Recently, I completed an inaugural course on a new business marketing framework. Why? Marketing always made me feel uncomfortable because of the manipulative techniques I’ve experienced over the years. However, I’ve also worked with some fantastic marketers who focused more on educating. This new framework focused more on the intent of constant, consistent education. So I set an intention to dive deep into the topic of marketing by investing in this course.

The experience reminded me of the power of a good framework. It also had me thinking of the side effects.

About the course experience

First, a little bit about the course:

  • I applied to be accepted into the course. I could not just pay my money and attend.
  • I made a significant financial investment. I discussed it with my wife because it stretched us a bit.
  • The course content consisted of videos, articles providing details, case studies, and templates that we reviewed outside of the live sessions.
  • Homework followed almost every lesson where we applied the models right away to our business. It was cumulative. So if you skipped something, you HAD to go back and do the prior work before you took on the current week’s work. It was a significant time investment.
  • We interacted with each other via a new asynchronous community tool. (It was nothing like Slack. Yeah!). However, it helped to keep up with the conversations in the community as you could get a sense of what others were discovering or where they were struggling. We were always encouraged to comment on each others’ work. Many of us did just that.
  • The course met twice a week for 10 weeks for open Q&A. I say “open” because it wasn’t always question and answer. Sometimes the instructor would provide additional material based on questions and conversations online. Sometimes we would have live work sessions where we state which model we wanted to work with and then have 20 minutes of silent creation. This was followed by some conversation time about what we got from the session.
  • We were encouraged to form peer groups to help us apply the models to our business.
  • The instructor had invited former clients to come into the course to talk about how they applied the concepts of the course. They would sometimes introduce complementary ideas outside the framework. These were bonus sessions and did not substitute the open Q&A sessions. We needed those times to discuss the concepts together.

In short, it was intense. I loved it.

Photo by Chris Abney on Unsplash

The Power of Well-Designed Frameworks and Courses

This experience reminded me of the power of frameworks and a good course to teach the framework:

  • I came away from the course not mastering the concepts, but I have a path to mastery. And, I want to invest more time in learning and practice.
  • I did have many opportunities to practice during the workshop. I feel like I’m starting to understand some of the concepts.
  • The course got me thinking about more than marketing my business. It gave me new ideas about my business.
  • While very practical, I also appreciated how the instructor addressed some of the concerns of the entire class about the danger of shortcuts. None of us wanted to manipulate or do harm to our customers. We really wanted to educate our customers.
  • I made some fantastic connections in the course. I hope some of us get an opportunity to collaborate. Plus, we see how to do that through some of the models now. Actually, we were encouraged to developed partnerships to leverage after the course.
  • The framework and models were never sold to us as THE ONLY WAY to accomplish what we were working toward. But it did emphasize the combination of models was the most effective way known at the moment.
Photo by Zhu Hongzhi on Unsplash

Beware the Side Effects of Frameworks

The wonderful experience with this workshop also had me reflecting on other workshops that teach frameworks and some of the dangerous side effects that can be introduced:

  • Just pay-to-play courses: so long as you pay the fee, you can take the course.
  • Teaching-to-a-test framework courses: where you are riddled with PowerPoint bullets of information. All the information is squeezed into a very short period of time with little explanation as to why a particular model or element is part of the framework. You just need to “know it” because it’s on a certification exam.
  • “Got to catch it all” courses: Not everything in the framework may be practical for you, but you need to know it because … well, it’s on the certification exam. However, a complex framework also makes getting lost an easy job.
  • The “one true way” framework course: A framework taught as THE WAY to make a process work. Don’t think about mixing in your experience or other frameworks. Don’t even try to apply the framework a little bit at a time. You must follow the one true way, all the way.
  • The “learn with strangers” course: with so much information and so many different goals everyone brings to some courses, No time exists to make connection with other students in the course. There is no relationship-development and no true opportunity to help each other in or after the course.

Wanting Better Frameworks and Courses

I’ve been in courses with these side effects. I’ve made the huge mistake of teaching some courses like this, mostly due to someone else’s mandate.

No more.

I’ve always received more value from courses where you build connections with the people and the concepts in the course. It’s not about learning for a test. It’s about how the the people and the content can help you be continuously successful together.

Let’s call them communal success courses for now.

Where have you see these communal success courses without “side effects”?