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

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.  

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