If you are a learner/leader at a private school and think about how to generate or ensure continued admissions demand in shifting markets, read on. If you are a leader/learner at a public school and think about aligning student outcomes to community expectations as well as a forward-leaning vision, read on!
As I will detail much more extensively in an upcoming magazine article, Harvard Business School’s Shoshana Zuboff tells us that consumer capitalism is fundamentally changing from “a mass production logic based on standardization and high volume throughput to a distributed logic based on providing people with the tools, platforms, resources, and relationships that enable them to live their lives as they choose.” This paradigm shift — to what Zuboff calls a new “distributed capitalism” — is occurring in a wide range of consumer markets, including publishing, music, retail, health care, and, yes, education.
I have been reporting extensively on my work with the team building Design 39 Campus, a public choice K-8 school opening next year in the 35,000-student Poway Unified School District near San Diego. Since this will be a choice school with a non-traditional mission, the leadership team has held a series of open houses for potentially interested parents to find out why, or why not, this school will be right for their children.
Here’s the big story: rather than TELLING the parents what the school will do, they have created design thinking-based collaborative sessions to find out what the parents, the customers, value. Parents ask questions like “What if we could ‘do’ school differently?” “What experiences and outcomes do we most want for our children?” “What would teachers, parents and administrators look like in that school setting?” We are essentially crowd-sourcing our own consumers to both help define the vision of the school and also build product loyalty…before the doors are even open. The team is logging ALL of these comments and ideas and are in the process right now of deciding how to data-mine the results. Check out these unfiltered inputs, all from prospective parents, from just one of their sessions.
One huge result: the buzz in the community has exploded about the new school; future sessions are booked; parents leave feeling, many for the first time that THEY have had significant input into how a school will respond to their needs and those of their child. And (this is a positive) some parents have left the meetings knowing that this school is NOT a good fit for their child. (One parent quipped: “I am going to spread bad rumors about the school in my neighborhood; I want my kid to have a better chance to attend!”)
Tell me a private school admissions office that would not kill for this kind of community engagement and I will suggest that such a school does not have their focus on current and future mass consumer trends. Tell me a public school district that thinks they can’t or don’t have to engage parents like this and I will show you a market ripe for more charter school, online, home school, hackschool, or hybrid competition.