Because of the tremendous amount of knowledge that exists on almost any subject these days, society has become extremely compartmentalized. On one hand, that's a plus because it allows individual specialists to create and produce more value than if they were forced to understand and handle all aspects of life. In aggregate, we create a society that works.
On the other hand, there's a big disadvantage in only knowing your part of the whole: You don't always get a view into the cutting-edge developments—or even best practices—of other compartments. For instance, few small-business owners get much of a glimpse into the world of education unless they work closely with schools or happen to know a teacher. These six topics reveal how any business owner can benefit from tapping into what educators know:
1. Primary learning modes. Educators have identified three different modes of learning:
- Visual: learning by seeing information or observing people in action
- Auditory: learning by hearing information or from audible cues
- Kinesthetic: learning by doing or from example
Sales expert and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar applied this concept to communication in sales, and the implications for training staff or creating marketing collateral are obvious. You can also use this concept to your advantage by identifying different modes of buying or engaging your brand, then tailor your processes to match.
2. Special needs identification. Schools identify the students at the top and bottom ends of the performance spectrum, then offer them tailored classes to meet their needs. The earlier a child's special needs are identified, the more he or she gets out of school.
This same kind of triage can help you leverage your customer base. Identifying shaky customers for special attention keeps the back door closed, while singling out your most passionate fans to help you create a plan to encourage them to recommend you to others.
3. Teaching to the test. This kind of teaching is controversial in education, as many teachers are unhappy teaching only the items listed for standardized performance metrics. However, the problem here isn't really teaching to the test—it's the disagreement about what should be on the test in the first place.
Teaching to the test is really about two things. First, it's about focusing as much effort as possible on meeting the goals and metrics you've set. Less obviously, but more important, it's about identifying the right goals to set and the metrics to apply. The warning from education is clear: Measuring the wrong things creates the wrong results.
4. Stages of development. Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher Jean Piaget was one of several education theorists who identified the stages at which a child becomes capable of certain kinds of learning and development. Before those stages, it would be pointless to try teaching a given concept or skill. A child is literally unable to learn something he or she is not developmentally ready for.
Similarly, each business customer goes through a series of stages during which specific interactions are more appropriate:
- Lead: when you have a qualified name but haven't met
- Prospect: the period from meeting for the first time to closing the sale
- Customer: somebody who has bought once or twice but is not yet a regular purchaser of your product or sevice
- Client: a repeat customer who's partially invested in your brand
- Advocate: a zealous representative for your company
Knowing which stage your customers are at—and working with your team to develop systems for handling customers at each stage—will increase sales rates and retention.
5. Foundational learning. What you learn in math during the spring relies on what you were already taught about math in the fall. Foundational learning is based on the idea of teaching one thing in order to be able to teach something else down the line.
Foundational customer service would apply the same concept to working with your customers. The right word, email or sale in February can set the stage for a bigger purchase that summer. Managers can use a similar strategy to groom up-and-coming staff.
6. K-W-L. A strategy for reviewing what a class got out of a particular lesson, K-W-L consists of three questions:
- What do we Know?
- What do we Wonder?
- What did we Learn?
This review helps students identify and retain the key points of a given lesson. Your team can apply this type of learning to new projects, to marketing brainstorming, even to situations when things go wrong.
Based on your experience, what are some business practices you wish schools used more often? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Jason Brick has contributed more than 2,000 blog and magazine articles to local, regional and national publications and speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. You can find out more about Jason at www.brickcommajason.com.
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