Low Cost vs. High Value in Education

Something I have been thinking about lately…

If the only dimension on which you distinguish yourself from your competitors is the low cost of your product, your customers will abandon you as soon as someone comes along with a similar product that costs less. You don’t want your distinguishing point to be low cost. You want it to be high value.

I have been reading several books on business innovation, leadership, creating value, and other topics that I am not usually drawn to. It has been an interesting diversion into an area that I hadn’t really given much thought to in the past. One of the ideas that has come out of my reading is that changing your perspective to focus on value rather than expediency (low cost, efficiency, “just get the job done”) can bring about a paradigm shift in the way you think and the way you approach your daily life.

I am currently working in the field of education, and I believe that a focus on value needs to drive schools. Value, in an educational context, means that students learn to become knowledgeable and critical thinkers, tolerant and respectful citizens, and successful at taking on a variety of roles (leader, organizer, supporter, etc.) in society. A focus on expediency — where, for example, students learn to do very well on tests — serves us in the short term (it means that we can tell quickly who will be able to succeed when the next round of tests comes up — e.g. high school, university), but it doesn’t serve us in the long term, when we are talking about the student contributing to society as a thinking, reflective adult.

On the world stage, do we want our students (our “products”, as it were) to be the ones who were produced at the lowest cost (best at taking tests) or the ones who add the most value to our society?

Recommended Reading…

Adam Hartung, Sayonara Sony: How Industrial, MBA-Style Leadership Killed a Once Great Company
(On the perils of pursuing low-cost vs. high value)

Phil McKinney, Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation
Available as a book or an audiobook

David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big
Available as a book or an audiobook

Next on My List…

Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us
Available as a book or an audiobook