Let’s have a look at how this manifests through the lens of Sales & Distribution, starting from the core questions.
- If you have a product, how do you get it to your customer?
In our case, as MBA students, this translates to:
- If the professor has an idea, how does he get it to you?
- How do you accept these new ideas and use them fastest?
These questions are central to sales & distribution for the product “knowledge” in the context of teaching. They are, coincidentally, the content of the class and, as was powerfully shown in practice, a way of product delivery. It’s a very meta state of things at RoBe!
In January 2022 our professor, Paulo Albuquerque, had to improvise his distribution channel shortly before our class started. About a week before our classes took place in 2022, our old invisible friend from 2019 David20 (name changed for anonymity) forced RoBe’s hand: we had to stay home to be able to go to class. How ironic indeed (irony nr. 1). Instead of a classroom in the physical world, where we could gather around the professor, everybody had to gather around their computer to join a line-up of faces on a screen in the virtual world. So, does this change in circumstance change the answers to our core questions above?
Context is everything
The answer to this case is a clear “yes” (if your instinct is to say “no” then I would like to warmly invite you to join RoBe for the next spring semester!). When (not if!) you want to optimize your sales – or in this case teaching success – the distribution channel and delivery must be adapted accordingly. Let’s take the example at hand and appreciate the difference in situation: When sharing a classroom with teacher and classmates, you get the advantage of movement you can always perceive: body language, the changes in position of the professor and discussions with your colleagues during the coffee break all stimulate or support the learning experience. It is more convenient to accept new ideas and use them if you can see your professor passionately interacting with a colleague or talk about the way you understood the lecture (or not).
However, despite the settings’ inherent reality, the physical classroom, the concepts you learn are firmly rooted in a model world, which is a virtual space by nature (irony nr. 2). It is constructed for you to understand neatly constructed examples that fit a little too well into their story to be truly realistic (telling the truth by lying, so to say. irony nr. 3). And, if we’re honest, when do we ever have time to sit down for 3 hours and listen to something new and ground-breaking at work. So, what happens if you take the crucial element of learning “movement” away and are limited to the virtual space for learning as well? The learning situation becomes more realistic (irony nr. 4): if you think about the last time you sat at work and searched for the answer to a question in your .doc or .xls documents, by chatting with a colleague or even on googling away, when was that? Likely yesterday? Or the day before, maybe? More recent than your last day in the classroom, for sure. The core advantage here is clear: you can pick up relevant information in your own speed, on the platform you like most, or from a person you trust to know the answer is more likely to lead to (learning) success. In conclusion, the channel context influences you and your way of absorbing knowledge. The prof therefore must take these aspects into account when teaching. But can they or do they?
Being a professor is a skill, not (only) title
The profs at RoBe are artists in their own fields because they master the art of teaching and because, recently, thanks to David20, they were thrown into almost every possible virtual-, or real-world-classroom situation. Indeed, in this case the prof literally gets the S&D channel thrown at him for a change (irony nr. 5). But not to worry, after 2 years of mixing different styles and modes of getting knowledge to the students, they have become proficient omnichannel players in their field, maybe even without knowing it. In this sense, what Paulo did was fascinating: he actively used a multitude of channels – e-mail, a videocall, the chat (public and private), YouTube, PPT, screenshare, the class, the break, and many others I probably didn’t pick up on, because they were not relevant to me. He also adapted his modes of transmitting the information he wished (i.e. personal stories, stories of friends, theories, cases, etc.) as a function of the channel, in order to give us an insight on how to deal with and optimally align them to succeed in business – it was a refreshing way to demonstrate how things work, while talking about how they should work. The metaverse of supply & distribution, so to say.
Answers by walking the walk, not just talking the talk
And this is one of the things that fascinate me about this MBA: the professors give you the answers, quickly, efficiently and to the point. They know what they talk about, and what is more, they also shape the way they get this knowledge to you to the context they find themselves in. In the case of S&D, they even apply said knowledge in front of your eyes. I don’t think there is a better way of teaching than by putting the theory into practice right in front of your eyes. Hence, as they taught me, so I relay to you the answers that I would give after this weekend:
- You get the product to the customer in the most efficient channel, given the situation.
- The professor gets the idea to you, by connecting with you, the customer, as best he can, given the channel(s).
- You accept ideas best when getting the most complete overall picture through multiple channels and in accordance with your preferences as a customer.
And that is, without a hint of irony at all for once, how I will handle my S&D from now on.