Damn, wish I’d done that

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a kicker.

I’ve just seen a campaign that would’ve been perfect for a product launch I managed back in 2008.

It was actually the launch of a category more than just a product, which brings with it some very specific challenges.  For example, as you are the first to stick your neck out you’re the one that has to fight the battle for the legitimacy of the category.

But that’s by the by.

I had to launch the Reader product in the UK (the eReading solution before Kindle came along). We researched the market and the overwhelming response was that this shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for books, but rather an extension of someone’s library.

Looking back we were then drawn into communicating the product USP over books (more than 100 books in something small than a paperback) but what it didn’t do was actually overcome the perceived that was the physicality of the book. At the end of the day people don’t have a relationship with physical books, they have a relationship with the stories within it despite them saying otherwise.

Mint Vinetu has portrayed this truth beautifully and I think our advertising and sales could’ve been so much better had we gone with something along these lines.

That’s not to say I’m not extremely proud of what I did because it was one of the best, most comprehensive projects I’ve ever developed and implemented but I guess you always look for improvements and I’m certain I’m not the first person to think ‘Damn, I wish I’d done that.’

This is a matter for debate, not battle

Those were indeed some sad images that showed the next generation in its worst light.  Whilst I sympathise with them, this is not the way to create change – if anything it will lead people to take a harder stance.

I appreciate that this is easy for me to say given that I was one of the lucky few to be given a grant and free university teaching. However, I am responsible for my children and will inevitably be forking out for their university degrees (assuming they go).

There are two issues at play here:

  • we are saddling youngsters with huge debts just when we want them to be at their free-est so they can innovate and become the future leaders of communities, companies, the country
  • we are releasing them to an unforgiving employment market

The situation most low/middle class people will find themselves was best put by a Nepalese headteacher “We are too poor to afford education.  But until we have education, we will always be poor.”

So does this forgive destroying property and creating chaos?  No, not in the slightest.  The problem with most complaints is that they offer a problem but not a solution.  So whilst they do not want to be burdened by the problem, these actions also offer nothing constructive to the issue.

In my eyes the problem is that the education system is not working for most people. People leave with a lot of theory but little practical knowledge and in turbulent times people will go with experience over training.  Then how to overcome this?

I’ve some very rough ideas that perhaps are impractical but perhaps (just perhaps) might be worth exploring by people much more learned than I.

  • Use the Open University model – the web and new technologies mean that you no longer need to be in a lecture to learn.  You could do virtual learning therefore reducing costs to provide education and costs to learn
  • Improve on-the-job learning – GNVQs might have been laughed at during my time, but I can now see the value of them.  Learning on the job is more beneficial and the sooner people do it the better
  • Make practice learning a bigger part of university – University leavers don’t leave with a desire to get a job, they leave with a desire to be their own boss.  However, current programmes don’t teach them this ability.  So, why not have business students (for example) running a company within the university?  They could use people learning Accounting, Economics, Law, etc.  It would make them more involved and allow them to learn some entrepreneurial skills earlier on in their careers ready for when they leave for the big wide world.
  • Will lecturers overtake universities? – with new technologies who is to say that courses could not be independent – i.e. lecturers could set up their own university/degree and teach pupils without the infrastructure costs of universities making access and learning cheaper.

Are any of these winning ideas?  I doubt it, but there needs to be a re-think of how universities work and the teaching they do.  Having a debate will get us there, breaking glass and cracking skulls won’t.

How you get ideas

Marilyn Von Savant said “A good idea will keep you awake during the morning, but a great idea will keep you awake during the night.” I’m sure we’ve all had a time when we woke up at night with a great idea about a project we were working on, a blog entry we were writing or a surprise for a loved one.

But where do these ideas come from?  How do you get them?  And is there anything you can do to increase your chances of having these nuctural rays of light?

Way back in the day, I read a book by James Webb Young (A Technique for Producing Ideas) who believed you could train yourself in 5 steps:

  1. arm yourself with information – both specific to the topic at hand and generic (i.e. anything you find interesting and that doesn’t relate to the specific ‘thing’ you are trying to address)
  2. start to form relationships – mull over the findings in your head and start to sketch out ideas by looking at the information in different ways, trying to ascertain relationships between different elements
  3. drop it – stop thinking about the problem, move onto something else and let it set in your subconscious
  4. now you’ve got it – when you least expect it, it will suddenly come to you and you have your Eureka! moment
  5. mould the idea – no idea is ever perfect from the start, so this is where the hard work begins.  Now you’re ready to start developing the idea into a worthwhile proposition to partners, customers, etc

More recently, Steven Johnson wrote a book ‘Where good ideas come from‘ about this subject and created the following short film.

My key take-out from both of these is that ideas are born out of everything and everyone around us, so we should never stop questioning, stop learning or stop trying – you learn more from doing something wrong than from doing nothing at all.

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