In October 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to be part of an awesome entrepreneurship event in Helsinki, Fall Up, where I could share my thoughts on education.
Both education and entrepreneurship are about giving yourself the opportunity to make mistakes. So what if we could use an entrepreneurial approach to shape our own learning journey?
We live in exciting times. Tech is changing the way we live and work, but what about education?
The job market is constantly changing, yet we keep learning obsolete theories and preparing for roles that might disappear in a few years. Our current system is teaching us about the past, whilst we need to learn the skills of the future.
So how do we shift the classroom equation? How do we empower students to take control of their own learning path?
We are in a bus that leads to the same destination.
Jay Cross, who made popular the term of e-learning once said: “Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning however is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed and the route.” So if we look at our current education system we are more or less in a bus that leads to the same destination: graduation with a piece of paper in our hands and very often with no clue on what to do next.
Students are like startups.
A lot of graduates actually feel like they are finishing their universities with a lot of knowledge that has no market value and doesn’t contribute much to their careers. So as students we operate in a very uncertain environment. This made me think that there is no much difference between us, students, and the startup world who has to deal with the same uncertainty. The lean startup concept came to life to define an agile process based on early experimentation and having at its core the “fail fast, succeed faster” philosophy. As students we need to apply the same lean methodology to our own learning journey.
So at the core of lean startup is this “build-measure-learn” feedback loop. It is a cycle of creating and testing hypotheses, measuring customers’ reactions and learning from the results. The aim is to continuously improve what you offer so that you deliver precisely what your customer wants.
1. Define Your Goal and Set Up Success Criteria
The first step in lean is to come up with a business idea and discipline yourself into measuring progress, set up learning goals and milestones and formulate hypotheses that you want to test later on.
Once you have this overview you undoubtedly start to build your first Minimal Viable Product. This is your initial step into building your product or service with minimum effort and resources.
After testing it with your target group it’s time to measure your results. This means evaluating if your collected data allows you to build a sustainable business.
And finally, the last step in the build-measure-learn loop is to learn. This means either persevering and develop the MVP further or pivoting- changing your initial strategy and starting the whole loop all over again until you have learnt enough about your product and customers that it allows you to build a scalable business.
From Minimal Viable Product to Minimal Viable Effort
This same framework can be applied to your own learning journey and at core it has the same purpose. If in the startup world this framework has the aim of continuously improving your offer until you deliver exactly what your customers want, in education this would mean continuously experimenting with your interests until you find the path that is right for you.
1. Dream Big
So the first step is defining your big dream and what you want to learn. Take time to formulate your personal hypotheses, your long-term vision and discipline yourself into keeping track of your progress.
BUILD translated to education would mean TRYing out something. If for instance you are curious about digital marketing, it is better to first try out some online courses, watch some videos, or talk to professionals from the field, instead of spending time and money on a full time course. This “Minimal Viable Effort” would tell you if digital marketing in this case is really something you enjoy doing.
In the lean education framework, MEASURE through personal reflection. Reflection in general is quite underestimated because it is often challenging and frustrating to confront yourself. However if you set up time to regularly reflect on what you achieved, on what you learnt and where you want to go, after a period of time you will start seeing patterns in your own behaviour and understand yourself much better.
And finally CONNECT the dots. After reflecting at what you have learnt and how it is connected to your future vision, do you decide to continue with the same topic more in depth or are you going to pivot and change the direction of your journey? Failure is paramount in this whole process, because every time you realise that this is not something for you, you open up new opportunities for growth; it is a valuable learning that allows you to develop further.
To sum up, choose the bike over the bus.
As students we need to apply a bit of the lean startup philosophy to our own education in order to achieve better outcomes. Whatever the educational system we currently have, in the end we have the choice to shape our own journey. We can and we should choose the bike over the bus!We should be more entrepreneurial and take risks and initiative. In the end we only start learning when we just make that first one scary step. So let’s make the world our college, because university does not equal education. Let’s reach out to those who inspire us, surround ourselves with people who have the same vision and values, share our dream with the world and most importantly let’s stay curious. Let’s take control over our own learning journey. Try, reflect and connect to rise to our fullest potential!