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4 Lessons That Teaching At the Kelley On Location Event Gave Me…

What does it take to be a good teacher?

That was the question I kept asking myself while preparing my brand management class for the Executive MBA students at the Kelley School of Business who take their courses through the Kelley Direct Program. 

After spending a few days in Milwaukee, I learned a lot about adult education and how to be a better professor/consultant/thinker in the future. 

Here are some of the things I learned from the students in Milwaukee. 

Laughter is a sign you are getting your points across: 

I was lucky enough to learn from Paul Marks about the power of improvisation and humor in presenting new ideas. I used it. 

Paul taught all of us that laughter increases retention by 30%. 

Can you make any subject funny? 

I’d guess so. 

But for me, seeing that the students were laughing in all the right places showed me that humor and laughter are critical tools in a teacher’s toolkit. 

Stories and analogies illustrate ideas in ways that facts alone can’t come close to: 

I always knew this. 

I just worked to apply it a lot more readily in teaching the Kelley Direct students. 

Here are a few examples:

  • The story I told about how my greatest marketing mistake was not doing my market research and looking at demographic data before opening a nightclub in a suburb of St. Louis. (Read more here)
  • How discounts are like drinking a lot of sweet drinks. You get a sugar rush, but each one does a little less for you until you crash out and are stuck on the couch for a day sleeping off your sugar coma. Except in the case of the business, you are going out of business. 
  • The best brands are like a little kid, always poking at you, asking for attention. They might annoy you in the moment, but you can’t forget about them either. 

You have to be willing to challenge the perceived wisdom: 

This applies in class, but in business and, especially, as a consultant. 

I was on Twitter replying to a tweet from Derek Walker about how “Everyone is the best. Everything is the greatest. And, everyone is the hardest working that I’ve ever seen.”

That’s most of what passes for analysis and engagement in the world of business in many places. 

No one can be real about any situation for fear of being labeled “a downer”, “negative”, or “bitter”. 

How about if things ain’t cracking? 

What about if doing the same thing you’ve always done seems like a ridiculous idea? 

Or, what if an idea is flat out stupid?

Saying that isn’t being “negative”, “a downer”, or “bitter”.

You might just be saving people’s jobs. You might just be creating less work for team in the future. Or, you may just be offering a chance at a brand new opportunity. 

Even in mundane situations, a good thought exercise is “What Needs to Be True?” or “What If This Wasn’t True?” or “How Could This Be Different?” 

Some of Your Best Sources Might Be Outside of the Norm:

Early in the class, I shared the importance of controlling the language and having a language that you use to talk about “brand”. 

The traditional definitions come from guys, always guys, like:

  • Scott Galloway
  • Seth Godin
  • Simon Sinek

What is it with the Ss? 

I wanted to get some different voices into my students’ thinking so I reached out to folks like:

These are all very successful people with interesting backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas that often might not get the attention they deserve. 

Why do I say the norm?

Because it is easy to fall back on the definitions that are offered up by the regular cast of characters. 

Yet, there is a rich world of ideas and experiences that you can and should learn from. 

The challenge for all of us is to stretch our comfort zone enough to see these new perspectives and find out if they are applicable to our situation. Because if everyone has the same idea that likely means there is or should be an opportunity somewhere. 

I have more stuff I’ll cover about lessons from my time in Milwaukee…

But I do think that some of the important tools I added to my skills as a teacher and consultant due to the weekend might help you as well. 

Do you know someone who needs a push to look for new examples or new points of view? Share this with them and challenge them to find two new ideas this week.