Wednesday, June 27, 2007

10 Things We Can Learn From Apple

Richard Ziade has a great post at called 10 Things We Can Learn From Apple. The focus is primarily on Apple as a business and their approach to design. What I've done below is to take the "10 Things" and apply them to my business - education.

  1. Understand The Total Experience. This one is really critical in education, particularly when you consider recruitment and retention. We need to realize that interaction with a student does not start when they enter a classroom or end when they walk out the door. So often, each part of a college acts as it's own little silo - independent of anything else happening at the college. A college isn't about registration, classes, financial aid and graduation - it's about how all of the pieces work together to create a total experience. By taking a holistic approach, ignoring separations and focusing on solving real problems in a cohesive way, we have an opportunity to re-make our market.

  2. Less Is More. This, I think, is all about simplicity. Whether it's registering for classes, getting to class, or grabbing a bite to eat - we have to work hard to make things simple. It's seems counter-intuitive, but the harder we work - the simpler things get.
  1. "He's Got His Father's Eyes." In Ziade's post, this has more to do with similarity of design between iPods, Macs, and remotes - when you see an Apple product, you recognize it as part of the Apple family. In education, this is about consistency, in the classroom, outside the classroom and everywhere in between.
  1. "I'd Like To Introduce You To Some...Thing." This is all about personalization - Apple let's people sign up for email updates. Many of these emails begin "I'd Like To Introduce You To ..." There's no reason why an educational institution shouldn't be able to communicate with students - prospective, current and past - and make them feel like they are special; an individual - the singular focus of our attention.
  1. Control The Hardware. Unlike a Windows PC [Dell, HP, Gateway, etc], only Apple makes Apple computers. Because they control the hardware, they know exactly how their operating system and software will behave on that hardware. This to me is about quality control. Don't misunderstand me - it's not about controlling faculty, it's about providing faculty with the support and resources they need to be successful. What does that mean? Maybe we hire less adjuncts or more adjuncts; provide more professional development, mentoring or or even reduce teaching loads. There is no one answer to this, but in the end - better faculty make better students. If you're having difficulty staffing a class, does it do more harm to the institution to cancel the class or to staff it with an unqualified instructor?
  1. Hide The Screws. If you pick up an iPod or other Apple product, it's difficult to figure out how it's put together - the screws (i.e. the ugliness of technology) are hidden. The same should be true at a college - all the messiness and behind the scenes stuff that makes a college run should be hidden from the end-users or as we call them the students.
  1. "Go Ahead. Touch It." Have you ever been to an Apple store? They're amazing places! All the products are out in the open waiting for someone to try them out, get comfortable with them and experience them. Do we make it easy for students to explore - courses, programs, even lectures that might spark their interest? How about an open house with brief lectures by some of your best faculty and an opportunity to interact with them afterwards. Don't even get me started on the Genius Bar - What if every college had a Genius Bar?
  1. Feeling & Thinking. Humans are inherently social beings. It's important to engage them intellectually, but also socially and emotionally. This ensures a stronger connection with students and better integration into the college community. Apple, with their products, has been able to tap into their user's emotions. Most college have student life activities that move in this direction, but couldn't we do more in the classroom?

  2. Great Design = New Invention. Apple has great (not just good) designs that have re-defined whole markets - consider mp3 players. In education, if we focus on good or good enough - that's what we get back. If instead we strive to be great we have an opportunity to be great. To quote Arthur Schopenhauer - "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see."
  1. It's About People. If we re-write this as It's About Students - this could become a guiding mantra for education - an over-arching theme that permeates everything we do. Everything - from the design of the website, and the college catalog to the classrooms and open spaces - reinforces this commitment to the student.

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