The following article is provided by Superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.
There is an interesting business school case study that is quickly becoming imminently applicable to Education as this pandemic endures. If you have never heard of the “Honda/Yamaha Motorcycle Wars,”I encourage you to take a quick look on Google. The extended version of the story has it starting in the early 1950’s and continuing through about the mid-80’s and has multiple intervening variables. I am going to share the abridged version with just a few variables. In short, Honda and Yamaha had a similar market share in 1980 (Honda had 38% and Yamaha had 37%). Just a few short years later Yamaha was almost non-existent in the motorcycle market while Honda was thriving. The fundamental questions are how did Yamaha fail or how did Honda succeed, and why?
1981and 1982 were pivotal. The motorcycle consumer demands were changing rapidly and both companies had to pick a strategy. Yamaha chose to stick with what they knew and built factories to manufacture motorcycles they were already making. They invested about 1% in Research and development. Honda spent more than four times as much in research and development and decided to iterate based on consumer demands. The data are very telling. In 1981, for comparison, Yamaha introduced 18 new models and Honda introduced 17, so about the same. In 1982-83, Yamaha introduced 34 new models, which is about the same as they had in 1981 at 17 per year. During that same period (1982-83), Honda introduced 81 new models. That is nearly two and a half times as many as Yamaha. Honda was customizing their approach based on consumer needs. They were responsive to the market. They were willing to change their product on a regular basis to stay viable. In that ‘82-83 period, Yamaha discontinued just three models (remember, they stuck to what they knew). Honda, on the other hand, discontinued 32 models. They simply walked away from the things that were not working. I am sure making these types of pivotal changes were not initially well-received by the workforce who had to continually reinvent what they were doing.
2020-2021 is quickly becoming the Honda/Yamaha motorcycle wars in education. The faster we can adapt and iterate based on student, teacher, parent, and community needs, the better we are able to meet the educational demand which is changing daily. It seems like every day I come to work there are new variables, new considerations,and a changing climate. I take comfort in the fact we can learn from our past about what worked and what did not work. I do not know about you, but I cannot even remember the last time I saw a Yamaha motorcycle on the road and cannot help but wonder how many school systems will find themselves completely irrelevant when this pandemic ends. Frankly, I am not surprised to see many districts around Texas and around the country who have quite literally lost students. The current national estimate is between-10% and-25% of students have not come back to public school. For a point of reference, Victoria I.S.D. stands at-2.7% during this same period. That puts us better than the average by a wide margin.
My working hypothesis is many of these districts are not regularly interfacing with their community around complex decisions (like we do with mega-zooms, exchanges, etc.) and thus are unable to meet the needs of the community because they may not know what those needs are. What better way to know what the consumer wants than by, you know, asking?It seems obvious, I know, but you would be surprised how often this does not happen. I am grateful to the Victoria I.S.D. community,Trustees, Administrators, Teachers, Students, Parents for allowing us to continue adapting to meet the needs of everyone as we keep safety at the forefront and make every decision centered on maximizing student learning. Also, thanks for responding when we send those exchanges, surveys, and mega-zoom invites. Your input has kept us strong and viable. I will close with a quote from Henry David Thoreau, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
By Superintendent Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.
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