As the summer winds to a close, the temperatures have started to drop and schools are back in session. In Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood on Sunday night, the streets start to come alive with people looking to savor the last of the weekend before taking on the Monday morning grind. A line starts to form around 4pm at the corner of Randolph and Halsted streets. This particular restaurant doesn’t start serving food until 5pm, but the bar begins to fill up in anticipation. They don’t take reservations. It’s first come, first serve. Those who can withstand the wait are not disappointed.
If you are fortunate enough to get a seat at the bar, you have front row access to witness all the magic this 1,400 square-foot restaurant has to offer. While the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever plays in the background, you hear the sizzle of the griddle and watch 6 expertly built single and double burgers some topped with thick-cut bacon, others with a perfect sunny-side up egg, but all with butter toasted buns and a pickle spear. It’s nothing short of burger perfection.
If you plan in advance and arrive around 4pm the wait is approximately 90 minutes. If you tend to be more spontaneous, plan to wait for three or four hours to experience a juicy single that is actually a double or a double that is actually a triple with perfectly melted cheddar cheese lovingly placed in between each all-beef patty. So why wait? Because the artistry and consistency of a perfectly crafted griddled burger from Au Cheval is worth the wait.
Organizations such as Disney, Apple, and even your favorite neighborhood eatery specialize in delivering a quality product that meets an initial unknown need that builds a loyal consumer base, or, as Seth Godin refers to it, a tribe, people connected to one another who are connected to an idea. Tribes spread an organization's “why” which perpetuates the desire for that particular product or service because they believe in the organization’s mission. Every organization strives to build tribes that are willing to wait for the product they deliver, few succeed. The successful organizations have one thing in common. They have perfected the user experience. They consistently deliver products that meet consumer needs. Their focus is on identifying their consumer base and earning their loyalty by consistently delivering products that make their lives better. They never settle. They work to innovate and improve their products and processes. They are complex in their simplicity. They are focused.
The point of success is not in making your consumer base wait, but in the ability to consistently exceed their expectations so that the wait is worthwhile because in the end the consumer will not be disappointed. Tribes create loyalty and a unique user experience builds the tribe. We have all heard the phrase, too many cooks in the kitchen. Right now, higher education has too many academics in the classroom. In a struggle to maintain relevance, higher education is abandoning its focus in an attempt to meet consumer trends instead of consumer needs.
Not too long ago, students selected colleges based on their educational offerings, sports programs, or extracurricular focus. Now, higher education looks very much the same from one institution to another. Institutions are reaching for the same student pool without offering distinctive advantages. Higher education is shifting towards a one-size fits all approach. Students risk receiving a watered-down version of educational options that may not meet their needs or prepare them for a competitive marketplace.
The artistry of crafting programs to allow students to innovate, explore, and nurture creativity are being replaced with programs developed to meet regulatory criteria and immediate marketplace needs. Students need educational options, but they need a product that is developed by institutions who are experts at delivering a unique user experience that is simple, affordable, and accessible. Students need to see the connection and importance of education beyond the next job opportunity. They need a foundation that promotes lifelong learning and the opportunity to participate in a higher education user experience that is worth the wait.
“Whatever the status quo is, changing it gives you the opportunity to be remarkable.” ~ Seth Godin
Is your institution worth the wait?