George Carlin was right.

George Carlin was right

“You know, when you show me the case studies, it all looks so beautiful and logical. But when I do it, it’s messy and ugly. I know that you must also have gone through those stages. I wish you also showed me how hard it was for you. That way, I know that with effort, I’ll get there.”

One of the earliest students in our flagship course, The Human-Centered Strategy Masterclass, said these prophetic words. And in many ways, it reinforced our belief that, unlike other classes, we shouldn’t be sugarcoating the effort it needs to think strategically.

The world of online education is generally filled with quick fixes. And each of these quick fixes solves a small problem. In fact, the conventional wisdom of anyone teaching someone to create an online course is to narrow down the issue to the smallest unit and only teach how to tackle that.

Why? Because such a small, narrowly defined problem can be solved through a method or a single tool, usually and a student can feel accomplished. You get the same dopamine rush that kids and helicopter parents get with trivial academic accomplishments. Something easy to get, but the celebration is overblown.

But the discipline of brand strategy can’t be reduced to the wisdom found in fortune cookies. It is nuanced and complex. And it is interconnected to various concepts and sub-disciplines. It needs to be all learned, absorbed, questioned, and experienced.

The path is full of disappointments on the way to mastery. And this shouldn’t be sugarcoated. A course-creating masterclass had an instructor who encouraged a points-based system for chapter completion. A bell would ring, and confetti would drop from the top of the screen because the student got through a video. Seriously?

Are these the kind of students we want? What sort of mastery will they achieve?

What is needed for mastery is an apprentice mindset. To truly master a craft, whether martial arts, music, samurai sword-making, or strategic thinking, a student needs to understand that true mastery is in learning, practicing, and relearning a craft as a perpetual student.

A quick fix boosts the ego without building the muscle or the mindset needed for the pursuit of perfection.

In the immortal words of George Carlin, not every child is special.

Navin Narayanan is a partner at Centre of Gravity. He leads HumanWorks, the school of Centre of Gravity where we teach the philosophy and method of Human-Centered Thinking and its allied skills.

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