Friday, 23 May 2014

How to Make Learning as Addictive as Drugs

Today I'm going to tell you three stories about education, that's it. No big deal. If you're an educator then I hope that you feel these stories are worth spreading,they come from 3 great books; The World is Flat, Give and Take and Talk Like Ted

Learn how to Learn 
Eight years ago I read Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat" and thought that there was real value in the advice he gave to a young student;

The first, and most important, ability you can develop in a flat [globalised] world is the ability to “learn how to learn” – to constantly absorb, and teach yourself, new ways of doing old things or new ways of doing new things. In [a global world] it is not only what you know but how you learn that will set you apart. Because what you know today will be out of date sooner than you think.

 In a talk I gave in St Paul’s Minnesota, I made this point, and during the Q&A period a young man in the balcony raised his hand, identified himself as a ninth grader, and asked “Mr Friedman, if it is that important to learn how to learn, how do you learn how to learn? What course should I take?”
From the mouths of babes...

It’s a logical question...[I said] “go around your friends and ask them just one question: ‘who are your favourite teachers?’ then make a list of those teachers and go out and take their courses – no matter what they are teaching, no matter what the subject.” It doesn’t matter whether they are teaching Greek Mythology, calculus, art history or American literature – take their courses. Because when I think back on my favourite teachers, I don’t remember the specifics of what they taught me, but I sure remember being excited about learning it.

What has stayed with me are not the facts they imparted but the excitement about learning they inspired. To learn how to learn, you have to love learning – or at least enjoy it – because so much learning is about being motivated to teach yourself. And while it seems that some people are just born with that motivation, many others can develop it or have it imparted with the right teacher. Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat

I recently heard about a great example of an educator who very much fits this mold.

Teach Like a Rockstar... and Comedian, TV presenter & a Sculptor of minds

In the past I've questioned what would happen if we considered educators role as sales people and entertainers, this gets something of a mixed reaction... but it also gets results. 

In Adam Grant's book Give and Take I heard about an accounting professor called C.J. Skender. A Business Week article describes a typical class;

Favorite Professors: North Carolina's C.J. Skender"Skender keeps notebooks filled with song and movie quotes, and he begins each class with what he calls “fourplay”—four songs to set the tone for the day’s class. One day they might include such artists as Ray LaMontagne and Elton John, followed the next day with tracks from Nelly and the theme from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Precisely halfway through each class, Skender will remove his jacket and recite a movie quote. The first person to guess the film it’s from wins a prize (usually candy)"

Adam Grant picks up on how Skender puts The Pygmalion Effect to exceptional use;

"Skender has won every teaching award on the planet. He has a remarkable gift for bringing out the best in his students. He’s had many, many students win gold medals, both in his state and nationally. He’s had more than three dozen students follow him to become professors of accounting. When you look at his approach, the question is, “How does he do it?” A lot of people assume that he’s got a great eye for talent and that he’s immediately able to spot the quantitative savants and then basically work with them.

CJ says, no, it’s the exact opposite. He sees every student who walks into his classroom as a diamond in the rough, waiting to be polished. Then he tries to make his classes as interesting as possible to bring out the best in those students. Now, of course, it doesn’t work with every student. But what he finds over time is by making his material interesting, he does shift some people toward becoming more motivated and more hard-working. This is true of coaches and leaders and managers everywhere. If you look at research by Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues about what made somebody a world-class tennis player or a world-class musician, or even a mathematician or a scientist of great acclaim, very rarely were those world-class candidates superior early on in their careers. They looked pretty average when you started with them. But what they had in common was a coach, a teacher and a manager who believed in them and set their aspirations very high. That often created a self-fulfilling prophecy, by inspiring them to engage in more deliberate practice and to put in the 10,000 hours that we all know are critical to achieving expertise"

Please take a moment to read this article Everybody counts with CJ Skender... Now here's the science about why this entertaining style of teaching works

Freakinomic Lesson: Make it New & Exciting
When you think back to your favourite college class, there's a good chance the lecturer you most enjoyed injected a fair amount of humour into his or her presentations. Economics and accounting is probably not the class that comes to mind for most people when they're asked about their most humourous professors. They didn't have teachers like CJ Skender... or Juan Enriquez 
Enriquez has given 4 Ted Talks and takes the complexity out of economics by adding humour, usually in the form of photographs. His subjects are complex, and humour makes the topics easier to grasp because the photos place the topic in a context that everyone can understand.

Martha Burns is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University who believes neurosience is helping educators to become better teachers. Her insights also explain why we get a buzz out of learning. Learning something new activates the same reward areas of the brain as drugs and gambling. 

"A big part of the answer to why some of your students hold onto information you teach and others do not has to do with a little chemical in the brain that has to be present for a child (or adult) to retain information. That chemical is called dopamine" Martha Burns via Talk Like Ted

Dopamine is a powerful chemical. A new relationship can trigger a dose of it. Advancing to the next level of a video game can trigger dopamine, as can hearing the clanging of coins in a slot machine, or a hit of cocaine.

Drugs and gambling are artificial triggers and lead to serious consequences. Isn't there a less harmful means of achieving that mental high? There sure is. According to Burns, dopamine is also released when people learn something new and exciting - a much healthier way to feel good!

"For many of your students and many of us adults, learning about new new things is an adventure and very rewarding, and dopamine levels increase in the brain to help us retain new information. I like to refer to dopamine as the 'save button' in the brain. When Dopamine is present during an event or experience, we remember it; when it is absent, nothing seems to stick" Martha Burns via Talk Like Ted

How do you increase dopamine? Make information new and exciting.

Burns says the best teachers are always thinking of new ways of delivering information. "That is why you love it when your schoolhas new textbook adoptions - the novelty allows you to teach the information in a new way - which generates enthusiasm on your part and the students... increase novelty in a classroom and you increase the dopamine levels of your students... dopamine can be addictive - our goal as teachers is to get our students addicted to learning. Dopamine is addictive.


Joining up the Dots... Connected Educators and EdTech
There are regular comments on Twitter and blog posts about the value of institutions and individuals being "connected" and exploring new ways of doing this with technology Vs those that prefer to stick with traditional methods.

I wonder if these three examples demonstrate that there is something in this... not as a result of Technology per se but because the culture that they establish is one of "What if," such an attitude is sure to mean that you'll make mistakes that mean you'll look a little foolish.

If Steve Jobs was delivering this message maybe he would end it with something like 

"Stay hungry for new ideas to try in class and stay foolish, don't be afraid to make mistakes... this kind of attitude just might just rub off on your students and inspire the next generation of knowledge junkies who are addicted to learning"

Now, if you liked this post go out and get the 3 books that are mentioned: Talk Like Ted, Give and Take and The World is Flat. A playlist of the Ted Talks that feature in Gallo's books can be found here: Talk Like Ted Featured Videos

Friday, 16 May 2014

Selling Education

I've written eight "Sales Matters" posts over the last two weeks, these posts consider the role that sales plays in EdTech from a number of different angles. I hope these posts have highlighted how and why this is an area that needs to be discussed and explored. I have questioned perceptions about why the sales profession gets a bad name, and considered the role that organisational culture plays with the way that sales people conduct themselves.

Today I want to explore 8 reasons why sales should be part of the curriculum as the experience could really help students with their career progression by developing in demand soft skills, as well as increase self awareness.

I didn't choose a career in sales, like many people, I kind of "fell into it." I never really felt comfortable about what I did for a living. This attitude changed when I got involved with education technology as I got to hang out with educators and techies;

“Some salespeople put a high value on the friendships they develop in sales and the opportunity to work in a field they enjoy” 

Over the last year I have explored the role that sales plays in whether or not a product or idea will live or die and, if it lives, how the motivations of the sales team will determine the kind of relationship that the company has with their clients and other partners.

Through reading Philip Delves Broughtons' book "Life's a Pitch" I've been able to add to my ideas about the effective roll out of EdTech and am a lot more comfortable about working in sales. One of the aims the author had with publishing this book was to restore some of the luster for sales and selling. 

Not only was this objective achieved but I feel that it should be more prominent in education, here's why;

1) The Job Search
The job market is tough at the moment so if you get an interview you're going to have to sell yourself and your skills.

"As you move one step up from the bottom, your effectiveness depends on your ability to reach others through the spoken and written word" Peter Drucker

Here's a great post by Carmine Gallo Sell yourself the Steve Jobs Way... One 20 minute product launch take 250 hours for Apple to develop.
 
2) Creating Opportunities
Even before the interview stage, using initiative and being prepared to remain persistent and upbeat in the face of rejection can put you ahead of the competition;

"I got the Yellow Pages and started to call every carpet company within 100 miles of Cleveland. Every single one of 200 companies said "no." Making those calls took me a week. 

The next week, I went back to the beginning and started through the list again. When I got to K, Kilgore carpets, I got Mr Kilgore himself on the phone; 

"Didn't I tell you last week we didn't have a job?"

"Yes, but a lot can change in a week" The applicant replied.
"Boy, I've got to meet you" Mr Kilgore replied.

Here's where that carpet layer is today: Augie Turak

3) Humble Beginnings
Founded on a handshake, $500 & mutual trust
For various reasons the conditions from being from humble beginnings produces some extremely successful people.  When starting out they don't have any wealthy investors so they need to learn how to sell.

How many of the world’s top 73 self-made billionaires were in a worse situation than you when they started? 

Is it possible for most of us to go from zero to billionaire? Yes. This is how: From Zero to Billionaire

Regardless of an individual's background, every company starts out with nothing...  It's hard to imagine that Nike started out selling shoes out of the back of a van at track meets.

4) The Startup
Ideas that spread win
In "Talk like Ted" Carmine Gallo demonstrates how great communicators can start movements, but... failure to communicate effectively in business is a fast road to failure. It means startups won't get funded, products won't get sold, projects won't get backing and careers won't soar.

You could have the best idea since sliced bread but if you can't find a way to share you're vision it may languish for 15 years... Just like sliced bread did?!

5) Edu-Employer Mismatch
The government and educations love affair with all things "start up" accentuates the massive mis-match between employers and education. There is all this talk of enterprise and entrepreneurial programmes, but how much focus is there on selling? Does the elitist attitude remain? I agree with Philip Delves Broughton's assessment that;

"Not only should colleges, universities and companies teach more sales, but it should be the starting point of a business education. It is from sales that everything follows: How you make money, how you treat people, how you wish to grow. Every ethical business person could face comes down to a question you confront in your very first sale: What are you willing to do for a buck" 

I think a great example of this is how even universities like Oxford and Cambridge Knowledge Transfer Partnerships struggle to make ideas commercially viable compared to Stanford and MIT... But then again I can't see Oxford or Cambridge employing anyone who has "Debt collector" on their CV like MIT has done, can you?

"By treating sales with such disdain, business schools prove themselves to be foolish and elitist. Without selling, there is no business" Augie Turak

6) Self-Awareness
The Harvard psychologist Robert Coles wrote in his book The Moral Life of Children that morality is developed in the young by experience. He found extraordinary levels of moral sophistication among barely schooled children who had been caught up in the Souths school integration of the 1960s. Experience had given them empathy and a grasp of life's complexity. They were further along the path of understanding morality's shades than their peers who had experienced no such adversity. 

This is not to say bitter experience is necessary to develop moral sense, but some experience beyond the deceptive, sunshiny rhetoric often dumped in children's minds helps. Sales, with its many contradictions, hypocracrises, and moral challenges would be a fine start. Selling allows for the kind of moral confrontations which lead to personal examination and the banishment of fear. What Coles found time and again was that the most active idealists as adults tended to be those who started early considering the tensions they would face in life between their idealism and their need to satisfy the "practical" ambitions forced on them by their family, institutions and peers. It was those who never considered these tensions who ended up disillusioned. I cannot think of a better practical education than selling for forcing anyone to think about who one is and how one might balance one's highest self with one's most practical, human needs.

The common traits that successful sales people have is resilience and optimism, a useful foundation and transferable skills that apply for anyone looking to do well in just about any profession. 

7) Self-Sufficiency
"If I were to die tomorrow, what skill would you want most for your children to have? The ability to meet their own needs. It is what all parenting efforts boil down to. We want our children not merely to be self sufficient, but to be able to meet the needs any human has in order to live a fulfilling life. What we fear most is that if we were to die, they would be as helpless as they were when they were first born" Martin Shanker, Sales Trainer in Life's a Pitch

The Arts and Crafts Movement, in the late 19th Century, argued that selling should be an integral part of any child's education. Their reasoning was that children should not be taught to live upon the labour of others. Students should learn by practice how to cultivate the land, develop their own food supply, and make whatever they needed to house, clothe and equip themselves for life. 

"Let a child work until he craves the help of books, instead of studying until he forgets the need of work" Early edition of The Craftsman Magazine. 

The perfect school, according to the Arts and Crafts Movement sounds an awful lot like Project Based Learning and Further Education's commercial services to me... it should be a working garden or small farm, with buildings attached for carpentry, metalwork, sewing , printing, binding, painting, cooking and so on. 

The front entrance should be a shop, where children should learn how to approach customers, how to interest them, how to explain the quality of their work and why it is priced the way it is. If children were not making something then they should be out filling orders and drafting contracts to make activity of their school self-supporting. Selling, according to this philosophy, was anything but Willie Loman's subjection to the capitalist grind. It was a means to escape the jaws of industrialised commerce.

8) Learned Optimism
Done well, selling frees people from the oppression of corporate culture and allows them to define their own personal destinies. It is a way for people with little formal education, but plenty of perseverance, to do well. 

Good sales people are able to recover from a setback and is something that University of Pennsylvania psychologist, Martin Seligman has studied. Seligman sent out 1,100 surveys to sales people at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The aim of the study was to elicit sales people's "attributional style" - The way people interpret the reason for success and failure and whether they were optimists or pessimists.

What this study found was that many of the salespeople suffered from "Learned Helplessness," a state of mind caused by uncontrollable bad events. Losing your wallet could be interpreted as;

1) Internal: Because I'm an absent minded fool
2) External: Because we were in a rush to get to the airport and the kids were screaming
3) Global Attribution: The lost wallet symbolizes my life of incessant failure, disorganisation and futility
4) Specific Attribution: It's just a lost wallet, once I've called the credit card company everything will be fine, it's no big deal.
Agents who scored in the optimistic half of the scale sold 37% more insurance than those in the pessimistic half.

The optimists were more likely to stick at the job, whereas the pessimists, who believe that bad things happen for internal, stable, global reasons, will be destroyed by failure. They simply cannot cope with rejection, and the sense of failure it engenders will only lead to more failure and the state of "learned helplessness" observed in depressives. By contrast, optimists succeed in sales, which leads to more optimism and more success. They feel the opposite of learned helplessness: Learned optimism.

One of Seligman's research associates, Peter Schulman, argued that any industry where persistence is required to overcome adversity, a sense of optimism is vital and can be developed by identifying the self defeating thinking and events that prompt it and gathering evidence to support or undermine the fear that is inhibiting us and recall a success 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Sales Matters in EdTech: Social Media for Sales

"Don't let any tendencies towards perfectionism slow you down" is the advice that Alice Myerhoff, EdSurge Vice President of Sales, gives to sales people in her e-Book Social Media for Sales People. My experiences may be somewhat different to Alice's, but I could not agree more with this advice. 

I thought I'd detail my experiences of blogging in the hope that it might encourage other sales people to explore the possibilities... Especially anyone who feels that they are trapped in call centers with practices and products that conflict with their personal values.

One of the reasons Myerhoff advocates social media is because everyone dreads cold calls. She details how sales people should do their homework in her post why salespeople should stop cold calling. I've taken the advice in this post and checked out Alice's LinkedIn profile, a quick glance and you can't help notice that her experiences of sales are with companies that would fall under the category of "Customer Oriented Sales."

Sales Culture
I've looked at the role that the sales process, and the overall culture of organisations, plays in the development of EdTech over the last 18 months. I have just finished "Life's a Pitch," where 
Philip Delves Broughton observes that there are two dueling views of the most effective form of sales: Customer-Orientated Vs Performance Related Selling. 



Delves Broughton highlights that, while the sales people at the Performance Related Organisations may dislike trying to coerce people into buying, both employees and their managers may find that any "ethical squeamishness" is an unaffordable luxury.

He goes on to question whether either company could sustain the others sales culture and survive. If the industrial products company started treating its customers as quick hits, without considering the long-term consequences, it would quickly run out of clients. If the software company began spending money on retreats and customer orientation sessions, it might quickly see its business model collapse around its ears.

Dream Job
It's not every sales team that have the luxury of doing lots of research before calling people, or who have the option of working at organisations with a culture like Salesforce has. As part of his research Philip Delves Broughton visited the offices of Salesforce. Here's what he found;

"If you ever felt anxious about the state of American economic life, a visit to Salesforce's offices would quickly restore your faith in its energy and potential...Salesforce have a quota club system, whereby people who meet quota are congratulated in person and immediately, and an e-mail is sent recognizing the fact to senior management. Big success stories are encourage others. Technology is used to provide transparency that leads to trust [but] humans provide the magic.

Salesforce is always seeking new ways to motivate employees. It prints up life-size posters of high performers and plasters them all over the office. It rewards anyone who hit their targets with a 3 day trip to Maui, a perk that goes to around 65% of the sales force each year. During the trip the very top sales people go to the Tiffany's special... a trip to the store before opening hours"

Organisations like this attract the best people... So what hope is there for someone whose hands are tied to such an extent that their training and responsibilities consist of "You need to hit your numbers but do so without deviating from this script"

It may be tempting to make the mistake that "Performance Related Sales" are confined to poor products, but this is not the case. The Force is an account of a year at Xerox's Cleveland sales team. Sales Manager Frank Pacetta methods were "vulgar and unpleasant," but the company had lost some patent law suits and had a lot of competition, they accepted Pacetta's methods as they generated results and brought in sales.

Personal Brand Vs Corporate Identity
Customer Orientated and Performance Related scenarios resonate with me a great deal... The first being the kind of culture I aspire to work at; the latter being the kind of environment I have worked hard on to escape from! My sales career started out in the kind sales environment described above. 

In 1998 I accepted a telesales job that paid £100 per week until you hit your target, this took me 6 weeks to do. Once achieved my salary went up to £7,000 pa. Why accept a role at such a low rate? Because I had little choice. I was not "the most able" student, so did not excel at school. I had also dedicated 10 years pursuing an athletic career so, when it came time to focus more on establishing some sort of career the only option available that had any scope for progression was sales, but I needed to gain some experience first.

One look at Alice's LinkedIn profile and you'll see a career in sales that it might feel like a "Dime a Dozen" sales person could only dream about for someone whose choices are all scripted out. However... active and savvy use of social media means that such a bleak future need not be the case;

"Done well, selling frees people from the oppression of corporate culture and allows them to define their own personalities and destinies. It's a way for people with little formal education, but plenty of perseverance, to do well" Life's a Pitch
I was top sales person for 3 years at this organisation. As my experience and skill set developed I was able to work at organisations with better prospects (although not necessarily with better cultures!), by 2010 I had a proven sales record. However, just as I felt I was becoming competent at traditional sales, I was noticing how unwelcome my calls were becoming. With the right kind of advice and encouragement I started exploring social media. 

Once I had got comfortable with LinkedIn and Twitter I opened a blog at the end of 2011. Part of my reason for doing this is because my employer at the time wanted me to be "On the phone making calls" however the people I was calling would tell me "I don't like your corporate approach, but I enjoy your reports and Tweets." I started blogging to help me do what Brian Fanzo suggests you should when starting out with social media, "Find your voice"

It's almost a year and a half since I started blogging regularly. A year ago it hit the 10,000 page views mark and, although I was blogging, I was none the wiser about a lot of aspects with this social media platform: Diary of a Wimpy Blogger - Publish and be Damned.

Blog Landmarks
Edu Tech Stories
My apprehension when I started out had less to do with "any tendencies towards perfectionism" but more to do with "a complete lack of talent and confidence!" What overlap was there with selling from a script and producing engaging, compelling and original content? 

In addition to starting out in a sweat shop of a sales environment, I had also failed O-Level English twice... But I opened a blog because I realised this is the future of sales. Besides what's the worst that could happen? If a post is rubbish then people will ignore it, they just won't read it. Surely your blog being quietly ignored can't be any worse than the phone being slammed on you?

Regardless of where you are in your sales career, do yourself a favour and open some social media accounts. Will you be uncertain? Sure you will. Will you feel like you make a fool of yourself? If you're experiences are anything like mine, absolutely. Will you make some mistakes? Nowhere near as big a mistake that if you were to continue with old outdated models... especially if you read books like Social Media for Sales People.

I hope that some of these stats and other activity from my blog this week will help you to explore this medium;

35,000 page views since I started blogging
4,000 The number of page views per month  
10 The number of posts that I've published in the last 14 days (took the weekends off)
5 The number of compliments that I've received about my posts in the last week
2 The number of times I've been called a "Thought Leader" recently

I have also been asked if I've be interested in guest blogging for a few well respected sites. A lot of questions from my publish and be damned post remain (and the length of some my posts is starting to annoy me a great deal), but I am growing in confidence and am starting to be really quite pleased with some of my posts... And it would appear I'm not alone.

So whether you're looking to get more deals, establish stronger customer relationships, re-skill and/or to find roles at companies with a better culture... or simply to update your skills to keep up with the changes in sales practices, start blogging! Find your voice! We are in a race to the bottom... And sales is the one profession where anyone with nothing more than resilience and optimism can come out on top. Come on, I'll race you. On your marks... Get set... Blog! 

"How much of each day do you spend thinking?" Ashok Vemuri, Infosys Executive asks his sales people. If the reply is "Not much" he assumes they are not doing a good job" Life's a Pitch

"What makes a good sales person?" Philip Delves Broughton asked Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff "We are not static people. We are the product of our experiences over time" Life's a Pitch

Friday, 9 May 2014

Sales Matters in EdTech: Effective Rollout

A regular topic of EdChats revolves around the issue of the connected encouraging the disconnected to get plugged in. The differences in views between the two groups sometimes feels like the connected are from Mars and the disconnected are from Venus. 

During Connected Educator Month I enjoyed an article that Tom Whitby wrote "Patience for the Unconnected" I agree with everything in this post, but the content of this post suggests that we replace patience with "a little hustle" to help the unconnected... Hustle the Steve Jobs way.  

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Technology adoption and integration has been an ongoing discussion for quite some time now. Something I find particularly interesting is when you compare the rhetoric of politicians and what they say that are going to do over the last 20 years (usually around election time), with what other groups have actually done

1997
Politicians: Had a new mantra Wiring Up Schools to the Internet, meanwhile;
Apple Invented: Ipods,  Itunes, Iphones, Ipads have 1 million apps & 50 billion downloads.
 

So the question I put to you in today's "Sales Matters in EdTech" post is...

  • What if Steve Jobs was the head of Tech integration at your school/district? 
  • Can educators use Apple's practices to facilitate tech adoption in Edu? 
Bet that's got you thinking! Below are 9 principles and ideas that I've read about that Steve Jobs, Apple and other Tech companies have employed with new tech products.

These ideas are inter-related and some steps precede others and educators and EdTech companies will struggle to progress with some stages if the tech hasn't achieved "product market fit" and/or is inefficient. It isn't easy to find or roll out great edtech... but it sure is a heck of a lot harder if you don't understand or appreciate how and where Sales Matters!  

Sales Matters
"If someone were to ask me to describe Steve Jobs, I would say that Steve Jobs is the greatest salesman of all time." 

Is a comment in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. In "Life's a Pitch" Philip Delves Broughton highlights how Jobs "Articulated a broader philosophy of making complex simple and living rich lives at the intersection of art and technology." As sales was one of Jobs' greatest strengths I have 2 questions for educators;

1) Why is Nancy Duarte's research not part of the curriculum and taught in every school? (Starting with any students and staff who are proponents of technology).
Nancy Duarte Ted: The secret structure of great talks
2) Why is sales not part of MBA programs... and an awful lot of other courses as well?

But won't this make introverts feel uncomfortable? I hear you ask. Well kids also feel uncomfortable around maths, baths and brussel sprouts... but cruel parents and educators still force these on them. Introverts can have the best ideas, but they get overlooked because they can struggle to be heard above all the clatter and noise.

"When an engineer learns how to sell, the engineer-salesman is a higher performing creature than an engineer plus a salesman together... that's not to say that just by giving an engineer a briefcase, you can make him a salesman" Howard Anderson MIT Sloan School of Management

The salesman in me says, "Great we've got edupreneurs, educators selling via word of mouth, cold calling is dead... now we've got Engineer-salesman hybrids!" Wonder what Willie Lomax would make of it all? Definitely time to re-skill! 

Culture Matters - Pirates have more Fun
In my "#EdChat - Chat or Change" post I highlight how creating a counter-culture with a small group of change agents might sound and feel counter-intuitive but it does work.

When Jobs was having a boardroom battle with Mike Sculley the battleground was the Lisa PC Vs Apple 2. Jobs occupied a small office that had a very different look at feel to the rest of Apple's corporate culture at the time. Two things that this facilitated was; 

1) It gave the reformers "free space" to discuss their ideas and establish a counter-culture. This can be very powerful in encouraging people to make a switch to any desired behaviours. See A Different Operating Proceedure

2) That the team established their own identity based on an "Us" and "them" mentality that Dave Logan's "Stage 4" teams use "We're great; they are not" (Apple 2 Vs Lisa PC). We saw this when Jobs was looking to add to his team and was looking to poach engineers who were working on the Lisa PC. 
Space Matters
Getting the reformers together and giving them some "free space" to discuss their ideas is important when looking to change the culture. The way space is used at other times is vital too, and is something that Jobs appears to have been obsessive about;

Staff Space: Apple Headquarters
In his book "The Steve Jobs Way" Jay Elliot describes the attention to detail with space when the Mac group moved office. "The center piece of the new building was a large atrium, which had a piano, video games, and a huge fridge stocked with bottles of juice and quickly became a place for the employees to meet and hang out. On display in the atrium was Steve’s old original BMW motorcycle, still in mint condition – a symbol of great design and functionality but also a symbol that this particular team had a very different kind of leader 

When employees needed a breather people were drawn to the atrium, it was a gathering spot to relax, it was a great place for sharing what you were working on, what you needed, what challenges you were facing. A gathering place like the this helps everyone get a sense that they aren’t alone. A problem facing one part of the team is a problem for everyone.

Customer Space: Apple Retail Stores
In Life's a Pitch, Philip Delves Broughton compares Apple's retail stores to churches, dedicated spaces for gathering the faithful and attracting new converts. When Apple was planning its first stores, in 2000-2001, it emphasized the importance of putting them in central, urban locations to attract passersby, and letting visitors use the products. The company's intention was to increase the number of "switchers," people ready to abandon their PC's to become Apple users. 


The difficulty of converting millions to Apple demanded soaring spaces, latter day cathedrals like Apple's glass cube on 5th Avenue, and a selling method akin to missionary work. The stores were laid out with the new products up front, so customers who had never owned an Apple product could try them out; next was a Red Zone, abuzz with staff and energy, where the conversation could take place in the form of a sale; and then finally the Family room, where customers would be called by name and helped with service, support and lessons. As Johnson said of the stores, "We invest here to build promoters for Apple," fresh armies of consumer evangelists who can go out and preach Apple's gospel. 

Marketing Matters
Geoffrey Moore observes that technology does not roll out in a linear fashion. He highlights that with any new tech tool you need to make the transition from having a few tech enthusiasts to having large numbers of people adopting the tool. The gap between these two groups of customers is significant... addressing this must be the primary focus as this is how mass market tech adoption is achieved. Failure in the attempt and various groups, departments and people will stick with their preferred tools, which is why we get fragmentation opposed to adoption and integration.

Early Adopters
People’s attitudes toward technology are an important consideration with new products. New suppliers should seek out the early adopter market. Early adopters can be hard to find as they make up less than 20% of any given market. This is one of the reasons why continuous innovations can prevail, even when the case for a discontinuous innovation is a compelling one. E-readers have a compelling case... but have also been around since 1998!
Apple's early ad campaigns were aimed at buyers were early adopters, those who "Think Differently"

"The crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo"

These words are intoned with images of Einstein, Amila Earhart, Muhamma Ali, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. this campaign was very much designed to reach the early adopters.

Optimal Distinctiveness
Once this early group has been found Steve Jobs and Apple turned them into fans, advocates and evengelists. Tech companies who have achieved mass market adoption have been extremely successful with this. 

Remember when Facebook, Gmail and other Tech companies were starting out and invites were sent to exclusive groups? With Facebook it was available only to Ivy League university students, Google it was hard core tech enthusiasts, Apple focused on the design community with the Mac.With Google the tech influencers got 20 invites to share with friends. This is a way that Tech companies look to create "Optimal Distinctiveness" which turns users into fans and advocates.

Meanwhile this exclusivity drives demand because people who are not in this early core group have to wait for membership, people go round their friends to see if they know anyone who has "a spare invite"... people who have not even tried the service spread the word and create a lot of buzz. This means that when you do get an invite people are far more likely to use it... you now belong to a club that not everyone gets invited to.

Network effects
Another reason for keeping the early stage technology as a "closed community" is because the more like-minded the group and/or the more people you know, the more frequent your visits will become... and for longer periods of time. Facebook expanded one college/school at a time, they didn't leave a school until they have 50% of the students signed up. 
This is based on the concept of "Network Effects," communication platforms are of more value when they have reached critical mass; telephones, e-mail, mobile phones, social media etc have less value when there are only 100 people subscribing to the service than when there are 1 million. The more people from your friends/group/network subscribing to a service the greater value it will have to you. 

Roll Out Matters
Whether the community is education or another industry, people will have different attitudes towards technology, as well as different proficiency levels. Therefore, roll out does not happen in a linear fashion, and different groups should be contacted at different times... as the technology matures and case studies are developed and refined. 
Moore Technology Adoption Cycle with priorities for each group
The most important and most dangerous point in this cycle is "The Chasm" the gap between a handful of the fans who "Think Different" and the mass market. What successful companies do to overcome this is use the early adopters and enthusiasts to bridge the gap between the chasm and the early majority.

Quality Matters
With the early adopters turned into fans, advocates, evangelists and the early majority now using the service growth comes from "positive feedback loops"...The more positive the experience for users the better the network effect becomes. If you like a service you invite others to join, the more people from your network, the more relevant the conversation becomes to you – the more time you spend in this space. We can see this with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. So far we've looked at;

1) The ability to present your idea and vision in a compelling and convincing way
2)  Know how to build the right team and, just as important, the right culture
3) Creating spaces that encourage collaboration
4) The ability to speak to early adopters with the right message
5) Build a community in a niche area to create optimal distinctiveness
6) A this is a niche community of like minded people it establishes network effects
7) Community members become fans and the buzz the closed community creates drives up demand
8) As the number of users reaches 50%+ of the community positive feedback loops becomes more important as this is want influences the "late majority." Reaching the late majority means that the platform is likely to be adopted throughout the community.

Popularity Matters

Most of the information above contains information that have been raised in previous blog posts/reports. All I've really done is pulled them together into one post. But there is something I have just found out about in "Life's a Pitch," which Jobs used to great effect and could really help with Tech adoption for educators: Social Proof. 

"No leader can hope to persuade, regularly and single handedly, all the members of the group. A forceful leader can reasonably expect, however, to persuade some sizable portion of group members. Then the raw information that a substantial number of group members has been convinced can, by itself, convince the rest. Thus the most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favour" Robert Cialdini

Steve Jobs is a master of using evangelists and other converts to Apple as social proof - the more people do something, the more likely it's a reasonable thing for me to do. As Moore suggests in the commentary in this video the visionary dancer is out on his own for 1/3rd of the video... but watch what happens when social proof comes into play from 2.45 mins on
Social Proof: Get enough people involved and others will join
All the points above gave Jobs a lot of success at inspiring customer loyalty. Whether presenting new products in front of a clapping, adoring audience; or Apple devotees mobbing stores every time a new product is released. 

Relevant to Tom Whitby's "Patience of the Unconnected" is the relationship between Apple devotees Vs those yet to be converted. The fans exhibit the zeal of converts, displaying a sense of superiority and willingness to sing Apple's praises. The tribe aren't just using a different smartphone or tablet, they are living a better life. They display obsessive behaviours that are hard to understand for those who see only the utilitarian value of Apple's devices.

I have written a good deal about these issues but this last point on "social proof" might be something of the missing piece of the jigsaw with effective Tech roll out in schools and colleges. And I may even have the evidence to prove it. 

EdSurge Summits
I have two questions for you;

1) Did you notice any similarities between Apple's practices and an EdSurge summit? Now I've never been to an EdSurge summit but if you have and review the main points, I think you'll see a lot of similarities. (Btw Do you think this is a lucky coincidence, or was it precision planning and is the reason the summits are so enjoyable and effective?)

2) How difficult would it be to establish events like this in the school foyer 
or areas of high footfall? Some could be aimed at staff, others for students and parents. This could be set up as Apple does for different tech tools and with tutorials going on for users at all levels.

Hey EdSurge feel like some EdSurge School Road Trip Summits? They worked for Facebook... (Btw I'm not kidding!) 

If any school or college admins did want to host events like this the main thing with using "social proof" would be to ensure that there were as many tech enthusiasts as possible and that it was set up in a way that the tutorials at the work stations were pitched at different levels (and that it is effective EdTech that you use!)

Oh yeah and maybe the Techs could brush up on their sales skills too... because it would appear that sales does indeed matter in EdTech. 

...And Finally
A criticism from academics about Dale Carnegie courses is that his courses don't teach anything new, which is something that Carnegie himself acknowledged;

"I know there's considerable criticism of my book [How to Win Friends and Influence people]. People say I'm not profound and there's nothing in it new to psycology and human relations. This is true, I've never claimed to have a new idea.Of course I deal with the obvious. I present, and glorify the obvious - because the obvious is what people need to be told. The greatest need of people is to know how to deal with other people. This should come naturally to them, but it doesn't"

I feel that this has relevance to my blog and to the level of persistence needed with Tech integration too. There are no new ideas here, these principles will be well known (and better explained) by many other sales and tech experts. But with tech integration it's perhaps not about politicians from the 1990's to today telling us what they are going to to... it's about getting feet on the ground and using a bit of hustle, some showmanship and the roll out principles and practices that the greatest salesman of all time used to good effect.  

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Sales Matters in EdTech: Evangelists

In my first "Sales Matters in EdTech" post I questioned the impact education had by treating sales separately from other business functions like business administration, marketing, economics etc and by ignoring successful sales organisation like Dale Carnegie. Today I am going to explore Evangelism... both sales and religious variety. 
  • Ever wonder what the very first sale in the history of man was? Is the "sale" as old as humanity?
  • Ever wonder why we call the early adopters and fans of a particular brand Evangelists?
Whats that? Never talk about sales and religion?

No I am not trying to court controversy... indeed the issue of comparing religious figures to salespeople, or Apple as a religion is way too hot for me to handle! Therefore all I am going to do in this post is provide 3 extracts from Philip Delves Broughton's book "Life's a Pitch" (US: The Art of the Sale).
I'm not sure how many educators will have read this book, but as Steve Johnston highlights in "Where Ideas Come From," ideas are the result of "slow hunches" which come from diverse sources... This book has provided me with some "Eureka moments" one of which I will pick up on in my next post which I have got from reading the (potentially controversial) extracts below.

In the Beginning...The Apple and the Snake
A sale made us human. Before that sale, Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden, blessed by God, naked, joyful, surrounded by abundant food and beauty. Just one thing, God said. Do not eat from the tree of knowledge. If you do, he warned, you will die. The threat could not have been much clearer. then along came the serpent, "More subtle than any beast of the field," to persuade the man and woman to do the one thing they fear will surely kill them. 

The serpent at this point was not the slithering creature of today but a walking, talking biped. Its purpose was to destroy the prefect equilibrium of Eden. To do away with Adam and get its scaly mitts on Eve. It did so by turning the threat of severe punishment to its advantage. How terrific must that tree be it said to Eve, for God to make such a threat? And by the way, did he threaten you? Or just Adam? Suddenly, Eve is reeling. Well, yes, she stumbles, I suppose God did only tell Adam. Then, the Serpent asks, why do you think God is so determined for you not to eat of the tree of knowledge? Because he doesn't want you knowing good and evil like he does. He doesn't want any other Gods around the place. 

So go on, take a bite. Won't hurt you. Might even do you some good. Disaster. Eve tastes the fruit and persuades Adam to do the same. They are banished from the garden, clothed in animal skins, and forced to work the earth for food until the dreadful day when to dust they shall return. Easeful immortality forsaken for a bite of apple. But from a sales perspective, one has to admire the serpents hustle. No longer did Eve regard the tree as deadly, but rather as the attractive bearer of tasty fruit, which had the additional effect of making her wise. The serpent was a master of the one-off sale.(Life's a Pich P9 & 10)

Selling Religion
In 1923 sociologist Thorstein Vablen wrote that commercial salesmanship had its roots in evangelism. He called the Roman Catholic Church "Quite the largest, oldest most magnificent, most unabashed, most lucrative enterprise in sales-publicity in all Christendom." In 19th Century America, organisaed armies of salespeople were sent out to sell books and other products, replacing independent peddlers. These new sales forces were organised using the model of Methodist and other proselytizing religious groups that abounded in the country at the time. The instructions to salespeople retained an evangelical flavour, emphasizing the importance of faith and a sense of duty in overcoming the loneliness and many rejections on the road. Asa Candler, who turned Coca-Cola into a major enterprise in the late 19th Century, was a devout Methodist who would lead his salesmen in singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers." He was also vice president of the American Bible Society, one of the most successful door-to-door sales organisations ever.


In 1925, Bruce Barton, an advertising executive and the son of a Congregational minister, fused selling and religion in his book "The Man Nobody Knows," in which he depicted Jesus Christ as a heroically successful salesman. "Let us not forget all creed for the time being, and take the story just as simple as the narrative gives it... a poor boy growing up in a peasant family, working in a carpenter shop, gradually feeling his powers expanding, beginning to have an influence over his neighbours, recruiting a few followers, suffering disappointments and reverses, finally death. Yet building so solidly and well that death was only the beginning of his influence!" He listed 3 reasons for Christs success as a salesman.

1) He had a magnetic voice and manner, supported by an "overwhelming sincerity"
2) He hired well, he recognising the hidden talents in the ragtag group who became his disciples 
3) He possessed "unending patience" which he used to train his organisation. He was empathetic, but had enough resolve to succeed.

Because of his marvelous instinct for discovering their latent powers, and because of his unwavering faith and patience, he molded them into an organisation which carried on victoriously"

Barton was widely lampooned for his brazen conflation of sales and the sacred, but his book sold 750,000 copies and propelled him to a seat in congress. (Life's a Pitch P102-105)

The Miracle of Sales Evangelists
To this day many direct selling companies hew closely to religious organisation and rhetoric. Mary Kay lists its priorities as God first, family second, career third, as it flogs its salespeople to move more inventory. The Southwestern Company, which employs fleets of college students to sell textbooks door to door over their summer breaks, used prayer and religion to help their salespeople accept rejection and to persevere. Omnilife a direct seller of health products, host recruitment events at which audience members come on stage and testify to the products' miraculous powers. Tupperware used to "baptize" its top distributors at an artificial lake Poly Pond at its headquarters in Florida.

Apple is more subtle than this but, in essential ways, no different. 


When people talk of Apple as a cult, they are referring in part to the slavish abandonment of self to a cause of questionable value.

Apple thinks and behaves like many of history's greatest evangelical organisations. It was founded and was run for many years by a highly charismatic leader, who refered to his own achievements as "magical" and "revolutionary." Its advertising describes its products as possessing miraculous powers. A video celebrating the first year of the Ipad featured a mother of an autistic child saying, "I define a miracle as something that comes in and changes your life for the better in ways you did not expect." The miracle was the iPad and her son's enthusiastic engagement with it. In the same film, Ron Johnson, who oversaw Apple's stores at the same time, says, "The iPad has to be held, has to be touched to truly understand how magical it is" - as if it were the Turin Shroud.

Apple's Stores act as churches, dedicated spaces for gathering the faithful and attracting new converts. When Apple was planning its first stores, in 2000-2001, it emphasised the importance of putting them in central, urban locations to attract passersby, and letting visitors use the products. The company's intention was to increase the number of "switchers," people ready to abandon their PC's to become Apple users. 

The difficulty of converting millions to Apple demanded soaring spaces, latter day cathedrals like Apple's glass cube on 5th Avenue, and a selling method akin to missionary work. The stores were laid out with the new products up front, so customers who had never owned an Apple product could try them out; next was a Red Zone, abuzz with staff and energy, where the conversation could take place in the form of a sale; and then finally the Family room, where customers would be called by name and helped with service, support and lessons. As Johnson said of the stores, "We invest here to build promoters for Apple," fresh armies of consumer evangelists who can go out and preach Apple's gospel. 

The symbol Johnson used to describe the earliest days of the Apple stores was an Evian bottle, because the company gave out 3,000 of them to people waiting in line for the first Apple store to open. The first Genius Bar gave away water to connect with customers, to show Apple cared. at a time when its rivals were trying to sell $2,000 computers in soulless big-box stores using cutthroat sales tactics, Apple went in the opposite direction. Johnson said that while others were hiring sharks to sell PCs, Apple sought "Not sharks, but...teachers, photographers and filmmakers," converts themselves who sold out of enthusiasm, not commission. 

Today, school groups can book Apple stores for night and summer camps held for children to spent time learning about technology. Visit an Apple store day or night in many locations, and you realise it has become a secular church hall.

The most favourable interpretation of Apples sales tactics is that they reflect a genuine desire to improve the lives of their customers. An iPad can be a wonderful thing, just as miraculous and transformational as the evangelists claim. The ugly interpretation is that the company is exploiting its customers desire for meaning, significant, belonging and inspiration for commercial ends, with no concern for its adherents beyond what they are willing to spend. As an Apple customer milling through the stores, I've felt both sensations myself, that of exhilarated devotee and powerless commercial mark.

Apple delivers goods with real benefits. But the essence of its pitch is about more than touch screens and processing speed. [As we have seen] It goes back centuries. (Life's a Pitch Page 100-102)   

I hope you have found these extracts enlightening (No pun intented). Keep an eye out for my follow up post to this to see how I feel that educators and EdTech could use some of the examples from this book with Tech integration and roll out. If you are involved work in EdTech you really should have this book on your bookshelf. Educators might even benefit from it too.