My students at UC Berkeley and Santa Clara universities truly want to learn more about the practical aspects of my course content that I offer in my classes on organizational behavior. That might sound obvious, but being a student at heart myself, I am still learning as well. I am learning that this drive to have more practical information is more prevalent with my working in industry students than the younger undergraduates.
Having 30 year of business experience and a doctoral degree picked up later in life, I thought that I would share my practical business experiences and wisdom to add depth to my teaching eager students. I know this is working, However, I see with my students, especially the working students with real world career issues, a yearning to learn enough to improve not only their work by adding to their own knowledge, but also it is important to pick up ideas as to how to transfer and teach this knowledge to their teams to increase proficiency and productivity.
I try to support this need with in class exercises, which I call scenario training. This is a big hit and probably a highlight of my teaching. It seems that more learning takes place in these spirited exercises that in the lecture material that I feel is necessary to get across some theories to dissect. I believe that George Siemens, an expert in on line education, whom I have recently started to follow, hits the nail on the head when he emphasizes giving students (education customers) what they really want, pretty much the mission statement of every aspiring business executive. I am a big believer of this concept of customer discovery, learning about the customer and their problems.
This is the cornerstone of every successful company trying to sell an idea or a product. In my teaching entrepreneurship, innovation, intrapreneurship and other things, I am a preacher of the gospel that real businesses solve big problems. Without a problem to solve there is no business. Problems can only be found by talking with customers, lots of customers. If a customer doesn’t light up when you offer your ideas, and ends up drifting into “well that would be nice to have, but I really wouldn’t pay for that…” which I tell my students is a rejection, then the problem has not truly been found.
When the customer gets excited, wants a demo, wants to learn more and lead the charge back into his or her company, only then does my entrepreneurial student find the right path. The path may still need further definition and discovery, but it is movement in the right direction and the new business idea begins to take shape.
On line, interactive teaching, promoted by Siemens can help in this concept of practical education. It spreads the knowledge, the practical applications of the knowledge, and it promotes a key ingredient in personal success by building exciting learning with a huge benefit from the formation of networks of excited friends and colleagues.