I have been getting feedback on a couple of ideas regarding collaboration recently and have had some mixed feedback.
I have had a lot of positive feedback about these ideas but want to highlight some of the less positive and quite surprising aspects... This is not because I am "a glass half empty kind of guy" (except perhaps if the glass contained a less than appealing beverage... then I'd be delighted that there was not as much to drink).
Social Media Connections
As a result of my continued experimentation with "Inbound Marketing" and endeavouring to produce good (or at least "reasonable") content via my reports and blog, I have seen the number of new contacts on social media increase considerably over the last 12 months.
I was keen to better connect with people I didn't know too well, so I drafted an email which I dithered about sending as I felt it was a little unconventional. However, I felt this was a true reflection of my year on LinkedIn, so I sent it. A copy of the email can be found here - LinkedIn Email.
After sending this I found that;
1) Not too many of my connections replied, and
2) Some the connections who did come back to me had questions like;
"Did you send this because you are trying to promote your product or service?"
I found both scenarios quite surprising and, when added to the people who were LinkedIn connections but who "unsubscribed" from any emails or updates, I wondered;
"Is this typical? ...Have I got LinkedIn wrong? Do I need to delete some of my social media accounts and/or unfollow everyone and start again?"
One of these days I'll get a hang of this social media stuff? In the mean time please allow me to restate and amplify the message from this email... I would like to extend this offer to FE/educators, as well as to EdTech companies
Can I help with any of your current projects? If so, please don't hesitate to get in touch!
Another idea I have been getting feedback on is the concept of some kind of #startupeduchat, which could be a forum for education suppliers to discuss the various aspects of working with educators. The rationale for this idea comes from 2 main sources;
1) The kind of great ideas and support that comes from educators who join the 150+ Twitter EdChats each week.
2) How successful a lot of the EdTech Incubator companies are... Forbes Magazine has published a list of the top "30 under 30" in education. 1/3rd of the people in this list either has experience of working with educators and teaching in the classroom through Teach for America and/or are members of EdTech incubator alumni startups.
|Startup Incubators - A Hot Bed of Collaboration?|
Which educator or supplier would not like to see more great products like the ones these top 30 young influencers are working on?
Surely a key to their success is the infrastructure of educators, mentors, entrepreneurs, investors etc that they have established. Why can't we try to establish a similar infrastructure online? Seemed like a good idea to me, but not to others.
I was a little surprised at some of the comments with people telling me why this was either a bad idea, or that is was a good idea but doomed to failure as suppliers will not be willing to collaborate for a variety of reasons.
Seek first to understand... Then to be understood
I am genuinely grateful for people's views on these issues, and they may well be right. I also hope that I am not coming across as critical of anyone's ideas or opinions, especially as the feedback was useful and very valid.
However I believe that these ideas are worth trying and would like to highlight why I think working towards a model of greater collaboration makes sense, and is worth pursuing... even if it does seem slightly counter-intuitive.
First let's stay with the "30 under 30," as well as having classroom experience or working in collaborative incubator environment, check out some of the projects these influencers are working on.
- Edmodo - Teachers, students and administrators can compare and share lesson plans, homework and tests. It is also a showcase for app developers, and Edmodo currently offers over 600 apps
- Udemy - Instructors are able upload their own courses, set their own prices (or not), and use the platform to attract students of all ages.
- Schools 4.0 - Education incubator that brings educators, entrepreneurs, and technologists together.
- Students for Education Reform - Mobilizes college students to advocate for K-12 education reform
- Clever - Offers a universal API that connects schools with independent developers who can build apps to manage that information.
- Scratch - Enables kids to program their own games, animated stories, and art and share them with millions of other children around the world.
- Panorama Education - Help schools find data-driven solutions by collecting and analyzing feedback from teachers, parents, students and staff.
- Givology - Connects donors to grassroots education projects and student scholarships around the world.
- InstaEdu - Online tutoring service that matches students 13 and up with experts
- Wishbone - Links at-risk high school students with the online donor community to fund their educational dreams
- Start Up Weekend Education - Helps educators, parents, students, entrepreneurs, developers, and designers who want to create viable companies in the emerging education and learning markets.
Regardless of how good, bad or how "idealistic" the idea of #startupeduchat is there is no getting away from the fact that we have shared clients in education... and if suppliers don't lead on this, perhaps educators will organise this themselves.
Tribal Leadership...It's a Matter of Give and Take
I have not had as much time for reading as I'd like these days but I sure have been lucky in picking out some fantastic books, which have heavily shaped my thinking. I'll try to do these justice here as I try to summerise them;
1) Thomas Friedman's wrote an excellent article which argued that a key to Scilicon Valley's success was collaboration "Collaborate Vs Collaborate"
"Despite the heated competition, lots of collaboration still happens for one main reason: to serve the customer the best product or service...When you obsess about the customer, you end up defeating your competition as a byproduct, but when you are just obsessed about the competition, you end up killing yourself because you are not focused on the customer.”
There were 688 exhibitors at the BETT conference all of whom are looking to engage the same client base. Stop and think for a moment if a school/college IT or procurement manager had a 10 min conversation with each supplier, it would take up 14 days of the school/colleges' time... From an industry that promises to deliver time savings to their customers?
2) If you'd prefer to hear this message directly from educators, here is Director of Tech Integration Roshini Mirchandani telling us what she wants to see "Rivals No More"
3) If suppliers don't collaborate more with educators and other suppliers... we may well find that educators will create their own solutions;
"Districts might do well to let teachers design their own blended classrooms before sending in those technology purchases orders" in See The Magic Ingredient: Teacher Led Design
4) I have just read Dave Logan's "Tribal Leadership" who details 5 stages of teams in their research, with "Stage 5 teams" being the real game changers.
Stages 1-4 is defined by competition either with colleagues or other companies, but the first stage 5 company the researchers came across, Amgen, did not see the competition as another company.
When asked who their competitor was, the then CEO, Gordon Binder answered "We're in competition with Cancer"
What would happen if education suppliers followed suit and did not view others in the sector as "the competition?" What if edtech main rival was inequality, ignorance and improving young peoples' outcomes... and were committed to working with educators and all their partners to achieve these goals.
I know there are very few stage 5 teams and believe that education, like many other sectors, could do with more... speaking of which, anyone with a great product, collaborative stage 5 team and overall a great culture please do get in touch.
5) My last example is from someone with the title of "The Most Connected Networker," and who wouldn't take advice from someone with that kind of experience? By the way if you want to know who this person is you'll need to buy Adam Grant's book "Give and Take" to find out. You'll thank me for not revealing this because its not a book - it's an investment.
Anyway this master networker's vision is that he would like to see more people helping other people that's advice I'm not going to ignore, but will add it to Dave Kerpen excellent advice to "Always Show your Friendship First" and Thomas Friedman's rationale regarding the merits of collaborating.
So if you're reading this, and if you think I might be able to help in any way, please get in touch. Or if you like this post feel free to show your support by using the #startupeduchat hashtag on Twitter.
And if you still don't see the merits of this? I do, so will continue to work on various resources that I hope suppliers and educators will find useful. I have already;
1) put some Twitter lists together that I hope will make it easier for you to find and connect fellow educators and suppliers
2) I have pulled together data from the BETT Show Twitter stream please find Tweets from day 1 & 2 and a list of people contributing to the #BETT2014 hashtag;
- BETT - #BETT2014 (BETT Awards, #TMBETT and Users on Diff Tabs)
- EduCon - Day 2 & 3 (Users on Different Tab)
@MrsSarahSimons and the other regulars for #ukfechat this evening at 9pm where the subject will be;
Collaboration in FE: What are your FE Goals in 2014... and how can the #ukfechat community help you achieve them?