Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

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  • David Willows

What Do We Call What We Do?

Since launching [YELLOW CAR] back in February we’ve observed the way people occasionally adapt our name to yellow cab, yellow taxi, even a yellow bus! Most surprising of all, however, is the fact that even people who have worked with [YELLOW CAR] from the beginning will sometimes slip up.


The reason for this is parapraxis - an error in speech or memory that occurs due to the interference of an unconscious internal train of thought. It’s commonly known as a “Freudian slip”. It’s as if yellow + a mode of transport causes neurons to fire in the brain that conjure up images of taxis, cabs, and school buses.


We haven’t done the research, but our suspicion is that the “slip” is more common in certain geographical areas of the world where you typically grab a ride or go to school in a vehicle that happens to be yellow.


At the same time, we’ve also noticed that our company name draws strength from the subconscious associations that it triggers. So, each week 2-3 people send us photos of yellow cars with a note that typically reads I saw this and thought of you!


So what’s my point?


Well, for years now, I’ve struggled with being a Director of Advancement because no-one outside of the exclusive club of Advancement directors really knows what the job entails. And when you meet someone who does, you quickly realise that they are bringing their own unconscious internal train of thought to the conversation and believe that is it just another way of saying I ask people for money for a living.


So, the more I think about it, the more I think that we have a problem with our lexicon - which is not the case if someone in the office down the hall is a director of finance, HR, technology… or just about any other role within our organisations.


Many schools, I know, are struggling right now with what to call the group of people that takes on admissions, communications, fundraising, alumni relations - and much more besides - without doing what I know one school has done and titled their colleague the Admissions, Advancement, and External Relations Director. There is something for everyone in that title!


A starting point with this dilemma might be to visualise the way in which different titles that schools typically use have different associations and tend to give emphasis to different aspects of the role. The illustration below takes just five of the many options out there and suggests that each title highlights different stages of the family journey. (We call this journey the Lifecycle of School Experience).


lifecycle of school experience with different director titles

Now I am not suggesting that any name is actually better and realise that there are many reasons why a school will prefer one option over another. Yet, I do believe that the essence of the work that is out there to be done today by those of us in this business is to intentionally design the experience of school at every stage of this Lifecycle.


So if I was to have my time over again, I would start by thinking about the way in which leading an Experience team would have impacted the work that we did, the stories that we shared, and the sense of responsibility we felt to ensuring that everyone connected to our school has an experience that is really worth remembering.


Get the experience right and they will never forget your school’s name.



Photo by Nick Baker on Unsplash.


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