Using Technology to Mine “Customer Wisdom”
By Evan St. Lifer
Perhaps no report more directly and comprehensively chronicles the COVID-derived and unprecedented challenges of the K-12 ecosystem—as well as the potential blueprint for schools to navigate them—than the recently published, Imagining September: Principles and Design Elements for Ambitious Schools During Covid-19.
A collaboration between Harvard and MIT, the report provides a nuanced roadmap consisting of school strategies to embark on and sustain school re-openings, of which eliciting stakeholder voice and choice is front and center: “Diverse stakeholders need to have a hand in shaping [these] tentpole ideas and structures so that they believe in them, take ownership for them, and use them to conduct local experiments and make local adaptations in the service of a common set of goals. The way to develop [these] tentpole ideas, therefore, is through a process of collaborative, multi-stakeholder design.”
Interestingly, the report also leans on a thought-provoking study on Complexity Science conducted by the Niskanen Center, a D.C.-based, public-policy Think Tank, an important piece to better understand the unpredictable gyrations of the pandemic.
These reports are not only must-have resources for school leaders, but are equally important for the solution-provider community, as we all seek to work diligently with our school partners, elbow-to-elbow, to help them navigate and succeed amid mercurial and vexing conditions nationwide.
Thus, there is no more important facet for solution providers, as well—as echoed above by the Harvard-MIT Report—than their continued commitment to engage the school community, to elicit critical input from customer stakeholders. A company’s ability to understand the ethos of its customers—allowing them to express their concerns, their changing needs/habits, as well as their ideas for change—is a critically necessary component of its business, if it is to succeed in meeting schools’ evolving needs.
Power Loop, a new crowdsourcing platform that leverages social media technology, allows solution providers to identify the changing priorities of their customers through an intuitive and engaging feedback loop. Companies can use the Power Loop platform to align product development plans to the changing needs of their customers, gauge customer satisfaction, or help drive new product/service ideas. Here’s the best and simplest definition of crowdsourcing that I’ve seen, [crowdsourcing] allows you to select the best result not from a single provider but from a sea of talents. Results can also be delivered much quicker than traditional or conventional methods.
As a long-time executive at Scholastic where I spent 15 years developing and launching myriad products and services, and as an admitted survey wonk, I would’ve given my right arm to have a dynamic tool like Power Loop, which stands the traditional survey on its head. Here’s how it works and why it’s so much more effective and powerful than the old-school survey:
The Power Loop platform creates a customized space or “safe haven,” where people can transparently share and socialize around ideas, and where crowd-based value-rating can be used to identify top ideas and solutions. Companies have the option of asking their customers or users for top ideas, or might prefer more granularity, seeking instead to focus on a specific problem or product feature. Throughout each session, crowd-based divergent thinking is combined with crowd-based convergent voting to produce and identify quick solutions and new, innovative ideas. When participants actively view, comment, and rate ideas, there is an organic socialization around the ideas. This type of engagement provides incentive and opportunity for the author of the idea to incorporate feedback and new information to improve the idea. To learn more, go to: https://www.innovatek12.com/powerloop
I’ve always endeavored to know my customers—their needs, behaviors, and predilections—better than they know themselves. I believe that a technology and platform that allows school leaders and solution providers to better mine the “collective wisdom” of their stakeholders will help make that ideal a much-needed reality, given the gravity and turbulence of our current landscape.
Evan St. Lifer – Advisory Board, Alliance for Educational Impact; Senior Advisor, Power Loop; and Advisory Board, edWeb.net