Tutor: Ecosystems and Value

Do you, as a tutor, think often or at all about the concepts of business ecosystems? Why would you? Most teachers, tutors, trainers, and coaches may find themselves embedded within educational ecosystems or, if independent, see themselves as individual operators with no relationship to other providers in their niches than as competitors. Unfortunately, that narrow view of competition isn’t just erroneous today but may have been outdated before you even taught your first student. At least that’s what big-brained business strategist James F. Moore thought:

“Every day in my work I observe companies that are drastically affected by the changing ecology of business competition and that seek ways to understand and shape the transformations engulfing them. I tell them about the death of competition.

“Not that competition is vanishing. In fact it is intensifying. But competition as most of us have routinely thought of it is dead – and any business manager who doesn’t realize this is threatened. Let me explain. The traditional way to think about competition is in terms of offers and markets. Your product or service goes up against that of your competitor, and one wins. You improve your product by listening to customers, and by investing in the processes that create it.

“The problem with this point of view is that it ignores the context – the environment – within which the business lies, and it ignores the need for coevolution with others in that environment, a process that involves cooperation as well as conflict. Even excellent businesses can be destroyed by the conditions around them. They are like species in Hawaii. Through no fault of their own, they find themselves facing extinction because the ecosystem around them is itself imploding. A good restaurant in a failing neighborhood is likely to die. A first-rate supplier to a collapsing retail chain – a Bradlees, Caldor or Kmart – had better watch out.”

These pragmatic observations come from Moore’s book, The Death Of Competition – Leadership And Strategy In The Age Of Business Ecosystems. I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve long agreed with his model of a business ecosystem as “an economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals.” My convictions in this regard are neither idle nor abstract; for the last five years or more, I’ve been part of a burgeoning business ecosystem entirely new to the tutor industry.

To make what could be a very long story short, a thriving ecosystem creates abundance and opportunity for everyone involved. In fact, the impetus to write about this topic came from the absolutely magnificent March NTPA Summit on the Digital SAT. More than 60 educators representing nearly that many tutoring practices gathered to learn priceless feedback on the first international administration of the dSAT from generous colleagues. I’ve been through many SAT revision cycles in my time and have never–even when I was with retail brand names in test prep–had access every step of the way to so much valuable information that will benefit both my students and my business–all because of ecosystem.

When I recommend, as I so often do, that tutors join Test Prep Tribe and NTPA, license TestBright curriculum, or listen to the Tests and the Rest podcast, the pitch isn’t just about direct financial gain for one party or another; frankly, these resources range from seriously underpriced to completely free. The profit lies in our mutual long-term gain, an overflowing cornucopia of benefits that active involvement in these ecosystems accrue.

Does this mean that every tutor or test prep professional benefits from simply the existence of these increasingly rich communities and networks. Not at all. Business leader Shayak Mazumder said, “The more value we add to our ecosystem, the more valuable we become.” I see the rampant professional and personal growth among my friends and colleagues, the exciting opportunities and outcomes for providers, publishers, producers, allied professionals, and, most of all, clients. Their success–our success–undoubtedly comes, in part, at the expense of competitors outside the ecosystem.

This rising tide cannot lift you if you’re not in a boat. Get involved.

— Mike Bergin

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The Benefits of Laughing in the Office
Giggling and snickering may sound unprofessional, but how about laughing?

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