“Whey do we call it “Mass Customized Learning;” why can’t we just call it
The long answer! Probably more than you wanted to know.
I enjoy reading about leadership, change, innovation, and the future. Somewhere
about 10 years ago, (2006 or so) a new term, a new label, began appearing in the
books and Internet articles I was reading. “Mass Customizing” was replacing “Mass
Production.” Examples of Mass Customizing at that time included well-known
companies, companies with which I was familiar and companies I was actually
Apple . . . mass customizing music through iTunes
Starbucks . . . mass customizing the coffee experience
Wal-mart . . . mass customizing everything . . . “if you can’t get it at Wal-Mart,
God didn’t want you to have it”
Amazon . . . mass customizing books, reading, and online shopping
Pandora . . . mass customizing music and radio stations
And my favorite, Trader Joe’s . . . mass customizing cheap red wine
The MCL Vision started right here. I began by asking myself the three following
1. Who is customizing the products and services that I purchase and use?
2. How do they do that? Not the specific technology used, but in general, how
does Apple pull off getting that new song that I just heard in 60 seconds.
3. This is the big one . . . what implications might this Mass Customizing
capacity have for schools, for learners?
These three questions gave birth to the MCL vision.
This might be a good time to define Mass Customization.
First, the business definition:
“Mass Customizing is meeting the individual, personal needs of every
client/customer, while simultaneously meeting the individual, personal needs of
every other client/customer.”
The education definition of Mass Customizing:
MCL is happening when
we are meeting the learning needs of every learner
every hour of every day . . .
. . . while simultaneously
meeting the learning needs of every other learner
every hour of every day.
The Book, Titles Are Important:
When people saw our book in a bookstore or on Amazon, we didn’t want them to
think, “Oh, isn’t that nice.” We wanted them to think, “What in the hell is this!!.”
When Bea McGarvey and I decided to write the book (Inevitable: MCL), I can’t recall
if we had given it a title or if the title came after we got into the outlining and
writing. We identified 10 or 12 friends and colleagues to provide feedback to our
writing, chapter by chapter. Sometime during the writing process we asked our
feedbackers (is that a word) to react to the Inevitable: Mass Customizing Title. The
title was controversial with our feedbackers . . . some thought that the title was too
“business like,” and they suggested something like “Personalizing Learning,”
“Individualizing Learning,” etc.
But our purpose for the book was not to join the good people who were working to
make the industrial, assembly line structure of schools more effective. We went
after the structure of schools itself. Everyone else was mass customizing and
nowhere was mass customizing more needed, necessary, required than in schools
where each learner has unique learning needs.
A side note: It is interesting that we have to define “school structure” for educators .
. . and for that matter, for everyone. We have done the bureaucratic, industrial age,
assembly line so long (120 years) that it has become transparent, expected, a
“given.” The Point: we can never maximize learning opportunities for learners
within the present industrial age structure. Just yesterday I read a quote that went
something like this, “We didn’t create the electric light by continuously improving
candle making.” Ouch!
The Answer to the Question:
So Michael, we think that it’s OK to simplify the MCL label and call what we are doing
Mass Customizing . . . . so long as we understand that the term/label is not just about
learners and learning, it is about the very school structure that allows us to meet
the learning needs of every learner every hour of every day.
Steve Jobs didn’t put Block Buster out of business . . . mass customizing did
Amazon didn’t put Borders out of business . . . mass customizing did
Today’s news note (1/5/17) that Macy’s and Sears are each closing 100 or so stores
isn’t because people stopped buying clothes . . . blame it on the online structural
change brought on by technology that created the new retailing norm.