Stand and deliver

No school holidays for us here at Everything HQ: we're hard at work on a big site redesign and some new features to be launched at the end of the month. (For a sneak preview, send me a message and join our beta testing group.)

As I comb the site looking for ways we can improve the product, I've been pondering this very elegant quote from our Chair JP:

"Use what you stand for to attract customers; use what you do to retain them. Ensure they’re always free to go, and they will stay."

I hope our customers will always be free to go, provided we have a healthy level of competition for what we're doing. But I'd certainly like them to stay, make use of what we offer and tell their friends about us. And I can't shake the anxiety that what we 'do' at the moment doesn't back up our promises.

I'm very proud of what School of Everything stands for. The project was born from the passionate desire of a few friends to change education, and I think we've attracted people to us who share our vision and want to help us succeed. But I feel like we've set ourselves up as having the answers to some pretty big questions, when actually what we have is the willingness to work on them.

The reason I'm an entrepreneur and not an academic is that I like the sounds ideas make as they smash into reality. The highest ideals must be destroyed if they are to become real, and the best ideas are those strong enough to survive the transition into the cold light of day, undiminished. It's difficult labour. We build something, and in the course of building it we learn what we should actually have built. We release it to our users, and they teach us what School of Everything really is.

I'm proud of how we're helping teachers promote what they can offer, but I'd like to do more to help the students design their own education. I'd like us to have better ways of matching people up, more tools for starting new classes and organising events, more tools to help people talk to each other, and better services for professional teachers. I want Everything, and I want it now.

And naturally I want to know what would be useful to you, how we can help you solve your problems. But I also wonder if that's setting me up to provide even more answers? If I solve your problems for you, I make you dependent on me and we remain divided. It's only when we solve our problems together that we are free to leave, or to stay.

Traditional business is about meeting customer needs, but web 2.0 is about bringing people together to meet their own needs. We all have an idea about transforming education, but we don't know how to do it yet. We haven't got an answer for you. We can't do Everything. What we can do is raise a standard, a rallying point for everyone who wants to work on this problem. And if the problem is worth solving, I think the answers will come.

To borrow JP's format:

"Use what you stand for to rally people to the task. Find the questions we all want to answer, and let us answer them together."


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