I was complaining to him that post-secondary education entrepreneurs whose student and customer are often one in the same have it relatively easy. After all, in K-12 you have parents and kids who often have different needs and motivations.
He knowingly smiled and replied that like many K-12 education entrepreneurs I was seeking the learning equivalent of a Flintstone Vitamin — something which parents love because they are good for their kids and that kids love because they are delicious.
First of all, when we launched WonderLab we knew that it was harder to sell vitamins than aspirin. Most human beings are more reactive than proactive, and many parents and kids alike often sign up for tutoring in the wake of a bad grade to make the pain go away. But we believed then — and still believe -- that the bigger opportunity is for kids to be proactively and genuinely motivated to love learning. For learning to be delicious!
However, motivation is a tricky thing that is both intrinsically and extrinsically fueled. I truly believe that hard-wired into the DNA of every parent is the intrinsic motivation for their child to thrive. But there is also the extrinsic motivation among parents for kids to thrive in the eyes of other friends/parents, as their children's achievements (games won, awards, college acceptances, etc.) become a proxy for good parenting.
At WonderLab we believe that all kids have an inspired idea in them that will change the world. Put another way, we believe that hard-wired into their DNA is the intrinsic motivation to love learning about something. But of course, the extrinsic motivations get tricky when kids transition from early childhood where parents and teachers are the authority figures to adolescence when concern for peers' opinions takes over.
I'm thinking more about this these days because -- as crazy as this sounds -- WonderLab is yet to build the best vitamin that we can build. But I'm heartened by the fact that the first Flintstone Vitamin didn't work very well. They basically took a vitamin and coated it with sugar, only to realize that kids were smarter. Kids would simply suck off the candy coating then spit out the tasteless vitamin. Thus, model 2.0 fused the vitamin and the sugar together.
In the month to come, we'll be taking stock of all that we've learned to date, as well as interviewing past, present and future WonderLab Learners and Parents, in the hopes of continually building a better WonderLab.
Needless to say, we'll keep you posted on our progress!