Thursday, September 1, 2016

My last blog post

Over three years ago I launched Figment Consulting with the plan to right the virtual school ship. Since then I have had some wonderful opportunities to work with some school leaders who are truly working to build virtual schools that work -- for families.

It renewed my hope in what virtual could be, and should be.

However, over the past three years, I have also had the opportunity to expand the role of Figment and branch out beyond the confines of education. In doing so it allowed me, and us at Figment, to play in fields that produce inspiring work.

Most recently we helped launch former American Idol Terrian's music career with her debut single, 'I Am Free.' And, we continue to work with her, guiding her as she moves into her next stages beyond the launch.

Also, we have had the pleasure of working with Disney Master Artist, and celebrity artist, Kevin-John. He is an amazing talent and a wonderful personality. Currently, we are working to expand his brand in new and exciting ways that could propel him far down the path of celebrity over the next few years.

We have also had the pleasure of one-off efforts with some unique talent in a variety of fields, fields that lend themselves to producing good (not just good work, but good overall). To say it has been fun would be an understatement.

But, what to do with my passion for virtual schooling? What should I do with my desire to help schools build virtual schools that serve families -- I still recall the tens of thousands of families I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with over the years. And recently I have been able to present my message from Pennsylvania to British Columbia.

However, I thought about leaving it all behind, and I was close to doing just that. In the end, though, after months of contemplating, soul-searching, and planning, I have decided to let Figment continue to evolve down the path it is headed -- talent management, marketing consulting, sales training, SEO, design, and simply producing great, fun work. In other words, putting good in the world.

With that decision, I then turned my attention to continuing the effort to help virtual schools. In essence, I am splitting the two, separating them. Moving forward Figment will concentrate on marketing, sales, and talent management, with me continuing to lead the charge.

I will also be launching a new endeavor that will allow me to continue working to expand the message of what virtual schools need to succeed. It will continue to be based on my Virtual School Manifesto: Nine Essential Ingredients. 

It will allow me to produce material, further conduct seminars, training, and speaking engagements focused on virtual schooling, but it will be separate from Figment. Soon I will launch it under my own name, Houston Tucker.

So, while this is my last blog post at Figment, I am not leaving (Figment will be taking over this blog). I care too much about the work we are doing at Figment to let it go. However, I also care about helping virtual schools serve families the way they deserve to be served.

Thank you, readers. Over the years it has grown from my family reading my blog posts (mostly because I asked them to) to hundreds and thousands reading it daily.

Stay tuned. More to come from Figment and me.

houston@figment-consulting.com




Friday, August 26, 2016

One Little Spark: One customer's response makes all the difference to one mom

So much of what we read these days is negative, with a capital NEGATIVE. Add in a presidential race and the negativity seems to escalate.

In hopes of offering something different, I wanted to share this with you. It is a story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Aisha Sultan.

In this story, you will see how one customer's response made all the difference in the world to a mom with a high-functioning autistic child. It gives us all something to think about and my hope is it encourages each of us to proactively look for ways to bring a little spark of encouragement to someone this weekend.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Monday, August 22, 2016

92% benefit academically, according to K12

The press releases sent out by K12 look impressive: 92% of parents in Utah Virtual Academies agree they benefited academically

It is even conducted by Edge Research, so it must be impressive. I mean, 92% is an overwhelming percentage in agreement. And, we all want kids to 'benefit academically.'

Take a closer look at the survey and the results begin to unravel. Let's look at the details:

1. 92% is actually based on the number of parents who responded to the survey, and not an overall percentage of families. That means the survey was conducted as a response survey. This typically means you will receive biased results because it is not representative of the overall population but rather dependent upon the response of the participants of their own volition.

2. According to the survey, to achieve a 100% response rate, the UTVA survey should have received 1,510 responses -- that is how many parents there are in the UTVA database of families.

3. How many responded? 1,000? 800? 500? -- actually, only 142 parents responded -- that equates to a 9% response rate. You read that correctly, only 9% of the potential population base responded.

4. A more accurate assessment would be 92% of the 9% of parents who responded agreed their children benefited academically from the curriculum (130 of the 142). 91% of parents in UTVA did not respond to the survey.

5. This means the headline of the press release is, at best, inaccurate. At worst, well, I will leave that one alone.

What does this mean overall? K12 is working hard to write a story, and they hope you only read the headlines.

It's time to stop blurring the truth. It's time to spend less time on press releases, and more time on crafting a story worth writing that leads to one worth sharing.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I Am Free

'I Am Free' is the debut song of former American Idol contestant Terrian Bass. It is a beautiful song from a wonderful young lady whose story is an inspiring one.



We here at Figment were proud to be part of Team Terrian and the launch of her musical career. And while the story we have to share with her continues, the beginning of the journey was a huge success.

We invite you to visit her re-imagined website www.terrianbass.com, download her debut song for free, and become a part of her story.

Figment handled:

* Website re-imagining
* Marketing strategy and development
* Public relations
* Lyric video development
* Social media strategy
* Overall messaging strategy



At the end of the day though, her success is due to the beauty of her song, and the message it holds.

Thanks Terrian for allowing us to play a small role.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, August 15, 2016

Walk the thought

I know, it is supposed to be walk the talk.

But, we can deceive ourselves and others by saying one thing -- something that sounds so wonderful -- yet not actually doing it.

However, when it comes to walking the thought, well that is absolutely what we do each day, whether we believe it or not, like it or not.

Whatever we believe about ourselves manifests before us. Whatever stories we tell ourselves show themselves in our lives. Whatever thoughts dominate our minds display themselves in our daily walk.

If you desire to change your walk, don't start with your talk. Instead, begin with your thoughts.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How much is a piece of tape worth?

If you stop at Target, you can pick up a roll of Duct Tape for around $6-$8 plus tax.

Measure about a 6 inch length and cut it off.

Then, tape it across your mouth, and it becomes priceless.


Can you see the ordinary in extraordinary ways? If you do, you have the potential of creating something magical.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Figment Consulting looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary, bringing out fresh ideas that stick.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Can we stop putting the student in the center of it all?

After 16 years of "putting the student in the middle," "surrounding the student with excellent resources," and "making the student our number one priority," the results have demonstrated that virtual schools got it wrong.

So, let's remove the student from the center of the virtual learning universe. Let's quit surrounding the student with the latest technology and academic fads expecting them to latch onto it and thrive. And, by all means, cut the word "individualized" out of the virtual school vocabulary.

How much more data do you need before you understand the current model simply won't work.

"It works for some," will be the retort. Then, serve the some and not the many.

Better yet, radically alter the model. Redefine the possibilities. Start from scratch and build with completely different blueprints.

Where to start?

Start by placing the teacher and student relationship at the middle. Let it be your foundation to build on.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Figment Consulting offers sales & marketing training, executive coaching, and consulting services that offer our clients effective ways of increasing revenue and decreasing costs.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Art of Spin by K12

Is it $168.5 million or $2.5 million?

On Friday, July 8, 2016, the Attorney General of California issued a press release announcing a $168.5 million settlement with K12.

On the same day, K12 issued a press release announcing a $2.5 million settlement with the State of California Attorney General's office.

Two days ago (after seeing the news report, not the press releases) I penned a blog about the settlement and mentioned we will need to see how K12 spins it.

After reading their release, my head is still spinning. Now, I personally know the K12 PR head and the Government Affairs team -- they are good people, and I really feel for them. However, this is one of the best spin attempts I have seen, and I spend my time with words (marketing and sales training). I will only touch on a few points below.

K12 classified it as a $2.5-million settlement, and a $6.0 million donation to the Attorney General's office to cover the costs of the investigation. They also adamantly stated that the "settlement with the state includes no finding or admission of liability or wrongdoing by K12 or by the public, non-profit California Virtual Academies (CAVA) managed under contracts by K12."

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, in her own words, seems to see it differently from her press release, "K12 and its schools mislead parents and the State of California by claiming taxpayer dollars for questionable student attendance, misstating student success and parent satisfaction, and loading nonprofit charities with debt."

The next point comes from the first statement by K12 CEO Stuart Udell. (Nate Davis seems to have disappeared on this one). Anyway, back to Stuart's quote.

"The Attorney General's claim of $168.5 million in today's announcement is flat wrong. Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement just as it did to the issues it investigated. There is no "debt relief" to the CAVA schools. The balance budget credits essentially act as subsidies to protect CAVA schools, its students, and teachers against financial uncertainties. CAVA schools have not paid that money to K12 and K12 never expected to receive it given California's funding environment."

What I find most interesting here is the CEO's first comments attack the dollar amount and then the characterization of the debt relief, instead saying it should have been classified as subsidies.

K12 investors -- were you listening? (They are because the stock is up almost 2% today)

Let's forget that what the Attorney General said about misleading parents, misstating student success and parent satisfaction, and questionable student attendance. No, we want to make crystal clear it is not "debt relief."

The other point I want to draw attention to is Udell's last quote in the K12 release.

"Opponents of K12 and skeptics of public online education have spent years making wild, attention-grabbing charges against us and our business," said Udell. "The State of California used the full authority and investigative resources of the Office of the Attorney General to investigate these charges over eight months. In the end, we demonstrated industry leading levels of service and compliance with regulations and benefits to families. There is a reason families keep coming to our programs and its because we are committed to deliver valuable educational services within the laws and rules of every state."

I actually think he believes that statement too.

By the way, CAVA schools collectively had a graduation rate of 36% as compared to the state average of 78%. Facts are neither opponents or skeptics.

Now, I won't pick apart the use of the words "wild" and "attention-grabbing" in order to characterize any comments made by people pointing out flaws with K12 and their schools. I won't even point out the fact that the charter school association in California agreed with the Attorney General in this settlement (and last I checked they were not opponents or skeptics).

What I will point out though is the weakness behind this ending statement. Any communication expert knows you open big and end big. You open strong and end strong. You open memorable and end memorable.

And yet, this is the best they have -- ". . . we demonstrated industry leading levels of service and compliance with regulations and benefits to families. There is a reason families keep coming to our programs and its because we are committed to deliver valuable educational services within the laws and rules of every state."

Industry leading -- if the ship is sinking does it matter how beautiful the deck chairs look?

Parents keep coming to our programs --  Oh, and lest I forget to remind you where the focus seems to be. K12 held an investor conference call today to discuss the settlement.

Where is the parent conference call?


houston@figment-consulting.com


















Saturday, July 9, 2016

California settles with K12 over CAVA

False advertising. Misleading parents. Inadequate instruction.

That was the case laid out against K12 by the California attorney general's office. Today, the LA Times shared that the state had reached a settlement agreement with K12.

As part of the agreement, K12 admitted to no wrongdoing but did agree to "abide by state law" moving forward -- that is an interesting paradox in my mind, but it is what it is.

In addition, K12 paid $8.5 million to settle existing claims, and agreed to not be reimbursed by the CAVA schools by offering a "debt relief" of $160 million. Again, that is a steep amount to pay overall for doing nothing wrong.

http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-state-settles-with-cava-online-charter--20160708-snap-story.html

Let's see how this one will be spun by K12.

Not sure the normal response offered by K12 will work with this one.

It's sad.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Friday, July 8, 2016

The thing about thoughts

Are you afraid of being wrong?

Is it ever your fault, or can you find other reasons?

Can you take on a viewpoint different than your own, even if only for a little while?

Can you see the other side's point of view? Have you ever tried to understand it?

Do you ever second guess your decisions?

Are decisions difficult to make for you? Easier to let someone else make them?

Have you ever thought that making no decision is really a decision?

Are you waiting for things to get better before you do?

How easy is it for you to quit?

What does "playing it safe" mean to you?

What are the stories you tell yourself to help you make it through the day?

You see, the thing about thoughts is that they impact us far greater than we realize. The real value in this exercise is not to analyze the answers you provided to the questions, but rather to analyze the feelings and emotions that were stirred by reading the questions.

If your feelings contradicted your answers, well, that is the realm where thoughts truly are things. And that is where the real change must occur.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What #AmericasGotTalent is really about

It's not about talent.

It's not about the judges.

It's not about the Dunkin Donut product placement.

It's not about Nick Cannon.

America's Got Talent is about something deeper, more meaningful, and even inspiring.

With each contestant story you hear it repeated over and over -- whether they are age 11, or age 90, whether they are individuals or teams.

It was epitomized in tonight's episode by Daniel Joyner, a contestant from Alamo, Tennessee.

In his interview he shared that even now at age 17, he is at a decision point in his life:

Should I follow the practical route -- go to college, get a job, and make a career?

Or, should I follow my dream? Should I pursue what gets me excited?

It was also epitomized by 90-year old Dorothy Williams who gave up on her dream at age 23, and got a job in a supermarket. Yet, her dream continued to pursue her. And tonight, she became the star she always wanted to be.

Calysta Bevier reminded us too a few weeks ago what #AGT is really all about -- it is about a life-changing event that caused her to realize how short life really is, and how important it is to pursue one's dream.



You see, America's Got Talent is about one thing: people pursuing their dreams.

It's funny. We all agree life is too short. We all agree one should pursue one's dream. Yet, so many of us stop there.

What we forget though is until we pursue our dream, it will continue to pursue us.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Saturday, June 25, 2016

How to increase sales

Tell me what you want, and I can show you how to get it.

Last week I spent two days with two different clients helping them understand how to get more of what they want -- increased sales.

Both four-hour training sessions with each client delved into areas unfamiliar to them, yet guaranteed to help them increase their sales -- increasing more conversions to lead to more revenue. The tools I provided them are the same ones I used over the years to close 70%, 80%, and even 90% of sales.

You see, most people are looking in the wrong direction in order to increase sales. They want the right words to say, the newest "closing" techniques, or the latest tricks. Yet, any increase in sales related to those are temporary at best, and unsustainable.

In order to increase sales -- sustainable, long-term increase that can occur immediately -- companies have to look in a different direction.

If you want that kind of increase, you have to ask the right questions, and be laser-focused on the right target to facilitate the kind of change that can lead to true sales increases.

Shoot me an email if you are interested in the same training. I have a few openings in July but expect them to go fast.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Thursday, June 16, 2016

K12 responds to the report from the charter school advocacy group

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently released a report that calls for stronger oversight of virtual charter schools. Albeit a little weird that the charter school alliance would call out a segment of its own, it is quite telling as to what is going on.

The Alliance's main points are:

* Rethink the ways in which virtual charter schools are governed

* Move quickly to close virtual charter schools that perform poorly

* Remove virtual charter schools from the charter designation

K12, the leader in virtual schools, issued a response to the report. (I imagine Connections will also respond soon)

Their main points are:

* The report issued was not collaborative because virtual charter schools were not consulted

* The report relied on analysis of old data and did not account for recent data

* Most troubling was the report's call for "criteria for admission" essentially removing the ability for the parents to decide on enrollment

* The recommendations from the report to improve virtual charter schools should be applied to all charter schools

We have now entered a very strange season where the charter school movement is trying to distance itself from one of its subsets -- virtual charter schools.

While I have written extensively on the problems and potential solutions associated with mainly K12-managed virtual schools, I do happen to agree with a few points made by K12 in their response:

1. "Criteria admission" would essentially negate the whole idea of school choice associated with virtual schools While I do believe virtual schools should do a much better job of helping families make the best decision for them (being more authentic about the workload, responsibilities, daily requirements, etc.), at the end of the day, it is up to the parent to decide if they are willing to commit to it or not. In reality, it is parent choice, not school choice, meaning the parents choose.

2. The K12 curriculum for grades K - 8 is, in my opinion and experience, one of the best out there. Granted, it has not helped much within the virtual charter school arena in terms of academic achievement and test scores it still remains a gold standard in terms of quality across the board. I happen to believe the academic issues associated with the virtual charter schools have less to do with the curriculum and more to do with the time commitment, workload investment, etc.

At the same time, I do agree with the idea behind the report that BOLD steps must be taken in order to right the virtual charter school ship. Actually, I say burn this ship, and let's build a different one entirely - but that's for another blog post.

The fact of the matter is, everyone agrees that virtual learning works for only some. Those it works for are willing to put in the hard work, and are self-motivated with a strong family unit for support.

However, those who tend to enroll in virtual schools are enrolling to get away from something. They are not enrolling in order to get to something.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Make each day a masterpiece?

Do you know how tough it is to design a masterpiece? And, do you realize it is the people who buy your work that decide whether or not it is a masterpiece, not you?

So, why should we strive to make each day a masterpiece? It is a pain-staking process, wrought with blood, sweat, and tears. Then, we put it on display hoping others will approve, much less buy it.

I say, instead of a masterpiece, let's allow each day to be an abstract, and let's simply create something fresh. What if we strove to simply add some color to the day, some texture, some lines rather than spend our time trying to produce some masterpiece?

It's not settling. Nor is it taking the easy way out. It is simply redirecting our expectations and allowing our day to be an abstract one where we spend our time cultivating joy, not tears.

One little spark of inspiration: Make each day messy.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, June 13, 2016

There's still good in the world

Every purchase creates a kinder world.
Years ago I sat in the office of my Spanish professor at college, and we were discussing a trip I had taken to Israel on my own a few years earlier.

I mentioned to her that my trip came just a week after the TWA flight 847 from Athens to Rome was hijacked by Shiite Hezbollah terrorists who were looking for "Jewish-sounding names."

My flight to Israel was transferring through Rome so it certainly caught my eye back then. In relaying this story to my professor, what I remember most is her response.

"I have always believed that as long as stories such as hijackings are on the front page of the newspaper then the world is still good. It's when those stories move to the back page, that's when we are in trouble."

Fast-forward a few decades and we have a tragedy such as the one yesterday in Orlando. While not minimizing the horrific act of terror this was, nor the level of tragedy and effect it will have on survivors, family members, relatives, and others, what I do know is that it is still front page news.

We see stories like this on a more regular basis -- perhaps it is the 24-hour news cycle where the top five stories are repeated throughout the day and that drives the negative into our subconscious, or perhaps it is the impact of social media where stupid people now have a platform to share their hate and put their stupidity on full display. Or, perhaps it is a combination of both and it is a perpetuating cycle that simply becomes a circular argument.

Whatever the reasons, I offer that these stories are still front page news. And, I would offer that the words of my professor over thirty years ago still ring true, "the world is still good."

Sometimes it just doesn't feel that way.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Friday, June 10, 2016

North Carolina virtual schools

In October of 2014 I penned the following blog post: North Carolina stands on the virtual school precipice

At the time the state had approved two virtual charter schools -- one from Connections, and one from K12. In the post I suggested the following would happen within one year of their opening:

1. Attrition rates (withdrawal, dropout) would be high

2. Academic results would be below standards

3. The North Carolina Dept of Education would be seeking ways to improve the two schools

Today is June 10, 2016, and the schools are finishing their first year:

1. Withdrawals in North Carolina virtual charter schools continue to soar

2. NC House loosening state regulations -- it appears there is an effort to loosen regulations that count withdrawals, teacher location, number of students teachers can serve, etc. While it is difficult to ascertain what the NCDOE is doing behind the scenes, the legislators appear to be already working to assist the schools by easing the accountability.

As far as academics, the jury is still out. Results for this year are not in yet for public schools.

One little spark of inspiration: To achieve a vastly different output, you must alter the input.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Clinton v Trump 2016

In the year 2000 approximately 46% of Americans did not vote for either Gore or Bush. They didn't show up.

In 2004, approximately 40% of Americans did not vote for either Bush or Kerry. They didn't show up.

In 2008, approximately 38% of Americans did not vote for either Obama or McCain. They didn't show up.

In 2012, approximately 43% of Americans did not vote for either Obama or Romney. They didn't show up.

That means in each election more Americans voted for NO candidate by not showing up at all. The winner of each election received less votes than the NO candidate voted on by those who did not participate (or not voted on).

Just over half of Americans are making decisions for all Americans by casting a vote.

One little spark of inspiration: Cast your vote this November.

houston@figment-consulting.com





Saturday, June 4, 2016

Be you

There is no other you like you.

And no one can be just like you.

In fact, no one can be as good of a you as you.

So, why be someone else when what we need is you.

Let them be them and you be you.

The world would be less of a place if you were someone else.

So, be you.

Be all of you.

Be only you.

Be you and we will all be better for it.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Thursday, June 2, 2016

The why of your life

"The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why."

Mark Twain


What's fascinating to me is that finding out why is not a search we undertake. Instead it is a decision we can make.

By deciding who you want to be, and what you want in life, you can determine the why of your life.

Think about it.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, May 30, 2016

Tesla's Gigafactory

Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors of all time. So, a company with his name attached should be one that thinks differently, expands imagination, and stretches our ideas.


Elon Musk is building toward an electric future, and this factory in Nevada is testament to that.

Learn more about this fascinating spark of imagination (actually a gigaspark): https://www.teslamotors.com/gigafactory

houston@figment-consulting.com

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Futuristic Chinese bus concept


The Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) rides high allowing the cars to pass underneath, or it to pass over the cars.

How would you feel seeing one of these in NYC or Chicago?


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Candace Payne and the simple joy of Chewbacca

Seven days ago just a handful of people knew Candace Payne. And then, one little spark of inspiration led her to post a video of herself trying on a Chewbacca mask on her Facebook account.

The 4-minute clip was filled with her laughing her way through the opening and demonstration of the mask. It was, and still is, hilarious.

Within the first hour or so she had reached 1,000 views. By the time she went to bed that evening, it was up to 1 million. Wake up the next morning and the views topped 20 million.

As of this writing the viewership is well in the hundred million views. And now, she has been on Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, and The Late Show with James Corden (where she even did a skit with J.J. Abrams). The latest is the original Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, reached out to her to invite her family to be his guests at an upcoming Star Wars fest in Dallas.


As she described it at the end of her original video, it is the "simple joys" in life. Candace's one little spark of inspiration has led to hundreds of millions of people around the world taking time to laugh. There's no hidden message behind it, no ulterior motive, no marketing ploy. It was quite simply a window into her moment of pure joy -- and we all get to celebrate it with her, over and over again.

Laughter -- we need more of it.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Agora Cyber, ECOT, and thoughts on virtual schools

Two stories came out this week, one from Pennsylvania and one from Ohio related to virtual schooling (cyber schooling in PA).

In Pennsylvania, Agora is in trouble with the PA Dept of Education over accurate data.

In Ohio, ECOT is being questioned by the the Dept. of Ed in Ohio about recording of attendance (which equals funding).

Recently, K12 in their quarterly report announcement bragged about a 289 basis point increase in retention rates. It is unusual because it is an investment term and they are, in essence, describing students in terms of investments. One basis point is the equivalent of 1/100th of a percentage, meaning 289 basis points equals 2.89% increase. I guess 289 sounds better and larger than 2.89%. Now, if they are serving over 100,000 students, 289 (or 2.89%) is a decent increase until one remembers how many students are leaving annually (estimated around 35%, or 3500 basis points, to 50%, or 5,000 basis points). That creates a different perspective doesn't it.

I also did a search (multiple searches really) in an effort to try and find success stories related to virtual schooling (other than those put out by the schools themselves). Interestingly, I could not find one.

Where are the success stories?

I'm keeping the faith in virtual schooling but the light is dimming.

Perhaps now we can quit trying to rearrange the deck chairs and create a radically different model.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why you will fail



Larry Smith pulls no punches in this evocative TED Talk.

Where are you on the excuse spectrum? Are you pursuing your passion in life no matter what others might say? Or, are you using one of the excuses he talks about to keep you from sharing your best self with us?

I know which one is mine. Which excuse is yours? And, when will we stop using them?


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Turning the corner

Sometimes turning the corner is merely a precursor to going around in circles (or squares).

Sometimes turning the corner is merely to hide from what is behind you.

Sometimes turning the corner is the result of going the wrong way.

Sometimes turning the corner is exactly what you intended to do. In this instance before you make any turns, you must decide you will turn, and determine where you want to go once you make the turn.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It's only mountains

We all know how to "make a mountain out of a mole hill."

But, do we know how to make a molehill out of a mountain?

Whether a mountain or a molehill you can still simply go around.

You can also go over either one.

And remember, the view from the mountain is more breathtaking than the one from the molehill.

We can help you navigate the path and enjoy the journey.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

683% CTR increase YOY

My team took over the digital spend for a client recently. After a digital analysis and audit, we initiated some immediate changes to their SEM. Already seeing a 683% increase in CTR compared to the same time frame last year (April).

* 223% lead conversion increase
* 264% increase in lead volume
* 74% decrease in CPL

Today, we launched an updated lead capture landing page that we hope will increase lead conversions even more. Will keep you updated.

The new web site design will be ready to launch within the next two weeks that should increase lead generation too.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Thursday, April 21, 2016

7 lessons learned from leading a Sweepstakes campaign

A few years ago I had the opportunity to bring together K12, Inc., Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (specifically working with Disney Youth Programs) for a Giveaway campaign that I titled Rhythm of Conservation.

With Earth Day arriving tomorrow I thought it might be helpful to share some insights I had in leading a national giveaway campaign that was inspired by Earth Day and World Oceans Day.

The ultimate goal: Leads for K12 virtual schools in 32 states across the country

Below are 7 lessons or takeaways from my experience that I hope can be of help to you if you are considering a sweepstakes/giveaway or find yourself launching one right now.

Find a professional firm to handle the legal side

I worked with Ventura Associates (www.sweepspros.com) to help me take care of the legalities and ensure that everything we did was in line with standards and laws. There are other firms out there who do the same thing as Ventura but I would definitely recommend them for your consideration.

Whoever you select, having a firm like Ventura at your side is reassuring and well worth the investment. Trying to navigate each and every state law associated with sweepstakes or giveaways would be maddening. I simply turned this part over to them and allowed them to do what they do best, and they did.

Think inside the box

Creatively we all like to "think outside the box" but I quickly realized how many parameters were in place when it comes to sweepstakes/giveaways. Many of my initial desires had to be refined to fit within the legal fence. At first this felt restricting until I happened to mention to my team in a meeting that it "felt like we were being boxed in so we just have to think inside the box this time."

By accepting this the creativity began to flow, and Rhythm of Conservation was born. Sometimes the fence around us can actually force us to be more creative. My friend Michael Milchalko, in his book Thinkertoys, describes this as Brute Force. The legal parameters, or box, forced me to be creative in a completely new way.

So, don't fight the structure and legal associated with sweepstakes/giveaways, embrace them instead and see how it drives your creativity.

Make the Grand Prize grand

My desire from the beginning was to bring Disney into the fold for this campaign. Simply having their name attached to the campaign brought further credibility, awareness, and entries. While we had secondary prizes to entice more entries (one Grand Prize most often means less entries), I wanted a Grand Prize that fit the motif of the campaign at Walt Disney World.

A 4-day/3-night stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge with Savannah View fit the Grand Prize naturally
and nicely. It was also Grand enough to warrant a strong giveaway enticement. Making the award for a family of four with two Disney Youth Education passes helped diminish unqualified entries (to a certain degree). Also, part of the prize was a 4-day Park Hopper pass for each individual. Disney's Animal Kingdom is an AZA-accredited member so that was an added bonus.

It also fit my goal of having each component of the giveaway synchronize with the theme of conservation.

One note here -- when working with Disney, when the lawyers become involved build in time for delays. My good friends at Disney Youth Programs helped me maneuver through this web in a timely fashion and ensure we maintained Disney standards, but there were times of concern along the way.

Partnerships must be real partnerships

I mentioned earlier that the campaign brought together K12, Inc., AZA, and Disney Youth Programs. It was important to me that, although the prime goal was leads for K12, that each participant would benefit from this campaign.

AZA was able to gain commitments from over 110 zoos and aquariums across the 32 states, and Disney Youth was instrumental in helping me secure Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge as the grand prize (4 days / 3 nights).

AZA members were tasked with promoting the Rhythm campaign across their social channels before and during the 75-day campaign. In addition, they placed signage within their parks promoting the campaign to drive people to their zoos and aquariums.

My goal was to drive people to our online entry form and drive them to the participating zoos and aquariums on Earth Day and World Oceans Day. I did this by having the signage mentioned above carry a text entry option that was the equivalent of 5 additional entries.

As we collected entries, Disney Youth Programs had the opportunity to promote their educational programs to the collected leads. And, we each did cross-promotion on social media to promote the campaign.

One final area, and one I was most excited about, was the way in which the essence of the campaign was shared. It was after all, Rhythm of Conservation, and promoting conservation efforts was of prime importance to me. So, we continually promoted member zoos and aquarium conservation efforts on our social pages. And, I worked with AZA to develop a conservation initiative tied to the entry form page.

When a person arrived at the entry page, they could enter of course. Also, while they were there they would also be introduced each day to a new animal that AZA had selected to showcase. Each animal was an endangered one. A family could see a photo of the animal, learn about it briefly, and learn about ongoing conservation efforts for each animal. This was a wonderful addition because a person could enter once each day which meant a great return base of families. Our tracking of the landing page showed that people spent
an average of 2+ minutes on the page whereas it would have only taken seconds to fill in the form. This meant they spent time on the page learning about the endangered animals, using the K12 lessons, and simply reading the content.

In addition, K12 had some interactive portions of their science lessons on the landing page that allowed families to learn more about conservation, animal science, biology, and earth science.

The overall result of Rhythm of Conservation was 12,000+ unique, qualified leads at a cost of $10 per lead.

The zoo and aquarium social media posts, on-site signage advertising, and the extra effort each one did for the campaign was the equivalent of over $3 million in advertising for the campaign. Not bad on a $120,00 budget.

Example:

http://www.houstonzoo.org/rhythm-of-conservation/

https://www.facebook.com/memphiszoo/posts/411826888827470

https://www.aza.org/PressRoom/detail.aspx?id=25295

Consider entry form first before creative concept

One of the issues I ran into early on was the entry form itself. K12, Inc. served students in grades K - 12 and this meant I was aiming for a targeted group. Singles, families without kids, and the empty nesters were not a target, however, they would see the campaign, and could enter if they so desired.

Also, you have the professional sweepstakers as I called them. These are people who have web sites and social sites dedicated to all the sweepstakes and giveaways available. Then, add to it the Disney connection and it had the potential to be a lot of unqualified leads.

I had estimated a 12%-15% throwaway based on research and opinion but felt it was worth the effort if I could achieve a per lead cost of less than $20.

This relates to the entry form because this was my one area to limit the unqualified entries. How could I design the entry form in order to better target the families with children?

The reason I say start with the entry form before the creative is it falls into the legal side of the equation. Once you have the structure in place (legal) and the entry form (in terms of function and selection), then you can turn your attention to the creative and strategy in a more orderly fashion. I felt the entry form delayed and hindered the creative and wished I had started there first -- get it out of the way, then have fun with the rest of it.

By the way, the unqualified leads came in at 16% so it was slightly above my estimation but still acceptable.

Internal communication is critical

One area I fell short on was internally, connecting it across the country to the K12 schools and marketing representatives. Looking back I had a plan for the internal side of the campaign -- communication and follow up -- but fell short on the execution stage. This is a part I would pay more attention to if I had a do-over.

Lead-up communication, buy-in, and communication throughout your campaign to all of your fellow employees is critical. Spend as much time on it as you do on the external.

Make it all fit together

I chose the theme Rhythm of Conservation and went all out with the alignment of assets to fit this theme.

1. Assets had a New Orleans and Mardi Gras look and feel to them to bring in the rhythm section.

2. As mentioned previously we focused heavily on the conservation education on the landing page. We also did this with our Rhythm Facebook posts, continually linking to participating zoos and aquariums and sharing their conservation efforts with our new Facebook fans.

3. The Grand Prize tied into the conservation theme as I shared above.

4. Even secondary prizes connected with the conservation theme. The NOOK had pre-loaded conservation apps.

5. Our messaging and content carried the jazzy vibe of New Orleans

In the end, I tried to build a cohesive campaign where all the pieces fit together and made sense. I would encourage you to do the same -- when you develop your theme, consider all aspects of the campaign and how they either naturally fit the theme (Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge), or how can you make them fit the theme (pre-loaded science apps on the NOOK)?

Hope this is of help to you. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments, and reach out if you have any specific questions.

houston@figment-consulting.com

FIGMENT Consulting
Data driven. Imagination crafted.

























Monday, April 18, 2016

How a 40-year old marketing campaign helped us

Our client, Provost Academy, was struggling to separate themselves from the competition when they came to us for assistance -- and it was already late in the recruiting season for virtual schools (June). So, we had to move quickly yet efficiently to re-imagine their strategy, and develop assets to implement the campaign to help them achieve their goals.

Before we dove into landing page development, SEO/SEM campaigns, and overall strategic marketing development, we had to figure out how to position them in the market that would separate them from other virtual schools.

Virtual schools (e-schools, cyber schools) tend to all look alike with one of the key issues being socialization (or lack thereof). Provost, on the other hand, wanted to build a school that was bridged the divide between online and together. They desired to bring students together on a regular basis, and move beyond the typical field trips and online clubs in order to allow their students opportunities to connect.

Now, how to convey that story? We found the solution to that question in a campaign that was over 40-years old. In fact, it's story was similar to ours. One of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time was the 7-UP campaign that turned it into the UnCola. It was so successful because it positioned 7-UP as the anti-Coke and anti-Pepsi, who were both vying for market share. So, instead of competing directly with them and trying to look like them, 7-UP became the UnCola.


Could we do the same with Provost? Thanks to 7-UP we did. Provost Academy became the UnVirtual Online School. In doing so it caught the attention of parents and students seeking an alternative to the current type of virtual school, and our results exceeded even our expectations.

The landing page we designed for them saw a 65% increase in lead capture the first month alone, and we outperformed previous the previous year by over 200% in lead generation.

In South Carolina they raised the enrollment goals in mid-stream due to the increase in leads and enrollment, and we still met them by the end of October.

In Colorado they had their first wait list of students in the history of the school.

In Ohio where enrollment growth in charter schools and e-schools was a meek .5% for the year, Provost achieved double-digit growth.

They say the best idea is a borrowed idea. If you are stuck today and seeking inspiration for your marketing campaign sometimes looking back over 40 years can lead to something new today.

If we can be of help to you with marketing strategies, web site/landing page design, and/or SEO/SEM campaigns, don't hesitate to contact us today.

houston@figment-consulting.com

FIGMENT Consulting
Data driven. Imagination crafted.




Thursday, April 14, 2016

The solution is . . .

. . . dependent upon the question being asked.

We spend countless hours searching for solutions. We waste hours upon hours in meetings discussing possible solutions.

We fire and hire based on finding solutions.

Anyone stop to make sure we are asking the right question?

Why are our sales declining? Why are customers leaving us? What can we do to increase sales? What can we do to attract new customers?

All are centered around the same problem yet each is a distinctly different question that will provide different solutions. The real problem is which question is best asked so we can find the proper solution?

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, April 4, 2016

You can

If you believe you can then you can

If you believe you cannot then you cannot

It all begins with you, not in what you do, but in how you do it.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, March 21, 2016

Think Tiny. Dream Big. Live Free.

Yesterday a group of us launched Alaska Tiny Homes, asking people to Think. Dream. Live.

Hiding in plain sight within the tiny home movement is the concept of freedom. Freedom toward something or freedom from something. Either way, freedom is at the core.

Freedom to move.

Freedom to explore.

Freedom to be on your own terms.

Freedom from debt.

Freedom from commitments and obligations.

Freedom . . . freedom . . . freedom.

As we move forward we endeavor to bring the stories of our clients (those who want to share) to our followers. Every person has a wonderful story to share -- filled with inspiration, encouragement, redemption, growth, setbacks, perseverance, and awe. We want to share those with you.

Visit us at Alaska Tiny Homes to take your first step toward freedom.

www.alaskatiny.com

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Alaska Tiny Homes (www.alaskatiny.com)

What does freedom look like for you? How would you define it?

For thousands of people, big freedom can now be found in tiny places -- like tiny homes.

The Tiny Home movement is growing. And, then there is Alaska. Known as The Last Frontier, there is an aura and allure to this state that is growing too. All you have to do is turn on Travel Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery, or any other station and see all things Alaska.

So, what could be better than combining the great State of Alaska and tiny homes -- enter Alaska Tiny Homes.

Alaska Tiny Homes (www.alaskatiny.com) is a collaboration between five people who believe in the freedom that comes with tiny, and desire to share the beauty of Alaska with others.

Our team is in the process of designing models to select from with the first three being the Yukon Model, Denali Model, and Kodiak Model -- each having their own style, flavor and feel.

However, we can also custom-build the type of tiny home you want and desire, and add a touch of Alaska for you -- whether you are building in Alaska, or the Lower 48.

One area we are extremely excited about is we are building partnerships with local Alaskans, Native Alaskans, and others who fall under the state's Made In Alaska protocol, and bringing their craftsmanship to our tiny homes. Our desire is to share these artisans and experts, along with their art to other Alaskans and those in the Lower 48.

We are excited to launch this new company, and invite you to explore Alaska Tiny Homes at www.alaskatiny.com.

And, if you know of someone interested in wanting to build a tiny home, do let us know.

Thank you.

www.alaskatiny.com

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ten things homeschoolers want virtual schools to know

1. Virtual schooling is not homeschooling though both are done primarily in the home, so don't tell us it is.

2. True flexibility is found in homeschooling, so find another word when we talk

3. Individualized learning, real individualized learning, is what homeschooling is all about

4. There are close to 2 million of us homeschoolers and no we don't all think alike

5. The small, yet sometimes loud minority of those homeschoolers who speak up don't speak for all of us

6. Don't talk to us about the free tuition because we know there is a cost

7. Freedom matters a great deal to us, and we won't give it up easily, even for something free

8. There are close to 2 million different reasons why us homeschoolers have chosen to homeschool

9. We are real people at the end of your data point, don't forget that

10. When we say "no" to your virtual school, what we are really saying is we don't trust what you are telling us

houston@figment-consulting.com

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What Bernie Sanders taught us

By all accounts the campaign of Bernie Sanders is effectively over after Tuesday's results. He may stay in the race, and he may even win some additional states. His path toward nomination though, is just not there.

However, Bernie taught us quite a lot though during his campaign. If you look at his results, almost 80% of those under age 30 supported Bernie. This is quite amazing because Bernie is not an eloquent speaker (he evidently has not read How to Talk Like TED), nor does he remind anyone of JFK when he first appeared on television during his run to the Presidency.

And yet, millions of people felt the Bern, as they say. What was it about him?

I would say it had less to do with him than it did with what he had to say. More importantly, it was what his headlines said -- Free college and free healthcare. (I know he meant free public college tuition but it transformed into free college). Sure there was an insurgency factor, and even an anti-Hillary factor. But, Free is enticing. Free resonates. Free catches attention.

We live in a headline and sound-bite society where very few people read past the headlines and fail to research beyond the sound bites for context and clarity.

For Bernie though, his problem became the fact that he wasn't selling a quick purchase, meaning people could not buy his product immediately. So, over time, the narrative moved toward the content of what he had to offer and away from the free. It became more about the cost of his proposals and the inability to sustain them. In short, content started to matter because it was a long purchase cycle.

He still has followers, and those who would still purchase what he has to offer. It is easy to buy something free. However, more people began to understand the consequences of free.

Reminds me of the virtual schools who hang their hats on tuition-free as the hook, the headline, the sound bite. Now that time has passed for each of them, it has become apparent what the actual costs of that tuition-free looks like.

houston@figment-consulting.com




Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Consulting a la carte

Are you struggling to attract new leads?

Are you wasting money on ineffective advertising?

Is your message not resonating with prospects?

Is your executive team not aligned with the core mission?

Is your marketing plan proving ineffective and inefficient, and your costs are rising?

Need help positioning your company or product effectively?

Do you simply need new ideas?

Want to know how to stand out from the competition?

Recently I have spent time on Google Hangout consulting with clients helping each one find a solution for each of the questions posed above. They didn't have the financing in place to hire a consultant full time, or they were in go-to-market mode and simply needed a one-time consultation to better align their plan with their values. So, they reached out to me and asked if we could consult with them on an hourly basis rather than full-time program.

It has proven successful for our clients over these past few months, and we are now rolling it out a little more formally as Consulting a la carte.

We work together over a Google Hangout to minimize any and all expenses, and spend the amount of time you determine you need to achieve your objective. You walk away with ideas, plans, and solutions you can measure to see the impact. You only return if you need us again. No strings attached.

Visit our web site at www.figment-consulting.com to see all of our services, and to learn more about our Google Hangout Consulting a la carte.

Or, go ahead and email me at houston@figment-consulting.com and we can arrange a time for you from the comforts of where you are.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Crafting a Virtual School Marketing Plan Webinar (Updated)

THIS EVENT IS NOW FULL. Email me if you want to attend a future webinar on this topic at houston@figment-consulting.com.

Yesterday I shared details on my upcoming 90-minute webinar Crafting a Virtual School Marketing Plan, and the initial response has been better than I anticipated.

There are still a few spaces remaining though for the webinar. So, if you want to register, simply go to my web site Figment-Consulting.com and fill in the information. The event is scheduled for Monday, March 28, at 11:00 a.m. ET. A link will be provided to all registrants prior to the event.

During the webinar we will cover a variety of topics, strategies, and messaging to help virtual schools create a more effective and efficient plan to reach better-fit students, capture more of them, and retain them.

We will cover topics such as:

Positioning -- how do you differentiate yourself from other virtual schools?

Price -- if it is tuition-free why is price so important?

Public relations -- how do you get your message out in a toxic environment toward virtual schools?

Place -- what does it feel like to be with you? When people visit your web site, your event, your office, what does that do to them and for them?

Other topics will carry us down the path toward a cohesive approach to marketing that is applicable in whichever state you operate in.

So, I invite you to join me for this webinar. It is guaranteed to generate a great ROI for you.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, March 14, 2016

3 Takes on Being Successful

Take responsibility

It is a natural instinct to blame others, look for the problem outside of ourselves, and point fingers elsewhere. It is also more natural, more comfortable, for us to allow someone else take responsibility -- what if something goes wrong? what if it doesn't succeed? Then, it is someone else's fault, not mine.

However, we must be willing to raise our hands and take responsibility for our own lives if we want to succeed.

Want success? Take responsibility.

Take ownership

This is slightly different than responsibility. Responsibility is raising your hand and saying, "It's mine." Taking ownership is determining that you are going to not only raise your hand, but also be committed to the process and the outcomes.

Responsibility means it is you. Ownership means it is yours. Taken together and you are on your way to success.

Take thought

You probably thought I would say take action here didn't you? Too many times we place action a little higher on the hierarchy than we should. So, before you take action, take thought. In other words, take time to decide: what do you want, why do you want it, in what ways can you attain it, who's help do you need, how will it benefit others, what is the story you want to share, who wants to hear it, where are they who might want to hear what you have to say.

Thought must precede action in order that the action be the most efficient kind.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What others may say

There will always be those who find fault with what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and they will tell you how they would do it.

And that's the point. They aren't doing it.

If they aren't doing it, then what they say should not impact what you do.

Follow your dreams, stick with your plan, go after what you desire most, no matter what others may say.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Friday, March 11, 2016

Waste is a terrible thing to mind

We mind waste when we have students taking test after test after test with no regard to what it means for them.

We mind waste when we spend all of our time prepping for these tests instead of fostering a learning passion that goes beyond memorization and test-taking skills.

We mind waste when we bypass what the child wants to learn so we can make sure they understand what we think they should know.

We mind waste when we treat each student the same.

We mind waste when we treat certain students differently than others.

We mind waste when we measure the wrong results.

We mind waste when we continue to tweak instead of re-imagine.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Thursday, March 10, 2016

When they go behind your back, what do you do?

You work diligently on a proposal for a new client in order to introduce them to a new market. Your research demonstrates what they can expect in returns, where they should go, even offering what they should say, and then you submit it.

You wait. Then, after a few weeks the response comes that "they can't afford you."

Fast forward a few weeks, and then you begin to see them put your plan into action.

What do you do?

You give. You give with gratitude.

You understand that you reap what you sow. And, by giving graciously with gratitude, you will reap rewards beyond measure.

This was my recommendation to a client of mine who faced this, and she has seen those rewards come far beyond what she believed possible. They didn't come from the potential client, however, they did come from the two other new clients she obtained by having the time to serve them.

In life we can either seek to take or we can search for ways to give. Choose give.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Keep moving forward

It worked for Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Margaret Knight, Henry Ford, Melitta Bentz, Steve Jobs, Stephanie Kwolek, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, and countless others.

A simple yet profound principle called Keep Moving Forward, or perhaps you may know it as Persistence.

Whatever it is you are working on today, no matter the outcome, keep moving forward.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Taking the easy road

I am not sure easy should be the determining factor in decision-making.

Instead of taking the easy road, or the easy way out, take the road you desire to take toward the destination you want.

Focus on what you want, and know the path toward it will sometimes be easy, sometimes not. No matter. Enjoy both as you keep moving forward toward your want.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, March 7, 2016

Staying positive when life feels negative

It goes much deeper than simply staying positive actually. Looking for the good, keeping thoughts positive, hoping for the best, will only get you so far.

There is a mental state that guides our thinking. And, either we allow circumstances and environment to determine how we think, or we ourselves decide what we will think.

Thoughts are continual. And, we can never not think. What we can do though is take time to think about what we think about, and determine to think differently.

We can discipline ourselves to focus on the truth of who we are, and what we can accomplish. By doing this, we begin to have a ruling mental state that is focused on what we want rather than what is, and what others say about us.

The only real limitations are the ones we place on ourselves. And, those limitations begin with thoughts.

Think deeper than positive.

houston@figment-consulting.com


Sunday, March 6, 2016

What do you do with an idea?

You can run to it, or run away from it.

You can improve it, or dismiss it.

You can deny it, delay it, or try to deter it.

Or, you can allow it, grow it, and try to increase it.

You can fear it, or enjoy it.

You can hide it, or share it.

You can tear it down, or build it up.

What do you do with an idea?

It's really up to you. Remember though, another one is on its way. What will you do with it?

houston@figment-consulting.com

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Are you clear on what you want?

If you are not clear on what you want, how will you attain it?

If you are not clear on what you want, how will you know what to do today?

If you are not clear on what you want, what do you think you will get?

houston@figment-consulting.com

Friday, March 4, 2016

Are you selling or are they buying?

If you concentrate your time and energy on selling features and benefits, you are missing the point. Features and benefits meet the needs of your customers, but what they want to buy are not needs, they want to buy . . . Wants (and the emotions that come with them).

Spend your time on selling and you will miss the buying going on around you. Spend your time on buying, and your sales will increase.

Help people buy what they Want, and you will sell them what they Need.

houston@figment-consulting.com




Thursday, March 3, 2016

#ExpeditionUnknown and education

Archaeologist and television personality Josh Gates hosts a weekly show on Travel Channel called Expedition Unknown.

His quest in each episode is to search for the truth to ancient legends, myths, and stories. Last night's episode is on the mythical dwelling of Shangri-La in Nepal. Other episodes have had Josh searching for Japan's Atlantis, Africa's Gold Hoard, the Viking Sunstone, Amelia Earhart, King Arthur, Blackbeard's Treasure, and other fascinating stories waiting to be discovered.

What struck me last night though was not the episode but rather the title of the series -- Expedition Unknown. The title carries with it the feeling of discovery, enlightenment, and exploration -- in essence, learning.

And then we have our education system where we pursue Expedition Known -- or, probably more accurately, Expedition What We Think Kids Should Know.

I wonder what learning would be like in virtual schools and classrooms across the country if we pursued a course more akin to Josh Gates' pursuit of Expedition Unknown?

What if we focused more on the journey, the discovery, the experience, the exploration? What if we focused less on testing knowledge retention and more on simply discovering.

After all, isn't learning inherent in an Expedition Unknown.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

It can't be done.

Can't is a contraction of cannot.

So, at some point in time, and according to dictionary.reference.com it was around 1706 someone decided they could no longer write cannot. Instead, they shortened it to can't. For the sake of saving two letters except you have to add the apostrophe, you can now write can't -- which saves approximately .2 seconds of your time.

Cannot on the other hand can also be spelled can not.

Three different ways to express your inability to do something.

Oh wait, there is a fourth and probably more accurate rendering of these three words: won't.

So many times we say can't, or cannot, or can not, when in reality we mean won't. It's not that we can't do it, we just do want to put in the effort to try it. Or, we are afraid we might falter the first few times. Or, perhaps we just want to find an easier way or have someone do it for us.

When you desire to do something and that desire is strong enough, it's funny how can't evaporates from our thoughts.

Just something to think about, if you want to.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Virtual school recruiting season is upon us

Promises are now being made to thousands of families across the country.

"Move at your own pace" -- Wait, I can take a month to understand this concept? "Well, not exactly your own pace."

"It's flexible" -- Wonderful, I can take the month of December off. "Well, we're not that flexible."

"It's individualized" -- Great, so I can select the courses I want to take. "Not really, you still have to take 4 math, 4 language arts, 2 science, 2 history and obtain 24 credits to graduate."

"95% of our families would recommend us to another family" -- Wonderful, can I speak to one of them? "Yes, however, only 35% of those families are returning this year so we can find you one of those."

"We are tuition-free" -- Great, I like free. Sign me up. "Fantastic, it helps with my commission."

"If you are being bullied, gifted, struggling, homebound, homeschooled, military, college-and-career minded, we can help you" -- So that's all it takes to be successful? "Well, not really, but that's all it takes to enroll."

We can do better than this.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leaping

Today is a nice reminder that there is value found in leaping.

We tend to look for solutions by tweaking, adjusting a little, varying inputs or outputs, when perhaps we should be looking to leap.

At a minimum, leap with your thoughts. Instead of finding an answer to today's pressing problem, search for solutions to the greater issue -- leap.

Leap bigger. Broaden your thoughts, expand your ideas, and think beyond. Leap.

Happy Leap Day! Practice it today.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Saturday, February 27, 2016

It's urgent


They call it the tyranny of the urgent and it is what most virtual schools spend their time focused on.

What would it look like if you spent your day on building remarkable rather than the problem brought to you classified as urgent?

Simply because someone says "urgent" doesn't mean it requires immediate attention. And, urgent may take you away from important.

Important matters for the long run.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Friday, February 26, 2016

What virtual schools can learn from start-ups

David S. Rose
David S. Rose is the founder and CEO of Gust, a platform that connects start-up founders to investors. So far almost $2 billion has been invested in companies through this platform.

David's upcoming book The Startup Checklist: 25 Steps to Found and Scale a High-Growth Business is primarily for those seeking to launch a start-up company. However, much of what he has to say can also apply to the world of virtual schooling.

Too many times virtual schools look to others within their industry for best practices, or ideas on how to improve when real innovation can occur by adapting ideas from outside the world of education.

David shares 25 steps based on his years of success, failings, and experience learned. Surely, there is at least one step that can help improve a virtual school.

Real innovation can occur by seeking answers outside the education box.

Read books such as David's to grow, learn, and find alternative ways to adapt

Attend conferences that have nothing to do with education but everything to do with tech innovation

Spend time with entrepreneurs and less time with educators

houston@figment-consulting.com

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Failing and failure

One happens quite often in the pursuit of remarkable.

The other happens when you give up -- not on a project but on yourself.

Don't confuse the two and don't let the one interfere with the other that is part of the learning process.

Failing is an action. Failure is a decision.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Every one has a story to tell . . .

On location of Storybrooke, ME from Once Upon a Time
I am a fan of data analytic yet I grow concerned that we rely too much on it. Not because it cannot tell us important information, drive decision making, and increase efficiency through pattern recognition. Rather, my concern is centered around the fact we tend to forget at the end of every data point is a person, a family, or an individual.

And, with that person comes a story, their story. Their very own, individual story. A story they want to share.

Big data has great potential to serve us in the world of buyer behavior. Don't forget though that sometimes an individual story is necessary to be heard in order to better understand the customer we so want to serve.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Monday, February 22, 2016

Haystack Rock in Oregon & the original Starbucks

Yesterday my wife and I spent the day driving from Vancouver, BC, Canada down to Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Along the way, and after an hour delay at the border crossing, we stopped off at the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market (Seattle). While I had been there before, it was the first time for my wife. We enjoyed taking in the atmosphere of the original location, and talking with the Baristas. Come to find out, they actually sell more merchandise than coffee at Pike Place (we did help them out in both arenas while there -- merchandise and coffee).

Then, we proceeded down I-5 and ventured off toward Mt. Rainier making our way down the winding Highway 7 toward Elbe, Oregon.  We even tried our hand at Squatch hunting (to no avail -- nor did we see Bigfoot in Starbucks either which is where I am more likely to find him).

By the time we finished at Rainier it was too dark to see Mt. St. Helen's but we tried to anyway.

Now, today we wake to see Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Our suite is literally about 1,000 yards from it and as I write this, it is within my view -- such a beautiful landmark.

We are living what we call Life: Relocated with the determination that we are not waiting until some "retirement" to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.

Hope you decide to do the same.

houston@figment-consulting.com

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Nine Essentials for building a virtual school that serves and Capilano

Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver
That was the topic of my talk yesterday at the BC Digital Learning Conference in Richmond, BC, Canada.

It was a fascinating day spending time with British Columbia educators, and hearing what they are doing in the world of digital learning.

And, it was an honor to be able to share my Nine Essentials with them believing that much of what I shared crosses geographic boundaries.

Also, had the pleasure and joy of experiencing some of the beauty of Vancouver, Steveston, and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver today.

Capilano Suspension Bridge spans 460 ft and rises 230 ft above the Capilano River. And, does it swing when you are in the middle. Wow.

Included in the park is a Treetop Adventure that allows you to walk among the giant firs. It is breathtaking.


Then, if that is not all, you also can traverse the Cliff Walk where you follow a narrow walkway that juts out from the granite cliffs. It is not for the faint of heart.

Heading tomorrow toward Seattle and Portland to conduct some training sessions.

If you ever have a chance to go to Vancouver. Go.

houston@figment-consulting.com