Monday, May 08, 2006

Collaborate with Your Customer

From a recent Time magazine article on an upcoming movie titled Snakes on a Plane:

Because the Internet allows moviegoers to learn about movies before they’re in production, a vocal group of connoisseurs – nerds, if you will – were able to keep tabs on Snakes on a Plane.

“We were fortunate,” says director David Ellis. “We had the ability to listen to the audience before we finished, so we could totally deliver exactly what they dream of seeing.”

Snakes on a Plane, out August 18, may be the first to be changed by audience response before the audience saw it.

“You have to be smart enough to collaborate with everybody when you’re making a movie, so why not work with the people you’re making the movie for?”

Now, I have no idea if this movie will be a dud or a cult hit, but that’s not the point of this post. This is another example of how technology is radically altering the way we do business. Not only are businesses expecting their employees to interact and collaborate with workers in other countries, but they are expecting them to collaborate with future customers. Companies have always done this to some extent – trying to work with customers to meet their needs in order to sell more product – but the technology, the 24/7/365 connectedness that the Internet provides is turbo-charging this. Customers are not only demanding good products, but they are demanding more of a say in the creation of those products. In fact, I’m beginning to think some of the value of products is going to be measured in how much customer input was involved. That no longer will products be valued simply on function and price, but also on how much “user-generated” features they have. This is how you build brand loyalty, a customer base and a thriving customer “community”, and therefore – ultimately – how you build a successful business.

So, what’s the take away message for education? We should be doing the same thing. Involving our “customers” in developing our “product.” In order to provide the best possible education for our students (and also to prepare them to be successful in the world of work), we need to involve them as much as possible in the creation of their own education. I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating. It’s their education, not ours. They certainly can’t do it all on their own – our roles are essential – but we need to find a way to get them much more involved, to see their education as something of which they are an active part, not a passive consumer.

Listen to the podcast.


  1. OK...I am beginning to realize how important student involvement is in the creation of their own education. Let's see...that means in algebra next year if I create a problem where they need to learn a skill (ie, factoring)then they can research how to factor and create their own understanding (rules?) of factoring. Uhm...I think I am starting to get it! Yes?!?

    P.S. Who is the bass player and piano player on the podcast?!?

  2. I completely agree. As the world of commerce and interaction is changing. Now an education is meaningless unless the student is taught to learn on their own. The world is changing too quickly for us to alter the curriculum in time, predicting what things will be like when we graduate. Really, the internet has only been around for about 10 years, and look already at what in integral part of life. There is no way to teach everything we will need to know. But by designing our own learning, we have the opportunity to learn to adapt and how our minds work best, which is the best education we can be offered.

  3. Thanks, Molly, for contributing your thoughts and opinions. I really appreciate what you have shared on this blog. I found the article below interesting not just because it is called 21st century but because of what the students thought about their trip. Is this what AHS will be doing?