Crazy busy? Take a break with a ‘deep think’ challenge.

On the lookout for quick tips that’ll extend your reach?

Suricate - Meercat PhotoI am.

I also collect ideas that challenge the status quo about how we do things in our schools. Critical examination, after all, is part of continuous improvement.

These three SCN feature interviews in particular have caused me to stop and evaluate several closely held notions.

Bob Negen of WhizBang! Training got me to see why even public schools in communities with no competing school systems benefit by “marketing” like retail stores. Author Mara Einstein got me contemplating better ways to do school fund raisers — and promote social responsibility. Designer extraordinaire Don Norman pointed out wicked flaws in America’s education system and lamented about why they’re so hard to correct. He’s not a fan of high stakes testing, that’s for sure.

Hope you enjoy these SCN flashbacks. As we start a new school year, it’s a perfect time to ask ourselves: How could we do this better?

Bob Negen

Bob Negen

BOB NEGEN: Co-founder of a two-store chain of specialty kite and toy stores and a popular speaker and trainer. He and wife, Susan Negen, are authors of the book “Marketing Your Retail Store in the Internet Age,” creators of the “The Retail Mastery System” and head up WhizBang! Training.

Interesting feat — Negen founded Mackinaw Kite Co. in 1981. He was only 23 years old, and had just graduated from college. He says he’s always loved flying kites. And, well, the idea of getting a “real job” was just so unappealing. But he’s had to work hard on promotion to endure in a career as an independent retailer.

Key Quote: “Whether it’s kites, yo-yos, plants, panty hose, or public education, it’s all about giving your customers the kind of experience that makes your business memorable and increases their participation.”

What surprised me – Regardless of the size of your community, your schools have competition. How do you make your school or district every parent’s top choice over other public schools, charter schools, private schools and online schools? Negen says schools can benefit from the same customer-experience tips he teaches retailers.

Intrigued? Read my original article.

What if you… planned for all school functions for students and parents with specific customer experience objectives in mind?

Proof he knows what he’s talking about: Check out Negen’s website.

Mara Einstein

Mara Einstein

 MARA EINSTEIN — Professor of media studies at Queens College (N.Y.), independent marketing consultant, and author of the book “Compassion, Inc.: How Corporate America Blurs the Line Between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help.”

Interesting feat – Prior to joining Queens College, Einstein held executive positions at NBC, MTV Networks, and at major advertising agencies working on such accounts as Miller Lite, Uncle Ben’s, and Dole Foods.

Key Quote: “Don’t let your belief in a promoted cause obscure the fact that this is, essentially, a marketing strategy to sell more of a product. If you don’t want the product, don’t buy it.” (You can still support your cause.)

What surprised me: Direct or in-kind gifts generate more support for nonprofits than cause marketing. “The most effective way to support any cause,” Mara said, “is to give money directly.”

To find out Mara’s thoughts about school fundraising, read my original story.

What if you… worked with your school staff and parents to evaluate school fundraisers in light of higher goals? What do you want students to be learning? Are there ways to raise money for school programs that align with more closely with service-oriented goals and objectives?

Proof she knows what she’s talking about: Mara has been writing working in media, or writing about media for many years. Check out her book’s website.

Don Norman

Don Norman

DON NORMAN: An academic in the field of cognitive science, design and usability engineering. Business Week calls him one of the most world’s most influential designers. He is a popular keynote speaker, consultant and writer. He’s the author of several books, including the newly updated The Design of Everyday Things.

Interesting feat – When Norman joined Apple Computer as a fellow in 1993, he was a “user experience architect” – the first time that phrase was used in a job title. He later became vice president of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group. He then moved on to Hewlett-Packard before joining forces with Jakob Nielsen in the Nielsen Norman Group.

Key Quote: “We’re stuck in a really bad problem here, like everywhere else. Our education system is flawed. It starts at the college level and works down through K-12. It’s all so intertwined that it’s really difficult to fix one thing without messing up something else. …The truth is that tests really only tell us how good students are at taking tests.”

What surprised me: Norman, who specializes in designing things for the user’s benefit, says the American education system is flawed – and colleges are to blame. Innovations in K-12 education often fail because colleges are looking for a certain pattern of accomplishment and students must conform to the mold to get into top colleges. The core problem is that things that are most important for people to know are not easily listed, codified, and tested.

You might be shocked in my original article to find out what Norman believes schools should let students do.

Proof he knows what he’s talking about: Explore Norman’s website.

I hope you found this “deep think challenge” worthwhile.

I wish you and your team the best as you begin a new school year!


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