Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, has some bold ideas about entrepreneurship. In a recent interview for Wired magazine online, Ries argues that old adage “right place at the right time” is not a formula for business success:
“There was a study done in the early 20th century of all the entrepreneurs who entered the automobile industry around the same time as Henry Ford; there were something like 500 automotive companies that got funded, had the internal combustion engine, had the technology, and had the vision. Sixty percent of them folded within a couple of years.”
Ford, according to Ries, was simply better at adapting to changing circumstances than his competitors. It wasn’t the quality of his original idea, which wasn’t at all unique, but rather his willingness to change his idea.
A contemporary example Ries uses is Dropbox, a file-sharing program that allows uses to sync files and folders online—and allows users to designate folders as public, private, or shared with only selected users. Dropbox didn’t begin with a massive PR campaign—it started small, adapted to what its small customer base wanted, and experienced overwhelming growth because they continued to adapt.
So what can teachers do to help prepare students for a world in which adaptability is key? In my online courses in the BLS program at UNCG, I typically utilize at least one assignment that requires revision. Sometimes it is easy to focus on obvious errors—mechanics, spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, et cetera. When reading student writing, I challenge myself to look for the ideas and challenge my students to strengthen, support, or even reconsider those ideas. In what other ways can teachers promote adaptability in the classroom?