Week 134

A look at how lessons from parent-teacher relationships at schools could be applied to community management and customer service.

Parent-teacher relationships and community management

Last week I met with a teacher at a primary school in our neighborhood in Mitte, both to get some input for our project on technology and autodidactic learning and to get some hints for my career pursuits. We discussed the nature of the school community and how to bring technology into the classroom – to the benefit of both the teacher and the students.

In terms of community management, parents of schoolchildren are a really interesting community to look at. The school is providing a service to the children as well as to their parents, who of course are deeply invested in seeing their children do well. My teacher acquaintance told me she has had plenty of colleagues who are afraid of parents, and who try to avoid them and their concerned questioning whenever possible. She has some interesting strategies for developing a good relationship with the parents and avoiding conflict, and these can be applied in many more areas of work than education. (If in search of business advice, for “parents,” read “customers.”)

Her philosophy when it comes to working with parents is complete transparency. She spends the first few months of the schoolyear concentrating on communicating with parents, as well as getting to know the kids. She makes sure parents know both how to contact her and that they are welcome to do so, and she takes time to answer their questions promptly and in detail. She mentioned that she uses Pinterest to collect her ideas about primary teaching and more specifically teaching math, both so that she can have a collection to refer back to and so she can quickly share links with parents about her teaching philosophy and methods. If they have any concerns or specific questions about her methods, she invites them into her classroom to watch class as it’s happening and see for themselves what it’s like. She said it’s especially from this gesture that she gets a lot of respect, since parents can then see how much patience and skill it takes to manage a 20-strong classroom of young children, and since they can understand more clearly why she goes about things the way she does.

This creates an atmosphere of trust and open discussion – she has nothing to hide from them, and there is no reason for parents to get upset if they know they can voice their concerns without hesitation. She is also able to feel more confident in her work, knowing that she and the parents are on the same page. They are also on same side – clearly working towards a common goal. This way she can make allies out of potential critics and opponents.

Transferring these ideas to business: this teacher, if she were a business, would be exemplary. In order to make her own work more effective, she gets her customers on her side, letting them in on the process and establishing trust.

What we read this week (5 Apr)

On our varying perception of time, businesses within businesses, why we’re creeped out by the sound of our own voice, the Bitcoin bubble, and inventing jobs rather than searching for them.

Quote of the week

In a world of finite attention spans and seemingly infinite media, internet humour has a unique ability to break through the noise and tell an alternative to a dominant single story. While we are giggling at the jokes, we are also paying attention.

An Xiao Mina

Articles of the week

  • Contents Magazine: 10 Timeframes
    An excellent piece by Paul Ford on our variable and often confusing perception of time, and the control designers have over the way we interact with time.
  • Medium: A business within the business
    Dave Gray describes a way to give employees a greater sense of ownership and more agency within an organization through a change in structure that effectively creates miniature businesses within a business. “Podular” organizations, as he describes them, increase motivation and effectiveness in the long term.
  • NBC News: Why you hate the sound of your own voice
    Neuroscientist Jordan Gaines explains the science behind that cringey feeling you experience when hearing recordings of yourself.
  • Medium: The Bitcoin Bubble and the Future of Currency
    A long read by Felix Salmon on the current Bitcoin hype and why we should be less enthusiastic about it and more cautious.
  • New York Times: Need a Job? Invent It
    Education specialist Tony Wagner makes the case for using the education system to prepare people to create their own jobs. His key point: people should come out of school not with just a mass of information, but ready to use their knowledge and skills to create value.

What we read this week (15 Feb)

Reads this week: Kyle Studstill on working towards “the next big culture,” sequencing human genomes in bulk, Craig Mod on the growing pains of digital publishing, flat design versus realism in interface design, and the security risks of data-driven education.

Quote of the week

With equipment like this in the home of the future we may not have to go to work, the work would come to us.

Walter Cronkite, 1967

Articles of the week

What we read this week (3 Aug)

In this week’s reads: what factors determine the success of wearable technologies, proposed legislation that could help repair the patent system, the success of the New York Times’ subscription strategy, geographical discrimination on the internet, and college degree programs steered by big data.

Quotes of the week

In the US it is rightly illegal to refuse service on the basis of race or gender. It is time that we add geography to this for Internet based services.

Albert Wenger

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.

Carl Sagan

Articles of the week

  • Artefact: Is Technology Ready-to-Wear?
    Wearable technology is a strong trend these days. But how does technology best integrate with our clothes? “Just put an Arduino on it!” is an old joke among those in the Internet of Things industry. Not so, says Artefact, and gives an overview of the most important factors for a successful wearable technology product.
  • EFF: Can You Believe It? Legislation that Would Actually Help Fix the Patent System
    Finally. The SHIELD Act, proposed by a democratic and a republican representative is aiming to regulate the way how patent trolls can attack innovators. It’s about time. Read this write up from the EFF on the matter.
  • New York Magazine: The New York Times Is Now Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers
    A historical moment: The New York Times now earns more from readers than through advertising. And it’s not just that ad revenues are down. No, readership, and the readers’ willingness to pay for access and content, is up. This might shake up the news industry.
  • Albert Wenger: The Internet, Tape Delay, Proxies and Civil Disobedience
    Discussing the lack of live streams of the Olympic Games and the restrictions of the corresponding broadcasts, VC and Union Square partner Albert Wenger proposes a new right for the citizens of the internet: In the US it’s illegal to refuse service on the basis of race or gender. Let’s add geography for internet-based services to that list.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education: College Degrees, Designed by the Numbers
    This article takes a long and detailed look at how some American universities are using big data in an attempt to improve their systems. The projects described are interesting, but frightening – the approaches seek to improve pass rates, but should students really be directed towards courses where they’ll earn better grades? And should this be how the school’s success is measured?

Week 59

A week packed with Next Conference curation, a panel on the future of education, a Third Wave retreat, a blog series on the Quantified Self and some updates on Cognitive Cities.

Phew, what a week. What a month, really! Turns out November is easily one of the busiest months in the year, that much of a pattern is becoming obvious. Not that we’re complaining, quite the opposite. So what’s been happening?

Igor’s back

Igor had been over in New York and San Francisco for the better part of two weeks, to meet a whole bunch of awesome people and attend Science Hack Day. He summarized his trip in last week’s weeknote. Now he’s back, and we hardly had time to catch up before throwing him right onto a big pile of projects we’re working on. Good to have you back, buddy!

Next Conference

We’re glad we get a chance to curate and host two tracks at the Next Berlin Conference next May. On Monday, the curators met up for the first time, and I can tell you, it’s a good group of folks. More on our ideas for the program soon. But I can give you a tiny glimpse already: We’ll be featuring experimental, innovative topics ranging from the Quantified Self to digital alter egos, from Arduino hacks to the Internet of Things. Also, some hands-on stuff to tinker. And a best-of of the user votings of sorts. Speaking of which – you can still submit proposals here.

Research, research, research

We’re still digging deep into the inner workings of both our client, Postbank, and the ins and outs of the whole digital banking sphere. The whole sector is changing rapidly, and we really want to understand it from the ground up – of course, as always, with a focus on the digital strategy and social media aspects.

The Future of Education & Coworking

Wednesday night I was invited to join a panel on the future of education, and how coworking can learn from and inspire more traditional learning institutions. The panel was the first of a series of salons with an education focus, and quite good fun. I was baffled & inspired most by a school project that I hadn’t been aware of before – a school where the students learn very self-directed and autonomously, and are not treated like someone to watch, but someone to assist in their own endeavors. What better place to learn about education than while actually being on a panel about the very topic? Audio recording of the salon might be up on the salon page at some point.

Panorama photo

Third Wave Retreat

Sticking to our well-established tradition of going on regular retreats to think freely about the future of Third Wave itelf, we headed for a few days up to the Baltic Sea. We rented a cozy place up on Usedom to talk strategy, business development, optimization, vision – and which fish restaurant to frequent, of course. We’ll be talking more about this over the next few weeks and months, but the gist is: We’re still learning, and fast, and we’re headed in the right direction.

The future of Cognitive Cities

As for CoCities, we’ve been thinking hard for quite a while. Where to take the brand, how to further develop the topic? We’re all sure we’d like to dig deeper, to work in this emerging field, to keep thinking and exploring. Which shape this is going to take isn’t one hundred percent clear yet. Pending a number of very interesting conversations we’ve set up for the coming weeks, we might leapfrog the topic, or take smaller steps.

One thing is becoming clear: There isn’t going to be a big CoCities Conference in 2012. We simply won’t have the time to put it together in a way that would match or top this year’s CoCities Conference.

That said, over the next few weeks we will have some updates, which might be very exciting if things work out. Follow this blog and our Twitter accounts @thirdwaveberlin and @cocities for updates.

The Quantified Self

Today, we’ll kick off a series of posts about the Quantified Self and body tracking. Over the next few days and weeks, watch the list of posts grow here. Over the weekend, I’m also going to be at Quantified Self Europe Conference in Amsterdam.