Systematic Personalization

Systematic Personalization

We want to be special. We want to be an individual. We want to be recognized for our differences and at the same time be part of a larger whole: a family, a community, a nation, a culture, a planet.

We want to be unique. Yet at the same time be part of something larger than ourselves. And that thing larger than us needs to be fair to everyone involved.

In essence, we want systematic personalization. Systematic in the sense that we feel there is common ground from which we can all operate: just laws, fair principles, and proportionate outcomes as result of actions.

The most sizable and impactful consumer companies of today have mastered the art of systematic personalization. Apple, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and AirBnB are prime examples. Even the pure-play ‘product’ companies are trying to get there: Coca-Cola cans with your name printed on them, Starbucks writing your name on the cup before handing it back to you, promises of Gucci and Prada retail stores knowing your purchasing preferences when you walk in, and Spotify sending you a ‘2019 Wrapped’ end-of-year summary of your listening habits.

It won’t be surprising to you to hear what the turning point has been to create companies and organizations of such scale: computational algorithms. Replicating a foundational process across time and space gives the heavy lifting to the processor and allows the personalization to be provided at a more local level.

Laws are a form of algorithms, but they are difficult to enforce everywhere in real time and there are always edge cases. This is why we have judges and Supreme Court Justices. Even at a national algorithm level, we still require some degree of human intervention. What do we as a society focus on? Not the 99% of cases that are handled adequately by the system, but the 1% that are distinctive. National systems of curricula are similar. Fundamentally countries have processes which every young citizen could follow to learn a certain skill or topical knowledge. But the actual implementation of it requires immense personalization. And what do we remember? The teacher who personalized the lesson and explained in a way that we could understand. The mentor who stayed behind after class to tell us they believed in us.

Systematic personalization can create a defensible moat for businesses. From the customer’s perspective, repeatable delivery of an individualized experience bings connection and trust to the business: Netflix knows ‘your’ preferences, Facebook connects you to ‘your’ friends, AirBnB creates ‘your’ ideal travel experience, Douyin recommends ‘your’ hottest videos of the week. This increases the personalization of the experience, increases switching costs, and is likely to improve customer retention/decrease churn (often the customer is the user as well, but not always).

From the student’s or user’s perspective, a consistent yet customized experience breeds familiarity and trust with the experience and at the same time creates a connection of uniqueness. Feeling the ‘class next door’ received a significantly different experience doesn’t build trust at all. Think of your own experience with a service provider - if you get the short end of the stick compared with another user, you’re not thrilled. If it takes you 20 minutes to receive your cake and coffee and the table next to you receives it in two, you are likely to be upset. Again, for the student/user, consistency increases the quality of the experience, increases switching costs, and is likely to improve customer retention/decrease churn.

From the coach’s or teacher’s perspective, a foundation on which to personalize instruction and feedback should reduce preparation time and improve learning outcomes for students (this is true as long as the foundation is agreed upon and not counter to the coach’s ethos and methodology). The less ‘re-inventing of the wheel’ that occurs, the more coaches can spend on other projects. The more time can be spent on learning and development.

From the accountant’s perspective, shifting the revenue mix as much as possible to being generated by fixed cost investments as opposed to variable cost outlays allows for greater margin expansion and potentially scalability. To learn more about this, understand that brick-and-mortar education businesses are not ‘globally scalable,’ but rather ‘locally scalable.’ All things being equal, the greater the proportion of fixed costs that can be distributed across the entire business, the better for the bank account and thus the compensation of everyone in the business!

The companies that have re-defined industries in the last decade generate systematically personalized experiences for their customers and users. This is the core of a leading curriculum and underlying technology backbone: we are generating a systematically personalized experience for our students and customers. The more personalized service we can provide, while at the same time building from a system that conducts much of that personalization for us, the better.

Where is the systematically personalized leadership development company of our time? Why can’t that be us?