Eric Sheninger

The Near Future of Education: Watch for the Signals!




This past week I had  opportunity to visit the digital agency, Sparks and Honey (www.sparksandhoney) with my Marketing Strategy students. Thanks to CEO, Terry Young, we were hosted at one of their uniquely innovative daily-- yes, daily, one hour briefings on cultural content as the company shares the sparks of our world across five themes reflecting cross industry global topics. Pretty heady for a rainy Wednesday.

In the company of 10 of my marketing students, we watched,arena style, their innovative approach  to design thinking ablaze on a NYC business morning on “buttoned up” Madison Ave. The briefing reminded me of sitting in at USAToday in their editorial meetings. But this was 2016 different.

This daily briefing is the energized, fast paced short visual presentations from platforms all over the world, You tubes, apps, websites, etc and engaging twitter length organizational feedback/ conversation around the 30 or so views on all sorts of worldwide cultural data. The team refers to these sparks as SIGNALS, the content cues found in the massive online  environment that create creative worldwide cultural connection for change---These are the ideas that may cause us as marketers--or as simply as humans-- to stop and say “Hey”!-- Say “Dude”!-- Say “Whaaa”? ---Say “Yeah”! They are REMARKable sparks of interest… REMARKABLE as mega marketer, Seth Godin has pointed out is the foundation for a good brand buzz... But, these are the early early smoke SIGNALS that shows what the near future is asking us to notice-- To put that signal into our busy brains for future reference. (For me, it included the possibility of gifting a friend with a $60.00 purchase of a uniquely grown melon with a naturally grained logo-ed Hello Kitty logo! Say “Whaaaa”???)


OK, aside from  culturally bizarre notables ,what did this visit tell me about the near future of education? SO much...for so many blog posts.

Watching my students was key. These aren’t youngsters, they are post grads and they are multi-skilled global students, and I saw  they were excited to see this kind of workplace, and yet a bit anxious. They knew that even for themselves as young millennials, who can be facile, this transparent, connected world of work will demand more from them. Sparks and Honey is a place that brings IT, Creatives, Quants, Designers, Writers, Marketers, Self-starters, Collaborators, Dreamers, Doers, Futurists and In-the-moment-ists ( I think I invented that word, sorry.) together.  It's a window on the world of collaborative work. The agency is a signal in itself.

THAT is one  charge to education. To continue to build school communities that reflect this design model of connected, collaborative learning where we can ready the Gen Z's.  Break out and breakaway educational thinkers at all levels of the organization must create places that exist that embody goals and objectives linked to educating our near future workforce, a workforce that will be impacted by the complex changes that Signals will bring to their lives --the signals move into a reality in the snap of a digital finger.

I know it's possible. I know from seeing so many connected educator communities that are growing worldwide online, I know from writing a book about brand in education with Eric Sheninger, and I know from the look in my learners’ eyes. The power of transparency in the digital world brings conversations quickly  to the upper registers of cognition. Collaboratively designed communities fire and SPARK  thinking. And the HONEY that results?...sweet learning.


The Near Future of Education can be sweet when sparked with innovation and design thinking. In creating a BrandED community as we suggest in our upcoming read, BrandED new school strategies will bring relational behaviors that can spark and sweeten our young learners' school journeys the signals, school leaders--- and make a few yourself this year as you close out the school term and eye the near future of fall 2016-17 school year.


4 Lessons for A School BrandED Leader in Motion





The new profile of School BrandED leader that my colleague @E_Sheninger exemplified way back in 2009 inspires and motivates me today. Today, I see BrandED connection with Eric's profile to the work of @david_rogers who helps leaders master growth in a digital age. David Rogers is a notable Columbia University educator, who recently taught a joint Google/Columbia Business School program. Both these these professionals have their act together for leadership.

As I have follow David Rogers' work, I see  a leadership “connective tissue “ from business leaders to educational leaders. In David's  recent article for Forbes magazine this was especially evident. I see the synergy of David and Eric and their paths to creating empowered leaders in different communities that can share powerful leadership strategies. And these different communities can learn together and resource each other.

So, with a nod to David Rogers, let's understand there's a changing role a school educational leader faces in this digital age of higher expectations, and lessons are to be learned.

As I write with Eric on the topic of BrandEd and explore the use of brand and marketing leadership in the school leader community, we advance an idea of a School Chief Brand Officer. Unlike CBO’s in business, this role may even be a collective endeavor, not belonging to one person on a school org chart.

Surveying the landscape of school leadership and the expectations that our school stakeholders bring for a leader’s openness, transparency and customer engagement, I'm drawn to four lessons of my own inspired by David Rogers, lessons that empower Eric and other BrandED leaders.

BrandED Class is in session, Ed Leader!

Lesson 1. The Funnel is Part of our “Non Sales Selling” Engagement. There is a funnel for educational leaders to use as a strategic tool that is different from the marketing term. The top of our funnel is building a brand that we can make our stakeholders aware of everyday. We aren't delivering sales in the funnel, but we must gain loyalty of our stakeholders.

Lesson 2. Content we Develop is King in our BrandEd Campaign. With a  SCBO collective  content can be curated in schools around CULTURE, PERFORMANCE, RESOURCING. Using David Rogers' l marketing lessons we can use storytelling content as we are storytellers who connect to our community through feeling. And let's add content he speaks of as  “utilitarian” as the “This is How to Do It” part of our offer as we show our community the answers that the school provides for info like homework, social topics, safety, behavior etc. Two avenues for content exist and can support the brand messaging in many ways.

Lesson 3. Segmentation Tailors our Message for ROR

Our messages we create from content do matter to different stakeholders. Taking a page from marketers we don't have to “media buy” , but we have to target community behaviors. Know your audiences. The idea of Return on Relationships is another part of our BrandEd campaign that our friend @TedRubin applies to the art of building relationships that spread the word in a trusting authentic way to segmented audiences.

Lesson 4. Measurement Matters in A BrandED Campaign Although schools are stressed with standardized testing, a campaign of innovative leadership behavior begs for measurement. Not at the weighty level of a testing program, but with an eye on capturing small, but powerful data moments that show that the campaign is improving Culture, Performance and Resourcing. A targeted, attainable goal for each of the lanes of a BrandED campaign can result in capturing “Bigger Data”, the authentic small measures that show powerful gains in communication for leaders. Your story becomes more valid with data. With data in mind you are more than an opinion about using business branding principles in your educational leader toolbox.



Be An Original: Adam Grant and the Power of Disruptive School Leadership

“Research shows that GIVERS get extra credit when they offer ideas that challenge the status quo.”

Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success



In his last book, Adam Grant suggested that GIVERS get extra credit.


His book, “Give and Take” was a game changer for me and introduced me to the value of applied psychology in developing my own leadership capacity. I see that this “extra credit” is powerfully evident in Adam's new book, which is in pre-order called, “Originals--How Non-Conformists Move the World”.!originals/c1ckh


Don’t know Adam Grant? Please let me share this “rock star” original mind with you as you look to buying the next fundamentally life-changing personal and professional read for yourself.  This book promises to be a must read for the New Year, which is fast approaching.


When I met Adam Grant through my UPenn connection, I saw immediately that although he was informing the top corporations of the world about the value of Giving in creating a connected and powerful organization, his work offered value to school leaders. Adam walks his talk and was professionally giving to me, opening his network of amazing colleagues who inspire me with their thinking as I write my own book.  Adam Grant has a unique value proposition, including his message of authenticity, essential in building brand awareness for school leaders.  He’s a Wharton School of Business professor in applied psychology and Give and Take is a best- selling book that offers proven evidence of the result of using the simple act of Giving as a form of authentic disruption for innovating the tough world of business. He knows that innovative ideas challenge the status quo and result in “extra credit” for leaders that will bring positive result.


 My take along with my colleague, @E_Sheninger in our upcoming book, BrandED, is that an idea that goes beyond status quo—an idea like  BrandED-- will bring needed disruption to schools that have lived  the “old school way” of communicating long enough. BrandED will ask leaders to think differently about bringing business principles into their school leadership wheelhouse. It’s a big move to transparency when educators leave the Ivory Tower and become transparent through brand, and Adam is a great guide for educators who are willing to be disruptive in order to create needed change that allows us to move beyond static old ways.

Adam's colleague, Malcom Gladwell, (anyone not heard of him!?) has a view  of “Originals” that describes Adam as one of HIS favorite thinkers. I'd say that's enough said to read this---and  when we can get our hands on it?  Can we form a book club?  The time is now for you,school leader, to know him.  Adam Grant is moving to the next level of thinking beyond developing more efficient and effective organizations through models of “Giving Behavior. He’s heading in the direction of greater cultural change, and I’m suggesting we join Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington and Richard Branson in his community of learners. Where Adam thinks, innovation happens…and I want to be “with him” as he thinks. Can’t wait to find happiness as a BrandED leader with Adam Grant’s thinking in my  brand corner. As his work will show you, there’s a science to being a BrandEd leader and his work is part of the evolution of your brand as well as your school community’s brand essence.

My Cyber Monday purchase? Originals, of course!