To Know Is To Listen
October 21, 2011 § 4 Comments
In his latest podcast, ESPN writer Bill Simmons talked with Ticketmaster CEO, Nathan Hubbard, about the constantly changing state of the ‘live event’ consumer. The conversation began with a focus on how fan purchasing behavior has influenced the current state of NBA, and flowed into everything from the NHL to Taylor Swift to MTV in 1984 to future fan experiences at live sporting events (think smart phone integration). In addition to being a riveting conversation, it was incredibly relevant to my current work at 4.0 Schools: practicing empathy and ‘knowing your users.’ I was particularly struck by something Hubbard said about 12 minutes in:
“We’re trying to work with teams so we can help them get to know their fan base better, so they can do things like offer the right [ticket] package…they can use that to help them build their stadiums to setting the right ticket price. If you don’t know who your fan is, how are you making those decisions other than just building a mass arena that you pop up in Sacramento, or wherever?”
The key here is knowing and listening to your users. Whether they are NBA fans, dudes at a Pearl Jam concert or parents choosing a school for their kid, you’ve got to know your users. If you don’t know them and listen to them, all you all be able to offer is a replicated model which aims to please everyone, but actually pleases nobody.
It’s like current state of the education reform movement: local and national Charter Management Organizations (CMO) focus on delivering scalable models to communities. Then we assume that parents’ needs are being met because those schools outperform schools that were their before. That’s obviously the wrong benchmark. Paul Graham of Y-Combinator fame says as much in Hackers and Painters, “Don’t get complacent if your competitors’ software is lame; the standard to compare your software to is what it could be, not what your current competitors happen to have.”‘ Substitute ‘school’ for ‘software’ and you’ve got Matt Candler’s ‘suck less‘ doctrine.
It’s no wonder charters sometimes get push back from surrounding communities. We’re not listening to them. I know empathy sounds easy, but it’s really hard work. More on this from Paul Graham: “Empathy is probably the single most important difference between a good hacker and a great one. Some hackers are quite smart, but practically solipsists when it comes to empathy. It’s hard for such people to design great software, because they can’t see things from the user’s point of view.”
We’re not empathizing with our users enough. We continue this ‘franchise’ approach and expect to meet the needs of the people we’re serving. We keep this up and we’ll be no better than complacent NBA owners losing money and fans, or the status quo in public education. It reminds me of a sign in the 4.0 Schools office that we stole from TechStars:
So what are my potential users saying? Well, the 100 point survey I administered on Tuesday night is the first piece of data that I have. The results are below. I’ve organized the school attributes from greatest to least percentage of total points allocated.
I have to admit, I was surprised my these results. I’m sure there is all kinds of error here, and plenty of way that the survey design influences its results. For example, I could have unbundled ‘diversity’ into a variety of attributes, or bundled the three teacher attributes into a simple one called ‘great teachers.’ Still,at least among these 15 attendees, it appears I’m on to something, but I know I’ve got to dig deeper
From the NBA to tech start ups to school design, the refrain is the same: Know who your users are and listen to them.