Friday, April 24, 2009

Learning from the Best

This time my blog post is a little different. It is a case example of how

I have been trying to teach business strategy to my wife.

She is an elementary school teacher and could not care less about business strategy. But I decided to try, because her situation makes it rather relevant.

She has been a teacher for more than ten years in Finland, which has been ranked the highest-performing country in education. We currently live in Japan, and the Japanese are extremely interested on what is the secret behind Finland's success, and why their system is no longer as effective.

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, defines a Hedgehog Concept. A concept which helps you, the hedgehog, to beat your competition, the fox, no matter how hard he tries. My wife has been able to combine the three elements for the concept
  1. What you can best in the world at – she is the best expert of Finnish school system in Tokyo

  2. What drives your economic engine – what she has done provides small extra income, enough to motivate her

  3. What are you deeply passionate about – as any teacher, she is passionate of her job
Treacy and Wiersema describe three strategic value disciplines that can create customer value and provide a competitive advantage. One of them is customer intimacy - cultivating close and long term customer relationships and intimate knowledge of customer requirements. She has managed to do that with Gakken, the biggest educational publisher in Japan. And to some extent with Mrs Itokazu, a member parliament, who is hosting and advertising her next presentation.

On her presentations we have applied the tips from Presentation Zen. You can see some sample slides here. Being her secretary, it is really refreshing to be able to design simplistic slides. Naturally she has a handout to go along with the slides.

Teachers are professionals in delivering presentations. And her presentation is Made to Stick. It has the elements of SUCCESs, it’s Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and is told with Stories.

Her book, The power of Finnish education (in Japanese) was written by a Japanese journalist from a Japanese point of view. It contains Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible and Emotional Stories like in chapters called "My first time as home room teacher – of 33 students!", "Children deciding classroom rules", "Summer holiday without homework" and "Are field trips a nightmare for teachers?".

This is how I see her strategic position. She is not yet convinced about that and still wonders why people are interested to hear her presentation and even pay for that.

The name of this blog post is borrowed from an article written about her and the Finnish education system on page 48-49 on iNTOUCH magazine.