Tag Archives: customer

New Structure in Education = New Results in Education

Education Isn’t All It Could Be

Aim High

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Let’s say you walk into any big box electronics store. You’re not quite sure what you’re looking for but know you want some kind of media device. Remember: you’re the customer. One of the “experts” approaches you and starts telling you about this huge TV.  It’s waaaaaaaaaaay too big for your apartment.  He’s giving you all the details, all the background about how it was built. Lots of big words you don’t understand. You have no choice but to buy that TV, take it home and put it on your wall.

Crazy? Of course it is. But this is what we expect our students to deal with. Students who are the customers. Students are expected to come into a classroom, to listen to an “expert” give them information (that often times makes no sense to them because the “expert” doesn’t help them understand how to apply it,) and to take that information without doing much questioning. Oh yeah, and they have to pay for it.

A New Approach

What to do? We (teachers and administrators) need to let the students investigate what they want to learn. They come in with a general idea of their interest, their passion, and a potential path forward. We need to give them a lot of tools to do investigate, to question, to challenge, to apply and try. We need to take a back seat in their learning process and be their champions in finding experiences to apply that learning.

Can You Take a Back Seat?


The Power of Voice

The Voices I Hear

VoicesWhen my son was born, before excitement overwhelmed me, I was anxious.  Until I heard his cry, I could not enjoy the moment; the voice indicated all was well.  I remember that voice distinctly to this day eight years later.

My sister died of cancer 16 years ago.  I often use pictures to remember details of her physical appearance.  She called me to say goodbye the day before she died.  I remember that voice so clearly so many years later – it haunts me.

Whether they are the voices of those who are no longer with us, voices of those still with us, voices of celebrities we easily identify, or voices of musicians that are so crucial in developing our stories, voice has immense power.  That is a power that can change the course of people, events, systems, societies, history.

Voice Can Change Education

The voices driving education have traditionally been the policy makers.  These voices probably can’t remember what it is like to be in elementary or middle school.  They don’t generally understand the power of education to transform one’s experience and life; they for the most part grew up enabled and expecting a full education experience.  What is missing is the student voice.  The reason the system exists, the souls the system should empower and enable. Students have loud voices – at young ages they are brilliantly creative and honest voices.

kidsTender and terrible all at once! As they age, these voices evolve into exploratory and challenging adolescence chaos.  And eventually these voices turn their attention to critical questions and reflective insight.  We need policy makers’ voices in the conversation, as well as administrator, teacher and parent voices.  But we cannot silence the student voices.  We need to engage the 7 and 8 year olds who are trying to decide if they like mathematics, science, art, cursive writing.  No matter what age or grade level, the students are capable of great contribution to reshaping education.  Their voice is powerful.  Ask any parent!

Voice Can Change Entrepreneurship

Is the customer always right?  Absolutely not – nobody is always right.  However, businesses should always listen to the customer.  The customer voice shapes businesses. Especially startups – it is the customer’s voice that leads successful startups to sustainable business models.

3Founders who can draw out and really listen to customers speaking about the product, the service, the experience, the pain can gain a competitive advantage over competing firms.

How Do We Hear The Voices

Voices are power.  Listen to any great orator, whether it is the beauty of Dr. King or the ugliness of Adolf Hitler, and you can feel the power, you live the experience.  Students voices can be the power of a new frontier of education.  Customer voices have become the power of a new frontier of entrepreneurship.  How do we harness this power?

  1. Ask the right questions. We need to ask students to describe their experiences – what they do during reading time, how they feel as they’re studying geometry.  We need to ask customers to describe their experiences with the problem we’re trying to solve.  We need to figure out what they are doing, what they are thinking. For students and customers, we shouldn’t care what their proposed solution is.  We want to understand their experience, which can only truly be understood through their voice.
  2. Give ’em the mic. Find the students and customers with authentic, powerful experiences.  Don’t waste time with the vanilla ones.  Track down the crazies, search for the magic.  Talk to students until one makes you cry, or gives you goosebumps.  Give those students the platform – record their story, share their story.  Talk to customers until you feel that adrenaline rush.  Turn them into your earlyvangelists– give them every opportunity to use their voice on your behalf.
  3. Shout with them.Experiences are more powerful with multiple voices.  Create new experiences with the earlyvangelists and the student storytellers. Let them lead, but empower and enable them by adding your voice to the conversation. Bring in more experienced disruptors; create a choir of glorious disruption! Use every medium possible – shout with hashtags on Twitter, with video on YouTube or Vine, with intellect in news columns and television interviews.
  4. Listen up.When the chance presents itself to talk to students about their educational experience, we really should listen to them.  When we find customers who feel the pain we’re trying to solve, we have to listen to them.  It is really hard for most folks to listen instead of to drive the conversation according to some ridiculous script.

Voices change history. Voices change experiences. Voices evoke emotion. Voices create meaning. Listen to the voices that matter.


You Know I’m All About That Value Proposition

And Now a Word From Our Sponsors

We started class with 2 minutes of questions. Nothing of substance. I think I would be a little brave and ask some borderline questions if I were in their shoes. But maybe not (it’s hard for me to remember back 20 years!!) I hope by the end of the semester they’re comfortable and curious enough to really dig into me. While it did kill the cat, it also helps us figure out and be amazed by our environment.

Photo Credit: Fuddled via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Fuddled via Compfight cc

We also had a brief presentation from the folks behind the Illinois Business Concierge – a small business support system offering business intelligence and connections. This is an awesome service coming from the Stevenson Center at ISU to help entrepreneurs and small business owners with market research. For FREE!!!!!!!! they provide things such as consumer mailing lists, demographic profiles, competitor’s sales figures, financial benchmarking metrics, and so much more. Basically, if an entrepreneur or small business owner needs market research within Illinois, they knock it out. I wanted the students to hear this for when they get a little further down the road, because this sort of service and this sort of information can really propel them once they get a little traction. For those interested, contact these good folks at IllinoisBusinessConcierge@ilstu.edu.

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

We are still reading Diana Kander’s book All In StartupThe chunk we read for this week (chapters 15-25) had to do with searching for facts and testing them in the real world (“successful entrepreneurs are detectives, not fortunetellers” as Diana notes).

All In StartupThe students are still digging the book, being able to put the learning into context, to absorb some important lessons and ways of thinking and doing through a different medium that is fun and engaging. Again, if you’re teaching entrepreneurship and don’t incorporate this book into your class, you’re missing the boat. Your students will thank you for it, I promise!

I wanted to continue to focus on pushing the students to identify a problem to solve. But at the last minute, realized that beating that dead horse would not help those who had, and would likely not help those who hadn’t. So what to do? AHA!!! Value proposition. I can put problems in a different context. This would 1) give those who had identified a problem a way to progress and 2) help those who hadn’t identified a problem a different perspective to uncover one.

Ask 100 people what a value proposition is, and you’ll get a ton of different answers. For this class/discussion I tell the students that a value proposition is simply the bundle of benefits/outcomes a customer receives from using a product/service. Keep it simple, stupid! I borrowed the class exercise from Alex Osterwalder’s book Value Proposition Design.

Value Proposition Design

Copyright Business Model Foundry AG The makers of Business Model Generation and Strategyzer

In this vein, the value proposition can be comprised of six elements, 3 from the value side and 3 from the customer side. Miraculously, the 3 match up from each side (go figure!) The customer elements are Customer Pains (what bothers them when trying to get a job done), Customer Gains (what benefits they want), and Jobs (what they’re trying to do). On the flip side, the value elements are Gain Creators (how the product/service will create gains), Pain Relievers (how the product/service will alleviate specific pains), and Products/Services (the stuff). Part of why I really enjoy Alex’s work is because he presents it in such a simple way, it’s so powerful and so easy to pick up. I gave the students his Ab-Lib Value Proposition Template to fill out – had them pair up and gave them 5 minutes to collaborate on one student’s and then had them switch for 5 minutes on the other student’s. They turn these in, Mike and I give them feedback, and they are then all off and running with a value proposition. The template basically has them fill in the blanks:

“Our ______________ (products and services) help(s) __________________ (customer segment) who want to ________________ (Customer Jobs to be done) by ___________________ (verb, i.e., reducing, avoiding) ______________________ (customer pain) and ______________________ (verb, i.e., increasing, enabling) ________________________ (customer gain). (unlike _______________________ (competing value propositions))”

The students who had something already made quick work of this. Although, in walking around and talking to some, I helped them realize they were missing some key elements and had just been focusing on the solution already. The students who didn’t have something already left with something. The lightbulb went on, and the excitement (or maybe relief!) was visible. It was a good day of class. With a value proposition in hand (I’m sending them feedback from Mike and I this morning) they will be able to really crank things up because they have some direction in mind, and they have the beginnings of a story to tell.

Challenge #2

Not many (in fact only 1) of the students took me up on the $1 Challenge from a few weeks back. I decided to try again, but this time raise the stakes. I stumbled across my friend John Liddy’s post about his students doing a challenge. I would give my students this challenge and see if we can’t outdo John’s class. The basics:

  • I split the class into 5 groups
  • Each team gets $10
  • Each team has 7 days to make a profit, any legal way they want
  • Next Tuesday, the team that makes the most profit wins all the money

John’s students returned a 340% net profit in only 2 days. My students will work on this for one week. This week includes Valentine’s Day – not a fact lost on me when I decided to do this.

Photo Credit: floralapp® user via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: floralapp® user via Compfight cc

Guys are notoriously and stereotypically horrible with this day, and with finding the right gift, doing the right thing, etc. for the special someone in their life. Plus, we often wait until the last minute so we’re desperate. Let’s see if any groups figure that out and capitalize. The groups immediately got to planning, figuring out their idea, their strategy, their location. Do they all work together with $10 or do they each take $2 and work independently? Do they do one single big event or do they try to stretch it out? Lots of variables at play here. One student asked on the way out what dollar I expect would be necessary to win. I hadn’t thought of it, but replied it will definitely need to be something in the 3 digits. If a group can’t turn $10 into at least $100 over the course of one week, they screwed up.

I’m going to keep up this challenge theme and give them some more throughout the semester. Things like Jim Hart’s marble game.

Next week I planned on talking more about the problem from the customer point of view. I’m not sure now what direction I’ll head – I’ll probably figure it out Sunday or Monday night and run with it, based on feedback I get from students between now and then. Stay tuned!