Summer of Learning 2017: predictable personalization – thoughts on The @Starbucks Experience book
I have been a Starbucks fan for quite awhile (fair disclosure: with family in Seattle I do have #westcoastbias on my sports teams and my coffee) – so I was thrilled when my oldest girl became a barista last year. My mom found a book (10 years old) at a thrift store: The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Michelli which had some interesting insights into the company that I felt resonated with education…..especially when Canadian coffee company Tim Hortons started advertising its “perfectly simple latte” – my first thoughts were: a one size fits all approach.
And one-size-fits-all approaches can be found all around education: while class novel, same textbook, single lecture, common PE strip, etc etc. I’ve been promoting “collaboratively personalizing learning journeys”……essentially focusing on having predictability in what’s happening & going to happen, but allow for choice to occur along the way. The ongoing joke has been about ordering a “quad, two-pump vanilla, one-quarter pumps sugar-free hazelnut, ristretto latte, with one-quarter soy, one half non-fat, one-quarter organic milk, extra hot, with three ice cubes and whip”. <– sure this is an extreme, but…..shouldn’t we be going to extreme measures for the learners who need it? Because it’s true that most people stick to the menu (for me: flat white, iced Americano [different flavour than regular Americano], the new nitro coffee and I love exploring the varieties at Clover bars) but it’s fun to personalize sometimes – especially when a favourite drip coffee isn’t pre-made (love Komodo Dragon and Yukon and miss Gazebo blends). So the students who need voice-to-text instead of a pen and paper…..or need sensory breaks…..or quieter/louder spaces…can all be personalized for their enjoyment. I noticed that even the Tim Hortons “simple latte” commercial changed a bit admitting that they could add flavours like vanilla and hazelnut……wonder if they’ll end up offering extra shots of espresso….or types of milk…..because one size doesn’t fit all.
But to the book specifically. A neat review of why Starbucks does things the way they do – a lot of emphasis on team where baristas can influence the culture – much as principals and teachers need to work together to create a positive (student-learning focused) environment where leadership is shared. The book starts off with some key principles:
Five ways of being:
1. Be welcoming
2. Be genuine
3. Be considerate
4. Be knowledgeable
5. Be involved
These are all key parts to establishing relationships which lead to positive interactions.
Key starting point: names. As Carnegie recognized: a name may be the individuals most valuable possession. I try to acknowledge this by checking in with how people want to be called knowing that things can change over a break (when Jon-Jon just wanted to be called Jon) and knowing some full names (and many nick names) are not appreciated. The name IS your brand identity and should be treated valuably (even though spelling mistakes happen)
Acknowledge uniqueness. No classroom should look exactly the same as no teachers are the same. Likewise for our students – no single template will work for all.
And replace “Starbucks” with school and some ideas are just…..good ideas!
And as the author states in his conclusion, no business or barista (or school/principal/teacher/support staff) is perfect all the time – there are negative stories and moments, but the goal is to be the ideal perception…..I think we want to do this in schools as well -be ‘the place’ where students want to be….where they want to learn….where families feel connected to. Starbucks talks about being the “third place” – right after home and work…..can’t schools also be a “third place” (especially in rural communities) where families want to be?
It’s sometimes interesting to read non-education books and get some ideas and inspiration that may positively impact the upcoming school year! My take aways included: personalization still matters; Being a place where people want to be is good; Mistakes can be fixed….by anyone; Listening matters; Sometimes new things go right the first time, sometimes different lessons are learned; Ambiance (music lighting seating) can be important; There are opportunities to create your own experience….seize them.
Now I’ve got to go pick up my barista as her shift is about to end…..maybe I’ll do a mobile order on my way….. ☕️