The Voices I Hear
When my son was born, before excitement overwhelmed me, I was anxious. Until I heard his cry, I could not enjoy the moment; the voice indicated all was well. I remember that voice distinctly to this day eight years later.
My sister died of cancer 16 years ago. I often use pictures to remember details of her physical appearance. She called me to say goodbye the day before she died. I remember that voice so clearly so many years later – it haunts me.
Whether they are the voices of those who are no longer with us, voices of those still with us, voices of celebrities we easily identify, or voices of musicians that are so crucial in developing our stories, voice has immense power. That is a power that can change the course of people, events, systems, societies, history.
Voice Can Change Education
The voices driving education have traditionally been the policy makers. These voices probably can’t remember what it is like to be in elementary or middle school. They don’t generally understand the power of education to transform one’s experience and life; they for the most part grew up enabled and expecting a full education experience. What is missing is the student voice. The reason the system exists, the souls the system should empower and enable. Students have loud voices – at young ages they are brilliantly creative and honest voices.
Tender and terrible all at once! As they age, these voices evolve into exploratory and challenging adolescence chaos. And eventually these voices turn their attention to critical questions and reflective insight. We need policy makers’ voices in the conversation, as well as administrator, teacher and parent voices. But we cannot silence the student voices. We need to engage the 7 and 8 year olds who are trying to decide if they like mathematics, science, art, cursive writing. No matter what age or grade level, the students are capable of great contribution to reshaping education. Their voice is powerful. Ask any parent!
Voice Can Change Entrepreneurship
Is the customer always right? Absolutely not – nobody is always right. However, businesses should always listen to the customer. The customer voice shapes businesses. Especially startups – it is the customer’s voice that leads successful startups to sustainable business models.
Founders who can draw out and really listen to customers speaking about the product, the service, the experience, the pain can gain a competitive advantage over competing firms.
How Do We Hear The Voices
Voices are power. Listen to any great orator, whether it is the beauty of Dr. King or the ugliness of Adolf Hitler, and you can feel the power, you live the experience. Students voices can be the power of a new frontier of education. Customer voices have become the power of a new frontier of entrepreneurship. How do we harness this power?
1. Ask the right questions. We need to ask students to describe their experiences – what they do during reading time, how they feel as they’re studying geometry. We need to ask customers to describe their experiences with the problem we’re trying to solve. We need to figure out what they are doing, what they are thinking. For students and customers, we shouldn’t care what their proposed solution is. We want to understand their experience, which can only truly be understood through their voice.
2. Give ’em the mic. Find the students and customers with authentic, powerful experiences. Don’t waste time with the vanilla ones. Track down the crazies, search for the magic. Talk to students until one makes you cry, or gives you goosebumps. Give those students the platform – record their story, share their story. Talk to customers until you feel that adrenaline rush. Turn them into your earlyvangelists – give them every opportunity to use their voice on your behalf.
3. Shout with them. Experiences are more powerful with multiple voices. Create new experiences with the earlyvangelists and the student storytellers. Let them lead, but empower and enable them by adding your voice to the conversation. Bring in more experienced disruptors; create a choir of glorious disruption! Use every medium possible – shout with hashtags on Twitter, with video on YouTube or Vine, with intellect in news columns and television interviews.
4. Listen up. When the chance presents itself to talk to students about their educational experience, we really should listen to them. When we find customers who feel the pain we’re trying to solve, we have to listen to them. It is really hard for most folks to listen instead of to drive the conversation according to some ridiculous script.
Voices change history. Voices change experiences. Voices evoke emotion. Voices create meaning. Listen to the voices that matter.