Lessons from IBM, Xerox and Scouting

Published May 1, 1998

The Student’s Not the Problem. When several students don’t “get” the lesson being taught by one of IBM’s more than 7,000 teachers, the assumption is not that the student is the problem. IBM officials assume that there is something wrong with the teaching–a markedly different approach from that of the public schools, where educators blame failure on poverty, pupils, and parents rather than pedagogy.

The Customer is King. Employee performance ratings at Xerox are based on how well each employee–salesperson, scientist, speech writer, or artist–serves his or her customer. Everyone in the corporation must answer the question: “Who is my customer?”

The Merit Badge Model. The Boy Scout Merit Badge is a time-tested model for the current emphasis on students “learning how to learn” at school. Scouts memorize an array of facts about a particular topic, such as bird-watching; they learn how to use those facts in observation and analysis; their knowledge is tested by experts; and, as they advance to mastery, they gain more confidence in their own abilities.