Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Experimenting Pays Off

I missed the BISG "Making Information Pay" seminar last Friday, but heard that it was very good from a couple of attendees. An article on one of the panels appeared in Publisher's Weekly over the weekend. The panel's focus was on how experimentation with digital is paying off for a group of organizations -- including a college store. At this stage of innovation and emerging technology -- particularly with a radical change visible on the horizon, a few things are critical to future organizational success for both publishers and stores.

First, experimentation. Experimentation keeps us moving forward, allows us to figure out what works and what does not work, helps us identify new opportunities, and helps mitigate future costs. Organizations that are risk adverse can start with small experiments. The point is to try something new. Experimentation is an important process in helping organizations adapt to change.

Second, share our knowledge. By sharing our knowledge we can better leverage the risks embedded in our experiments. We can learn from each other and instead of repeating each other's errors, we can create new ones.

Third, partner. Again, in periods of rapid technological or environmental change, the survivors are most likely to be those who develop effective networks of strategic partnerships. By partnering with others we can identify collaborative opportunities to experiment, further reducing the cost and risk involved with experimentation.

Fourth, measure. As Rich McDaniels says, Measure what Matters. It is critical that we establish goals and measure our progress toward those goals. What good is an experiment if we do not know the effect. I used to do a lot of performance management work when I was in management consulting, and have taught classes on the topic as a faculty member. The skinny is that measurement helps us determine what worked and what did not work -- enabling us to get a much greater ROI for money and time spent in experimentation.

The panelists at the BISG panel appear to represent all four of these ideas. Experimentation is something I have been pushing at stores since arriving in this position 3 years ago this week. For example, all stores should be experimenting with selling digital textbooks at this point. Even if sales are currently low, they will not always remain so. Try marketing the content in a different way, or delivering it in a different way. Did that affect sales? Waiting to even try digital will reduce sales in the future as others establish market share and mind share in what is the traditional domain of publishers and the college store. There are lots of opportunities out there for those who look, partner, and are willing to experiment.

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