Shared experience/Unparalleled insight

Recently, The Washington Post ran a story about a teacher who spent two days shadowing a student (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs). The author of the story, the author of the blog, and most of the readers of the blog, were surprised by what the mystery journalist (who turned out to be the blogger’s daughter) discovered—that students are forced to participate in a very draining school day where the lack of interaction and movement creates a sluggishness that is hard to break through.   And how did she become so wise in the ways of the academic lives of high schoolers?  She participated in their workflow. 

When you read her insight from the experience, you understand that what she learned will forever change the way she teaches and the way she trains others.  And here’s the thing: the only thing that was different on those days from any other day was that she was seeing the world through her customers’ eyes.  The lessons were not different.  The tools were not different.  The teachers were not different.  She didn’t use rubrics or dissect a bunch of surveys; she simply changed her perspective.  

What the author shared with her customer was an experience.  Sure, it isn’t difficult sitting still for one class, but 7?  The first three times you get hushed is one thing, but by the 15th time it gets a little grating. It is one thing to be quiet but a whole other thing to spend several classes not speaking at all.  Or moving for that matter.  And yes, teachers are smart and know a lot, but do they have to go on and on?   If you had asked this teacher what she “needed” for her classes before this experience, she may have told you more ways to keep students engaged in class or more examples to be able to show them.   Now that she has seen the other side, “engagement” takes on a living, breathing and authentic meaning.  And she will change her product, her teaching, because of it.

Great products emerge when companies share their customers’ authentic experiences.  It can be uncomfortable and difficult at first, but, like this teacher, the insight and results can be so much more meaningful than you could have ever imagined.