The approach I take coming into Extension has been more entrepreneurial, it's just what I know. It's odd to me that many of our titles are "Professor." Yes, we do teach and profess but most of the education we offer is non-credit in the form of workshops and seminars. Often times we don't teach at all, but we lead by organizing small to large events with multitudes of speakers that increase the knowledge and understanding of our clients (that's the goal anyways). And we call them clients, not students. Of course it is fitting, we don't have classrooms and regular students that must attend for a letter grade. We have geographic regions, regular people, and their needs. In business school I learned the difference between clients and customers (you can insert "students" for customers here):
Customers (students): hear you say, "here, I made this," and they buy or they don't buy.
Clients: say to you, "I need this," and if you want to get paid, you make it.
The customer (or student in this case), ironically, doesn't get something custom. I love the unique opportunity I have to serve clients and build relationships. To research and discover their needs and then fill the knowledge and skill voids through learning experiences.
We talk about our "programs" in Extension. The definition of a program is simply: a planned series of future events, items, or performances. Indeed that is a fairly accurate definition of what many of our programs are.
Instead of programs, I prefer to think of what I do as my Extension "ventures." The definition of a venture is: a risky or daring journey or undertaking. After I have identified a need, the approach I take to filling the gap is through following a new methodology called the Lean Start-Up. I realize I will catch a lot of flak from more experienced Extension professionals telling me, "Extension is not a business!" but just hear me out and consider some of the new strategies Steve Blank, from Stanford, has written about:
You can read more about the Lean Start-Up methodology in the Harvard Business Review article entitled, "Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything." There's also a book about it.
I'm not saying we need to change everything about how we work, but we do new to consider new methodologies from the business world that intersect with our "best practices" and try them out. For indeed, the world has changed and we must adapt and innovate to remain relevant.
I just finished both these skillshare.com courses by Seth Godin. These are outstanding courses that will stretch your mind and challenge what you think you know about marketing and leadership. I've read everything Seth has ever written. Marketing is in my DNA, I am fascinated by it all. I believe understanding modern marketing is critical now more than ever. Study up before your next Lean Extension Venture.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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