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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.