MIT and the new physics of marketing

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailYesterday's New York Times had a fascinating article about changes in teaching introductory physics...which got me thinking about the changes we're working through in marketing.

Like most universities, M.I.T. has traditionally taught introductory physics in large lecture halls. Professors worked for years to hone their lectures like the finest stage performers.

"But now," Sara Rimer explains, "with physicists across the country pushing for universities to do a better job of teaching science, M.I.T. has made a striking change."

"The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning..... Already attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent.

M.I.T. is not alone. Other universities are changing their ways, among them Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Harvard. In these institutions, physicists have been pioneering teaching methods drawn from research showing that most students learn fundamental concepts more successfully, and are better able to apply them, through interactive, collaborative, student-centered learning."

So what's the marketing connection?

Marketing, especially for high value business solutions, is becoming more educational than promotional. This is not exactly a news flash; the best business marketers have been working for years to shift from pitching prospective customers on the merits of their products and services to providing insightful and useful information about the business challenges their customers and prospects are facing -- and thereby generating interest and credibility around the solutions they might provide.

To do this well, however, marketing can't just exchange their old-fashioned promotional approach for an old-fashioned lecturing-at-students educational approach. Business buyers today do want to learn about issues, challenges and potential solutions from their would-be suppliers and partners. But they don't just want to listen to you pontificating up on stage. They want to roll up their sleeves, work with their peers, and figure it out together.

So the challenge for marketing, at least in the B2B solutions world, is to take a page from M.I.T.'s book: less large lecture halls, more small seminars; less talking at, more working with. Online and social media tools and channels, of course, make this easier to do. Without a core commitment to "interactive, collaborative, student-centered learning," though, business marketers could be left on stage with declining attendance and an increasing rate of failure.

Photo credit: Nicholasf

Cross posted from Reputation to Revenue

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