a culture transformation for corporations it has been an abysmal and complete failure. Meanwhile the core business has deteriorated by half. The highlight of the so-called philosophy of a flat organization was recently highlighted by the addition of a second president reporting to the CEO. The tenure of the first one is, of course, now short. Most bets are both will be gone in less than 6 months. The culture of HOW in his own company is a complete failure and the company is beyond hope. Meanwhile the CEO whiles away his time having his team of writers write and re-write his speeches and spend diminishing cash on suing a yogurt company that unfortunately used HOW in their advertising. The audacity of that company. Doesn't everyone on the planet know HOW belongs to Dov? This supreme narcissist is ruling over a dead company he is driving quickly to insolvency.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Sell the core business to a competitor before the company valuation is completely eroded and send Dov and his (very) few remaining believers off into his Alice in Wonderland world where the harm he can deliver is minimal.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    LRN

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Enlistment in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Enlistment in New York, NY

    I worked at LRN full-time (more than a year)

    Pros

    The finest colleagues possible endeavoring to change the way the world does business. It's exciting to collaborate on important issues with brilliant minds and the nature of the work puts you at the epicenter of the evolution of business. The market is huge and recent strategic hires speak to the commitment to be the very best they can be.

    Cons

    The progressive manner in which LRN does business can sometimes result in "many chiefs, no indians" - some people see this as an opportunity to lead leaders, others see it as an insurmountable challenge.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Ensure that career progression addresses colleagues aspirations - this will lead to increased colleague tenure.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 14 people found this helpful  

    The worst place I have ever worked

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY

    I worked at LRN full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    I worked at LRN for a few years in New York City. I’m writing this review to help anyone who is currently interviewing and/or thinking about joining LRN. My goal is to provide an informed perspective to your job search as you contemplate your next career move.

    LRN was the worst place I have ever worked, and I suspect that if you are choose to work here, it will be the worst place you have ever worked as well. But I’ll get into all that; l will first discuss the positive aspects of LRN.

    PROs

    There is really only one major upside to working at LRN: the people. My colleagues at LRN were amazing. Smart, passionate, and friendly, they were genuinely concerned with doing meaningful work in the world. They were (and remain) some of the best people I've ever met, and many have become life-long friends. If LRN had one singularly positive feature, it was its ability to attract incredible talent. Unfortunately, LRN has neither the ability nor the inclination to nurture and retain such talent.

    Many Glassdoor reviews cite the New York City office location as a ‘pro’ about LRN. I don’t agree. Despite the lofty explanations about the philosophically-inspired interior design, I found it kitschy and amateurish at best. It’s particular approach to ‘open concept’ is annoying and detrimental to being productive (some offices do the open concept thing well--LRN does not). That said, the view from the office is indeed incredible: you can look out into Central park and wonder if anyone would miss you if you escaped into it for a few hours; or you can look down into the flagship Apple store, and dream about what it might be like to work for a truly innovative company.

    Cons

    Before getting into my specific Cons, let me say a little something about you. If you’re reading my review, chances are you’re considering an offer from LRN. Given what I said above about LRN’s ability to attract great talent, that means you’re almost certainly amazing. You likely have great academic credentials, strong work experience, and have always excelled at everything you do. Maybe you’re coming from a top-ranked consulting or finance firm or a prestigious non-profit organization. You’re probably puzzled by the mixed reviews about LRN on glassdoor.com just like I was. So, when the CEO explains to you that LRN has “simply hired the wrong people” in the past few years, but that you are “part of the new guard that will finally help lead LRN to greatness” you’re understandably inclined to believe him. After all, you've *always* been that person. You've dealt with difficult bosses before, you've worked long hours, and you've succeeded at every point.

    I want you to understand this very clearly: you are just like me and countless others who have worked at LRN. We all came from great schools with excellent experience, and a solid sense of commitment. When the CEO told us we were the ones to help change the company (yes, we all got the same line), we believed him. So let me be clear: no matter what you do, you will not be able to change things at LRN. LRN never changes, and will never change, as long as the CEO remains in place. Like others, I tried valiantly, but it’s simply impossible to effect any kind of change at LRN. LRN is like the worst possible instantiation of Groundhog Day, and not just because it lacks Bill Murray. Based on all available evidence, it will remain a terrible place to work, you will have no impact, and you will almost certainly quit in anger and frustration, like hundreds of people over the last 5 years have done.

    There’s simply too much to fit into this Cons section, so I will focus on three key topics that I think are important for someone who is thinking about joining LRN: mission, culture, and professional development.

    THE MISSION

    No doubt part of the reason you’re drawn to work at LRN is its stated mission: to inspire principled performance and help foster ethical corporate cultures. After all, this holds the promise of working for a for-profit company that nevertheless genuinely seeks to make the world a better place. So it is probably important for you to hear that the driving mission of LRN is not really that at all.

    LRN’s real mission is the continued growth and advancement of the CEO’s personal fame. That’s it. Make no mistake about it — this is ultimately what you will be working to advance on a daily basis.

    Most LRN employees know this, of course. And if you follow the standard track, this is what will happen. About 2-4 weeks after you join LRN, it will begin to dawn on you that things aren't quite right. Neither the company nor the CEO are what you thought they were. Most of your colleagues just do what they can to survive, paying lip-service to the mission when required to do so. Sure, there are a few true-believers mixed in, people who have bought into the CEO’s elixir and are inexplicably loyal to him. But by and large, people see through the deception pretty quickly.

    A frustrating consequence of all this, at least for people who are creative, is that all research and thought-leadership is static at LRN because there is an already established orthodoxy — the CEO’s amateurish HOW “philosophy”. Governing frameworks such as the ‘Leadership framework,’ despite being obviously internally inconsistent, are nonetheless unquestionable. Who would think they would be working in the cutting-edge area of organizational culture and yet not change any of the frameworks or thinking in 7 years? Well at LRN, where the knowledge-base is produced by one person and is more akin to religious dogma than cutting-edge research, this is sadly the case.

    CULTURE

    Somewhat ironically for a company that professes to instruct others on how to develop great corporate cultures, LRN’s corporate culture is terrible. Not just plain vanilla terrible, but soul-crushing—PTSD-inducing—I-feel-like-drinking-all-the-time terrible. And the primary source of this is the CEO. I don’t say this lightly or flippantly — it’s simply the truth.

    If you learned about LRN by reading articles from the past few years, you might have read about its so-called “unique” organizational structure. Things like the claim that LRN is “flat” (meaning it’s non-hierarchical) or that there is no vacation policy (“just take as much as you need!”) or that expense reports require no authorization (“just submit them and you’ll be paid, no question!”). All these are true in theory. In practice, these are demonstrably false. Even now, I cannot believe LRN’s well-oiled press machine has the outside world convinced that LRN is an exemplary organization and its CEO is a moral crusader, when in fact, the whole act is nothing more than an example of pure, unadulterated hypocrisy in practice.

    LRN is not flat. In fact, it is undoubtedly the most hierarchical company I have ever worked for. There is a single, power-obsessed individual who makes every decision possible, whether big or small. Yes, he will claim that LRN’s attempt to institute a flat organizational structure and have everyone instead report to “The Mission” is an ongoing “experiment” but this just establishes that the CEO is as bad at science as he is at running a business. If you've run an experiment for 5 years and it has failed miserably at each testing point, you conclude that the hypothesis has been falsified and move on. Unless, of course, it was never an experiment to begin with (hint: it wasn't — saying it was an experiment just enabled the CEO to say so to reporters, prospective employees, and gullible listeners at various events). And who wouldn't be impressed by the idea of unlimited vacation? On paper, sure, that’s what LRN says. However, in practice, expect to be shamed when you attempt to take any vacation at all — especially if you work closely to the CEO. All of these apparently ‘progressive practices’ are mere empty window dressing designed to lure in unsuspecting new hires, clients, and media.

    The culture at LRN is bizarre, creepy, cultish, and annoyingly Orwellian. Various off-putting cultural elements are real and in your face everyday. You can’t question them, and you certainly have to pay homage to them if you want to survive. First, there’s the holy book HOW. I assume you’re smart, you've read the book, and you don’t think it’s that compelling (unless you’re a fan of amateurish, derivative pop-philosophy that somehow manages to take almost 300 pages to state the bleeding obvious). Which means you’re going to find it unbelievably annoying to pretend that it is the greatest book ever written, or that is presents a “philosophy” that is anything more than unoriginal intellectual pablum. But that’s not all. Like any good cult, you will need to adopt the accepted language of LRN. Get ready to constantly use phrases like “commitment to the mission,” “escape the grip of time,” “transparency,” and “getting your HOWs right”. At first, it will make you uncomfortable, then irritate you, then anger you, then sadden you, and then seriously depress you. Know that the descent into HOW hell will begin on day one, and continue apace until you finally leave.

    PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

    Here’s an illustrative example for you: despite a number of employees working an already insane number of hours per week (~90) “in service to the mission,” the CEO has been known to tell those employees to step it up and work as if they were a new junior associate on the partner track at a top law or consulting firm. This example is helpful for a couple of reasons. First, LRN is not a top law or consulting firm. Not even close. Honestly, it’s simply too small and inconsequential a company to have that kind of positive impact on your professional experience. Second, there is, of course, no partner track at LRN. There is no path to having equity in the company; there are no titles, no promotions, and few if any, compensation increases or bonuses. There is no investment in the people at all. And yet, the CEO expects that you should work as if you are “on the partner track at a top law or consulting firm.” This is, sadly and ironically, pure exploitation of its employees by a so-called “ethics” company. Now, the CEO couches all this in the pseudo-religious-cum-cult-like language of “service to the mission” so that it doesn't sound like what it is. But failure to work as demanded means that you are no longer committed to the mission. And, if you are no longer committed to the mission, you are shamed, marginalized and ultimately excommunicated.

    Let me end by encouraging you to contact as many former employees of LRN as possible before accepting any kind of offer. Use LinkedIn and have as many conversations as necessary to form a clear picture of the company. You owe it to yourself to do your due diligence before choosing to work at a place like this. Don’t put yourself, your resume, your spouse, your kids, or your pets through the LRN experience unless you are prepared to accept the consequences. Many of us already did and were the worse for it.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Look in the mirror and accept that people at all levels at LRN are deeply disillusioned and unhappy — there is nothing worse than wasted talent. Look at truly inspiring CEOs in the world and admit that LRN’s CEO is not one of them. Take responsibility for your role in making LRN a terrible place to work.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  10. 19 people found this helpful  

    Run like the wind

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at LRN full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Leader is well-known and there aren't many players in the space., so the potential for market leadership is, once again, there. I met some good people.

    Cons

    Company that sells code of conduct but doesn't have one. Fear pervades the culture. Great people are attracted to the promise of the company but leave due to negative culture. One alum recommended getting "I survived" t-shirts.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Leading with ego is not a sustainable strategy. Let people innovate and create. There is a disconnect between the the espoused principles and leadership's behavior. How do you explain the horrible employee and customer retention rate?

    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO
  11. 14 people found this helpful  

    Don't judge a book by it's cover. Or the guy who pretends to have written it!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY

    I worked at LRN full-time (less than a year)

    Pros

    I must enter five words.

    Cons

    The CEO is neurotic with low self esteem. He loves to find fault, even if it is minutia. He will "test" you by maliciously throwing obstacles at you only to have the opportunity to say "You failed."

    You will be expected to work 60 hours a week. You will be told that you are taking a half day if you ever need to leave at 5:00 pm, after starting work at 8:30 am. You will be required to THINK about your job and how to make it better 24/7. You will be told that you're not giving 100% if it seems that you have a life outside of the office.

    The CEO preaches far and wide about "HOW" to build employee moral, "HOW" to be a flat organization, etc. But these HOW philosophies do not get implemented within his own organization. The most telling factor is revolving door for those who work as the Chief of Staff and Executive Assistant to CEO. No one lasts in these two position.

    It does not take long for one to realize they have made a gross mistake by agreeing to work at LRN. This realization is quickly followed by updating one's resume and planning one's exit strategy. Furthermore, this is a boy's club. If you are a white male, you'll fit right in. Management is exclusively white, male and Jewish.

    The good news: The CEO's reputation proceeds itself within the recruiting community. You will hear recruiters say "You do not have to explain why you want to leave within weeks of starting at LRN. We know this company has a revolving door and we know this CEO is difficult." Potential employers will research LRN and discover you are telling the truth when you say you do not want to work in a toxic environment.

    If you are considering a position at this company which requires you to work closely with the CEO, I urge you to keep looking. Do not subject yourself to the whims of this unstable CEO.

    Run! Run as fast as you can.

    If you still work at LRN, I wish you luck and hope your exit strategy comes together quickly.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The CEO is unable to retain a Chief of Staff or an Executive Assistant. Do not continue ignoring this crucial indicator. By now you should have realized the problem isn't outside but inside the company. The Executive Committee and the Board Members enable the CEO's bad behavior.

    "Managers who don’t create the right opportunities for their employees, don’t communicate with them, and don’t appreciate them often find themselves dealing with a high turnover rate. Good managers are people you keep in touch with even after you leave a position. Bad managers are people you keep track of so you can avoid them in future." - Why Your Employees Are Leaving, Forbes

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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