Has anyone been to the sales yet? I don’t know about you, but I wonder if some of the shops have trawled through their depositories and put out all the old seasons clothes, shoes, electricals and furniture; all the stuff that hasn’t sold in previous years, re-packaged and put back on the shelves again.
You know what its like; you head to the post Christmas sales, which have been given such a big build up and all you see is old familiar stock, which the shops and bored shop assistants are trying to pass off as current season’s sale items. There’s only so many ways that you can repackage stock before consumers begin to realise that it’s the same old stuff. And when you start to see last summer’s dresses on the rails disguised as this seasons winter collection reduced, you start to get a little bit disillusioned with the arrogance of the retailers trying to pass off the same old stock that you saw in their summer sale, and their spring sale before that and the winter sale the year before that. You can tell when it’s the same old stuff, because the shop assistants look bored and disinterested, and the items look and feel crumpled, jaded and out of date. When you ask for a different size, or something a little bit out of the ordinary, or not on the shelf, some shop assistants react with a sense of sheer panic – something different? “All we have is what you see on the shelf, we don’t have any other sizes or ranges.” And you know what that feels like; a mixture of frustration and exasperation. You really want something that fits a bit better, or is available in a different shade that suits your colouring, or maybe even an item that suits your house rather than the showroom window. Will you squeeze into the one that’s just a little bit too small, or take the one that is miles too big and you may need to pay to get taken in? And you’ve heard them in the ladies shoe shops – “What shoe size do I take? Anything between a 4 and a 6 depending on the price.”
And that mixture of disappointment, panic and confusion – it doesn’t fit, or feel right, or maybe even look right, but its all that’s available, so maybe I should just take it? And it is a bargain, so should I just buy it now and not waste any more time looking for anything better? You know that feeling, don’t you?
And that made me wonder about teaching, and how teachers and schools sell ‘learning’ to their ‘customers’. Because fashion changes every season, and in this digital information age, learning and access to information has never been easier or quicker. There is a whole generation of ‘customers’ who have access to information, networks, colleagues and influencers at the click of a button; digital natives who will be employed in jobs that we haven’t even thought of yet.
So in terms of your current stock, do your customers feel that its bargain basement stuff; the same old, same old, repackaged curriculum subjects based on the same ideals and premise for the last hundred years? Is it last season’s stock, put out on the rails yet again? Or have you moved with the times and offer the latest collection, available to all, in all sizes, colours and styles? And is your school managed and administered in a hierarchical style, like Arkwright in ‘Open All Hours’, with the boss telling the Granvilles what will sell and the way to sell it? Or is your head teacher a leader with passion who empowers staff (Tony Hseih of Zappos) and enables middle leaders (the shop floor staff) to direct change and facilitate learning with the ‘digital native customers’?
And if you are a teacher, are you still recycling the same old stuff? How often do you vary your stock; how often do you invest in new ‘products’, and try different ways of packaging it for your ‘customers’? When do you research what else is out there? Because aren’t the ‘customers’ all different, and every day they enter your ‘shop’ they might have a different ‘shopping list’, a different agenda, and more or less ‘baggage’ with them? And they might be able to access resources, leading practitioners, and breaking news in their pockets rather than having to plough through an out of date text book.
And if you’re a consumer, or a parent, how do you discriminate and decide which product will suit your child best? How is it sold to you? What does it look like? How does the whole experience make you feel? Is it different from when you went to school, or do you feel that it’s just the same? Is it like being in Lush or the John Lewis shop, where the staff share the same ‘family’ values, and they’re enthusiastic and committed about what they do and sell? Is the staff interested, knowledgeable and up to date? And are staff and students a good advert for the product?
So would you ‘purchase’ learning from someone who stopped learning a long time ago (Arkwright), or from someone who is up to date with the current research and development, is knowledgeable, informed and enthusiastic about the latest stock, and works with their staff to make “every interaction with every customer result in the customer saying WOW”?