Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hire Teachers and Product Designers Who Are NOT Naturals

We tend to hire naturals. Examples:
  • Schools and colleges tend to hire math teachers who "get" math instinctively. Most people don't learn math that way. So, many such instructors don't know how to explain math to regular folk.
  • Electronics companies hire enginerd types to design gadgets from computers to smart phones. Most consumers are overwhelmed by all the "cool" features those geeks build in. So such consumers end up paying for features they'll never use or the complicated interface means they'll never use the gadget at all. A friend of mine tried to install and use her DV-R to no avail. She returned it.
  • We're impressed by a golf instructor who was a former pro. Yet, like most pros, he has a naturally great swing and that preternaturally calm golf demeanor. I tried to learn golf from such people--They couldn't effectively deal with my energetic metabolism and baseball-player swing. Despite lots of lessons and the natural athletic ability of someone who played four years of college varsity baseball (Occasionally, I could drive 280 yards,) I've never broken 100.
In contrast, certainly no one would have hired Mark Zuckerberg, who was described in Time this week as having "famously limited social skills" to design a social networking site. Yet his very weakness at socializing made him the perfect guy to design Facebook--He knew what would work even for someone like him.

So in selecting the instructors for NewGeneralEd.Org, I plan to particularly seek out people who, while smart, clear communicators, and motivational to students, struggled (successfully) to learn the material they'd be teaching. For example, for the quantitative reasoning course, I'd rather hire someone who struggled to learn to think in terms of risk-reward than someone for whom that came intuitively.


Derek said...

Great Idea! Take the Entrepreneurship course for example. I'd rather learn from someone who could communicate the mechanics of starting a successful venture (and preferably has had several starts and finishes) vs. a superstar that was 'in the right place at the right time' or 'knew the right people'. What's your take? What would you rather have; Superstar or Serial Entrepreneur?

Anonymous said...

Excellent thoughts as usual. I was discussing with my hubby the other night a topic I occasionally revisit: finishing my degree.

After reviewing the requirements to earn a teaching degree I decided it against it. Why do I want to spend time and money to become NCLB approved in studying methods I don't believe in?

My conclusion...I'd rather be mentored by a person who knows what they're doing. Or attend a Seth Godin MBA program.

The rub is I know the world still wants to see that paper. Which means I have the (no small) task of finding an employer who understands true education comes in many forms. Or I make my own way.

Marty Nemko said...

Dear MotherLode,

So many jobs require state licensure, including public school teaching.

But if you're willing to teach in a private school or do anything else in which a degree or university-provided credential is not required but expected, write letters of inquiry to target employers that include something like this:

I contemplated getting an MBA but so many people told me that most of the course material was practically irrelevant, not worth the time and money. So I opted for substance over form and I (insert the mentoring, on-the-job-training, workshops, courses, readings etc). I like to think it's also a plus that I didn't require the structure of school to do my learning--I am a self-starter. But now we come to the moment of truth: will you interview me?


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