Think Different

Steve Jobs for Fortune magazine

Steve Jobs has spoken and written at various times about design and innovation.

What can we learn from people like Steve Jobs and companies like Apple?

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.

Apple are an innovative company in terms of taking existing products and ideas and turning them into success stories. There were mp3 players before the iPod, but the iPod has become the ubiquitous music player. However how many out there remember the Cube? Though thought as a wonderful piece of technology design, however as a product success. There was also the iPod HiFi which failed miserably.

When we talk about innovation in education there is often an assumption that innovative practice has to always result in success. However innovation in education (as with technology and business)  means taking risks and management need to be aware that innovation is risky. However management are not the only group that need to know this, learners need to be aware of the risks of innovation too. They need to be aware but also be aware that the process of innovation is one that contributes to their learning and does not impair their learning.

Another quote from Steve

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

For many people the reason they like products like the iPad the iPhone is not the way it looks or even the functionality, but the way it works for them and meeting their needs. I know that for example that the Galaxy Tab has a camera, but the user interface on the iPad and the way it works, works for me.

When we design courses and educational materials, too often we focus on how it looks and how it makes people feel. We maybe should be concentrating on the way it works.

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.

It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Both of these quotes from Steve demonstrate the risk you take by (just) asking customers and building what they want, and the importance of showing end products.

It is important that we listen to the Learner Voice and the student surveys that organisations like JISC and the NUS have done. However we must ensure that these feed into our course design and delivery rather than lead them. Learners come to institutions to learn, if you ask them what they want then by the time you have got there, they’ll want something new and different and you will need to start again. Likewise  if we can show learners course design and delivery they may decide that this is more what they need than if you just ask them. Two examples come to mind, if you ask learners before the come to college whether they want to use wikis and discussion forums, unless they have used them before I suspect that most learners will say no. Show them how wikis and discussion forums can be used for learning and they may then want to use them. One question though, how do we design our courses and delivery systems?

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