Ben Franklin’s line, “well done is better than well said,” gets at the very heart of Marketing as Service. If you want to truly engage your target to the point that they have a genuine desire to do business with you then you have to do something–it can’t be just talk. A great example of doing something is IBM’s recently announced collaboration with San Jose State University with a program they call The Great Mind Challenge. This program brings together students, teachers, IBM’ers (as mentors) and local companies that seems to be a win/win/win/win for all involved.
As part of my background research for a story on this program (see FastCompany.com), I interviewed Larry Gee, the SJSU instructor working with IBM to teach “social business” to a select group of undergrads. I think you’ll find what Gee has to say about this business/academic collaboration quite interesting.
DN: Can you give me a little background on this program from SJSU’s perspective?
SJSU, College of Business, has always brought innovation to the classroom so students can learn, apply, and differentiate themselves in the business world. SJSU and IBM has a long relationship over the years. It is only natural that ideas are bounced back and forth between us; how we can make a difference when preparing the next generation of leaders. Bringing social business into the classroom was one of those ideas that fit the innovation framework.
DN: Why did SJSU decide to collaborate with IBM on this project?
SJSU, College of Business, decided to collaborate with IBM on this project because Social Business is a critical skill that students need to have to be competitive in the market place. Social Business is a transferable skill across multiple disciplines ie business, bio-sciences, engineering, humanity & arts, etc. Students worked on a real business problem, real time, to learn and apply social business tools and processes.
DN: Do you have collaborations with other large corporations?
Yes, we have collaborated with other large corporations such as Cisco, Google, Microsoft to name a few.
DN: If you were talking to another educator at a different university who was considering a similar collaboration, what advice would you give them?
My advice: 1) Identify key social business partner asap. This is critical because a real life component is needed to reinforce key concept and process. 2) Plan quickly with a clear course work and administration buy-in roadmap for execution in 60 days. 3) Execute plan and have class up and running by next term.
DN: How are you evaluating the success of this program?
Students must be able to understand and apply social business tools/process to a real life problem. The program success is measured on how well students learn, grasp, apply, and demonstrate how social business can be used in a business environment to increase competitive advantage or improve business process cycle time.
DN: How have students responded?
Students response has been great because they have already been exposed and used social media, Facebook, blogs, bookmarks, wiki, to name a few, basic components of social business, at a very young age. What is new then? They are able to build a social business environment using various social media tools they already know and use, but this time, in a business setting.
DN: Can you speak to the advantages of having IBM experts mentor your students?
Certainly. Having a subject matter experts available to talk, demonstrate, and relate to actual projects are key. One can read articles and talk about them in class. But when you are given access to the latest materials and platform to create a social business environment then this is collaboration at its highest. Mentor is only a few clicks away to kick around ideas and bring those ideas to reality. This is where academia and business intersect.
DN: Is there a risk with a program like this that it will be perceived more as a marketing ploy for IBM than a more company-neutral business course?
I don’t believe the program is a major marketing ploy but rather a business neutral course because majority of tools and contents used were not IBM but rather current tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Bookmark, wiki, etc. GBS, IBM Business Partner, provided the real life problem for students to do a deep dive into their social business space.