Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Sales People in Edu - The Fox of EdTech?

Twenty five years ago today, a proposal was sent internally at CERN outlying a universal linked information system. Dubbed 'Information Management: A proposal', pictured, the proposal was created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and was sent to his boss Mike Sendall, who described it as 'vague but exciting'It's 25 years today that Tim Berners-Lee first pitched the idea of the World Wide Web... Happy Birthday to an idea that went on to become the Internet, and a massive amount of respect goes out to the innovators who have changed the world.

Especially those whose contributions were undermined when they started out, or undervalued once established - whether pioneers like Alan Turing who was harassed by the authorities, or those like Berners-Lee who was more interested in changing the world than making a profit.

I would like to acknowledge what these pioneers, but how? 

I know... the most fitting thing I can imagine would be to give the benefit of my experiences and detail what these Tech geniuses would call "Inefficiences in the market," as well as the ideas I have regarding how to improve things.

The Fox in FE & EdTech?
I know it isn't exactly seasonal, but one of my faviourite stories I tell my kids at Christmas time is "The Fox at the Manger" by P.L. Travers (Bear with me here... there is a point); 

This is a story of the night of the Nativity, when Jesus has been born and he, Joseph and Mary are fast asleep. 

A fox sneaks through the stable door. The animals clustered about the manger begin berating him for his thieving ways and propensity for stealing eggs and chickens. They demand to know what his gift will be for the Christ Child, as he has little to offer, they say, compared with them. 

He tells them he is giving Jesus the gift of cunning. The animals are aghast, but the Christ Child sits up and thanks the fox. "It is good," the Child says, "because it is not half a thing. It is whole. Who else among you has given me as much?" 

Such a gift that will surely end in the animal's death, he explains, for no wild creature can live long without its cunning. Cows, donkeys and other animals, He said, had given worthy but replaceable gifts: a manger, wool, a dove's lullaby and a donkey's back. 

But, "The fox has given me all he had," the Child continues. "Without his cunning, how will he find food or escape the snare? How will he live now, alone in the woods? His cunning is his strength; his cunning is his life. It is the only thing he has, and he has given it away."  

A Gift... It's all I've Got
I mention this because sales people might be viewed a bit like "The Fox at the Manger" when it comes to EdTech. I also highlight this story because the gift I offer may be insignificant in comparison to the inspiring work that tech developers and inspiring educators do... But, like the fox at the manger, it's all I've got! 

Not only is this the benefit of my experiences (Including 12 months+ of research and over 10 years of experience); it is also my future as it is the business model I have been developing.

Although if history is anything to go by, this may remain the business model I work to because when people see it they may say;

1) What a waste of time... because its a pointless idea
2) It's a sound concept... but too hard to implement 
3) Might be a good idea... but its a bit too vague

What's my Motivation?
Or maybe you are questioning my motives for making a gesture like this? After all when I wrote my post "How can we help you achieve your goals," I was surprised to get emails along the lines of "What's the catch? What are you selling here?" so let's consider some "What's the catch" options shall we? Maybe it's because of one of these reasons;

1) Competitor Collaboration - I'm taking the advice from companies who feature in Flip who "Are moving towards win-win relationships with both suppliers and their traditional competitors. In some cases 50% of business alliances are in this new wave of business collaborations are between competitors" 

Can you imagine what this would mean for tech integration and making life easier for these suppliers' mutual customers in Further Education? Or what this would mean for college students?.

2) Giving Movement - Adam Grant's "Give and Take" had a huge influence on me and he discusses "Reciprocity Rings" and ways to organise, establish and expand a culture of giving... he advocates concepts like the "Five minute favour," where you do something for someone that would take you 5 minutes but have a big impact on the recipient.

I have sent the odd email or Tweeted about companies who I think FE might find useful or from companies who I am a fan of and I know are keen to engage with FE. I have seen some positive results with this.

3) Community Managers - Collaboration is a big buzz word at the moment, but is this something people pay lip service to or actually have a commitment to? If they have a commitment to it, what is needed? 

I have been following the community of community managers and have learnt so much about the dynamics of making collaboration a reality. Establishing unity and a common purpose for all stakeholders might not always seem easy, or possible, but am learning the tips and techniques that this experienced group uses. 

4) Burnout - Studies have show that, when people are ready to leave a sector, the quality of work drops in most areas. An exception is with supporting colleagues. Research suggests that if people are becoming disillusioned and are ready to leave they are keen to share the benefit of their experiences with colleagues. 

There's no denying I sure am tired! I can also see significant obstacles being thrown up and, in some cases, this will be from the very people who claim to have an interest on driving technology in FE forward! 

5) Plans Well Established - Perhaps I am sharing these plans because I feel I am so far ahead with the strategy that it will make no difference if I share it with people now?

I've been eating and sleeping this idea for over a year and have made good links with various organisations, it might be a little silly not to utilise that kind of experience and enthusiasm.

6) Question Perceptions - Sales is tough and people tend to have a pre-conceived notion of sales people and their motives. If you're an educator how many times do people try to second guess what your motivations are? Yet this is a constant "occupational hazard" in sales. "This guy is only in sales for the money," "Why is he saying that? What is he trying to convince me of" may be the kind of thoughts you have when sale people engage with educators.

However, I have known some extremely kind, generous and professional sales people; in exactly the same way that I have experienced some horrendously rude and unprofessional treatment from educators.   

7) Self Interest - Or maybe, just like the Wolf of Wall Street, the Fox of EdTech has a self interested motive? He set himself a goal of finding and helping tech get 100% College roll out and realise that current models are unlikely to achieve this?

To avoid you second-guessing, I can tell you that it is a combination of all of the above. If FE has a commitment to improved EdTech, I know this model will work. However, there is a huge big stumbling block... no single person or organisation is going to be able to deliver this without being able to foster a huge amount of trust and collaboration from a variety of stakeholders.

For trust and collaboration to take place you're going to need to communicate that you're idea is worth collaborating on, and that you are able to trust (and be trusted). 
I can't think of anything more open than publishing what you hoped would be an idea that was going to be the basis for your new business in StartUpLand... and can think of no better day to do this on than the 25th Anniversary of the concept of the world wide web being pitched.

Finally, before sharing these plans do I have a message for anyone who decides to take these ideas but not to involve me? Or event to acknowledge any role I may have played, but chooses to ignore me any time I try to make contact (which has happened in the past), I do and my message is this... "You're welcome!" You see taking the idea forward and implementing it is the important thing.

Regardless of what you think my motivations are, or what you might do with this information... here's the model I've been developing for well over a year... Feel free to use, share, ignore or ridicule as you see fit.

Enjoy! Tech Stories - Business Plan

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