Education Growth

Shane Parrish, Wes Kao

Growth Summit 2022

Learn how to grow and build an Education business.



[00:00:00] Aadil Razvi: All right. We have the co-founder of Maven. A platform that empowers subject matter experts to teach live cohort-based courses. It's funded by First Round and a16z and works with instructors like Annie Duke, Pomp, Shaan Puri, Legion, and more. Please give a warm welcome to Wes Kao. 

[00:00:21] Wes Kao: Hey everyone. 

[00:00:25] Aadil Razvi: And we have the best-selling author and entrepreneur known for his popular podcast, The Knowledge Project and Brain Food Newsletter, which is sent each week to more than half a million subscribers.

Please welcome none other than Mr. Shane Parrish 

[00:00:39] Shane Parrish: Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here. 

[00:00:42] Aadil Razvi: Super excited to have both of you. Let's just dive right into it. We're gonna go with some high level education stuff about the space trends that you're seeing. We're gonna dive into course design and how to make courses that people love.

We'll talk about some growth tactics towards the end and thencap it off with some audience questions. But we will go ahead and start with you, Wes. 

We used to live in an in person-first world. Then we shifted to this remote-first world, and now it seems like the pendulum is swinging back to somewhere in between.

What are some trends in the education space that you're seeing now at the tail end of 2022 and going into 2023. . 

[00:01:29] Wes Kao: I think with online education specifically, we're definitely seeing a trend towards interactive live courses that are more community driven than online courses have been previously.

So if you think about the last 10, 15 years, the main format of online learning has been massively open online courses, otherwise known as MOOCs. Which are video-based courses. So these are the kinds of courses that you find on LinkedIn Learning on Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare, and they're basically,a bunch of prerecorded videos that you watch by yourself.

There's not a lot of interaction. There's no feedback. It's super easy to get distracted when you're in the middle of watching one of these videos. And the completion rate is super low, so 6 to 10% completion. There was a recent MIT study that said that might be as low as 3 to 6% completion.

So while these MOOCs opened up access to information and to great instructors and made courses and learning a lot more affordable, the engagement just really wasn't there. So I think that the thing that we're really seeing in the last couple years, and I think in the next five years that will really continue growing, is this trend towards more interactive, live learning, where we are really taking the best parts of online learning with the scale and accessibility and affordability, but combining it with the best parts of in person learning.

Like when you're in the same room with someone breathing the same air and you're riffing with each other, you're debating, you're discussing, you are reviewing each other's work. You're kind tearing down some stuff and rewriting it together. That kind of collaboration learning is something that we're now able to do. The technology is there. The appetite is there.

So I've been seeing a lot more cohort based courses that creators and experts are now starting to teach, which is really exciting.

[00:03:27] Aadil Razvi: Do you have a sense of what the completion rate was before and after for MOOCs versus cohort-based courses? 

[00:03:37] Wes Kao: Yes, totally. 75% on average completion for cohort-based courses. 

[00:03:43] Aadil Razvi: Wow. Very cool. Go ahead Shane. 

[00:03:45] Shane Parrish: To build on what Wes said that the technology's really enabling. 

Do you remember the matrix? The first one where they plug in this module, it's I need to learn kung fu. And yes, you plug in this module and all of a sudden you learn kung fu. 

So what technology is also enabled right now is real time skill acquisition on demand. So I need this skill. I'm at a roadblock. How do I acquire this skill. Right now in this moment, and to Wes's point, the traditional way of doing that was these MOOCs where you would do this course and it would take 3, 4, 5, 6 months online at a pace that maybe you didn't always control, trying to find the material that you wanted, and now it's becoming a lot shorter, the intensity's higher, so the completion rates higher, but you're also getting the skills that you're interested in the moment that you're interested in them.

[00:04:39] Aadil Razvi: And have you seen Shane you've spent a lot of time studying how people learn. How is the shift that's happening because of technology matching up with sort of the psychology of how people learn? 

[00:04:51] Shane Parrish: So it's really interesting because I'll just explain my theory on how people learn and then map it to how that's factoring into technology today.

The way that people traditionally think they learn is through an experience. And I don't think we learn from experience because we all work with somebody who's had 20 years of experience, but it's the same year just repeated over and over again. Real learning comes when you take an experience, whether it's a conversation, you're reading a book, you do something, you have an action which causes an experience, and you reflect on it.

And it's that reflection process that creates the learning. What worked, what didn't work, what could I have done better? Where are the edge cases? Where are the boundaries? Once you reflect on something, you create an abstraction. And the abstraction is, what will I do next time when I'm in this situation? What's my heuristic to solve this problem? 

But embedded in that abstraction is all of these reflections that you have. And so the abstraction creates an action, and then you have this loop. So you have experience, reflection, abstraction action, and it just cycles and cycles. And so when you have a real time on demand course where you can get the information you need, you get the information and then you go put it into action.

And so you get the opportunity to reflect on it right away. There's no distance between learning and getting the reflection, and then you can put it in the cycle and you can improve a lot quicker. 

[00:06:21] Aadil Razvi: Can you tell me one example, putting it through that framework that you outlined. Make it real for us.

[00:06:33] Shane Parrish: It's interesting because we teach a lot of decision making, right? So people come to us when they're stuck with the decision. And so part of what we walk them through is how do we make this decision, but how do we create this system where I can reflect on my decisions as I'm making them?

And if in part you wanna reflect before you make the decision, so you wanna write it out, you want to think about it put your thoughts into writing. Because what's can't be fixed. And often we don't understand something. 

So it's the act of encouraging that reflection that gives you the abstraction, helps you make the decision. And then you can go back and evaluate your own writing, your own sort of reflections and see what you thought was valuable versus what is. So now you're getting real time feedback or near realtime feedback in a way that allows you to go forward. 

[00:07:21] Aadil Razvi: Got that. Wes, do you have anything to add to that? 

[00:07:23] Wes Kao: Yeah, I can offer another example.

Wth Maven's courses the learning and the doing are very much one and the same. So I have a framework called the Learn Do Cycle, whereas the old way was about learn, learn, learn, learn, do. The new way is learn, do, learn, do, learn, do. So you're constantly alternating between the two. 

Shaan Puri has a course on Maven called Power Writing. And in the course Shaan has everyone actually draft a couple headlines. Once he teaches you the ideal structure of a great, subject line or, tweet hook, he actually has you write down some yourself. 

So he might set a timer for two minutes. Everyone starts writing, and then at the end of those two minutes, everyone shares out what they came up with. And then Shaan will then pick from, what everyone shared and do a live teardown to explain, all right, here's what you know. Here's what you did right. I would trim this first half, move this here, remove this.

He's sharing his thought process and everyone is able to learn from it. And then he might set another timer for another two minutes, and then everyone takes that feedback in mind and then edits their own work. So there's a really tight feedback loop, and you're not just passively consuming information about, how to write great headlines. You're actually writing them. 

And so often when you put something into practice, at first you think you get it, but then you try it and it doesn't work, it fails horribly. And you're like, "Okay, I definitely didn't get it as much as I thought I did." 

And it's through that motion of putting it into practice that you then refine your knowledge and really learn that skill.

[00:09:14] Shane Parrish: I just wanted to add something there to what Wes was saying. What you're seeing in real time with that is Shaan talking about his reflections. So he's reading your headline and then he's talking about what works, what doesn't work, why it works, why it doesn't work, and so you're actually learning from somebody else's reflections instead of their abstractions.

So if learning from abstractions would be like: "Here's a headline that works." Without telling me why it works. Without telling me the fundamental reasons, like, when wouldn't it work? When is it likely to work? When does it fall apart? And so when you get that feedback in real time, you accelerate your learning.

[00:09:53] Aadil Razvi: That's a nice segue to get into course design because it seems like the type of education that you're talking about falls in the realm of skill building. Would you categorize that as specific to skill building, Wes? 

[00:10:17] Wes Kao: Yeah, I suppose so.

I think this kind of learning works for anything where feedback is useful and thinking about what you're learning and talking about what you're learning is useful, which I think is pretty much everything.

So maybe skill building plus, I don't know. What are other categories of things that people wanna learn? 

[00:10:39] Aadil Razvi: Zooming out if we look at the medium of these different ways to educate, we have things like cohort-based courses which are far more like time and intensity heavy versus sending a weekly newsletter that is also educating and useful and valuable. 

How do you think about the right, tool for the right job? Like how do you think about what sort of medium works best in the context of of education? 

[00:11:17] Wes Kao: I think with live courses, you really wanna spend the time doing things that you can only do live. So if you are going to be talking at someone for, a long period of time and you're gonna be monologing, there's no reason that should be live, you might as well record it and, turn it into a video that people can watch on 1.5x speed or that they can watch in their own time and then save that live portion for actually, doing activities that you can only do live.

So thinking about what's the benefit of being live together? How do we lead into that? I think that's one thing to think about. I think the other is most course creators can't go straight to making an ask. With, with asking someone to, to purchase their course. Usually you need to build up trust and credibility with your audience first, and that usually looks like sharing free content, whether that's in the form of a newsletter or posting on LinkedIn or on, posting tweet threads podcasts, whatever might be Sharing and showing that you have value to offer for your audience. 

So I think it's sometimes, less, do you want to do free stuff versus paid stuff? I think it's just you have to do free stuff, right? Cause otherwise, if you show up on my doorstep and ask me for $1,500 for a course and I have no idea who you are, that's awkward and I'm not gonna buy.

So it's there's more of a practical component there too.

[00:12:56] Aadil Razvi: Anything to add, Shane? 

[00:12:58] Shane Parrish: No, I think Wes really nailed it there, right? You have to establish trust before you can. Why should I listen to you? Yeah. And then to, to her point about what are the benefits? And you have to think about the medium and the benefits of the medium. 

So if you're teaching a course, what can we do online? What can we do in person? What can we do in a live session? And how do those mediums, those different mediums mix to the content that I'm teaching and creating. So can I do the theory on a video that I might watch at 1.5x? And then I go to the class now I got questions and those questions.

So now we're less teaching directly the material or the theory, maybe we're applying more in class. And it's by that application that you get the benefit more to the, you can benefit from not only the instructor's experiences, but you can benefit from everybody else in the classes experiences as well. And then that helps cement sort of the edge cases and the boundary cases of learning.

So it helps you understand the material at a deeper level. 

[00:14:04] Aadil Razvi: Yeah. I you touched on free versus paid and that's something that we constantly get questions about. How do you think about categorizing your content, your courses in the free bucket versus the paid bucket? 

And something that that y'all touched on is getting that initial affinity and like having people know who you are free can be a powerful lever in order to get that that trust with an audience. 

But how do you really think about the segregation of those two, Shane?

[00:14:40] Shane Parrish: I think, this is specific to people, right? So I think my answer's gonna be different from Wes' and it'll be different from everybody in the audience. We don't give away free courses.

So if we put together a course we're charging for it. We think the value's there and. We think most people who do that it's a trap, right? 

I'm giving you a free course cuz I wanna sell you something later. And so we already have credibility, so we're not trying to establish credibility.

So like I said, it's a different place for us to be teaching than if you're trying to set something up from scratch where you might wanna give away something free. Might wanna establish your reputation, you might wanna pull people in, demonstrate learning, create the social signal that you're getting, get the feedback, iterate your content.

Learn how to do it, because teaching is not easy either, right? The examples you use matter the way that you position your content matters, and how do you get the feedback on that? If you're not put, if you're putting it out there free, you might get the feedback, but if you're doing it behind the scenes where somebody's charging, you wanna get as many people in there as possible so you can get better at what you're doing.

And often it's the examples, again, the positioning, the pacing. The sort of materials that you have that go with the course, what actually supports what we're teaching? How does it all work together? How does it create the brand? Once I've done that for free, now maybe 

I can do it for money cuz I've demonstrated value, I've got the case studies and I've shown people what I can do.

[00:16:04] Aadil Razvi: What for you Shane? You've got farnam Street, Knowledge project. What has been that? That free hook that's been like the most powerful lever for you as you've been going through your own growth? 

[00:16:20] Shane Parrish: For us it's the newsletter? We give away we have a free newsletter, it goes out every Sunday. It goes over a half million people. We have an over 50% open rate and we give away an amazing amount of content there. And it's really just me keeping a log over the week of what I found interesting and curious. What do I think's timeless? What did I read this week? And then that is the platform from which we establish and we buildon from there. 

The Knowledge Project is like Disney? If you think of Disney, it's all of these components. You find a component. You find a character. Maybe it's on a lunchbox at a grocery store, and you're like, who is this character? And then all of a sudden you're watching the movie, then all of a sudden you're going to Disneyland.

I think of Farnam Street as the same thing. You can listen to the podcast and then all of a sudden you're like, Oh, this guy's got a newsletter too. He sounds really interesting. I'm gonna go check out the newsletter, and then you subscribe to that. We don't do any paid promotion or paid marketing.

So we just grow 10 to 15% a year. 

[00:17:22] Aadil Razvi: I'm excited to go from Farnam Street to Farnam World very soon. That's exciting. Wes, what about you? How do you think about free versus paid? 

[00:17:33] Wes Kao: Yeah, I think with coming at it from a student perspective people tend not to take free things as seriously.

There's so many free resources out there on how to eat better, how to work out and get in shape, how to become a better marketer. And if all it took were access to free resources, we'd all be much better versions of ourselves. And yeah, so I think price can be a lever to keep ourselves accountable as students.

I think of it a little bit like getting a personal trainer. At the gym where you know you've paid that person, if you cancel, they're not gonna give you your money back. And you've forced yourself to show up. So I think there's definitely a benefit from the accountability side of it too.

[00:18:23] Shane Parrish: Can I add one more point? Often free is about entertainment, whereas paid is about outcomes. 

[00:18:31] Aadil Razvi: Free is about entertainment. Paid is about outcomes. 

Often, yes. 

As a heuristic, that's super useful to think through. That's something we've struggled with internally at Demand Curve. We put out these, a hundred plus hour long playbooks versus, we have our own paid content. How should we be thinking about about that distinction? 

 I that, that's a super useful heuristic. 

About creating courses that through the actual process of just creating educational products, how do you design courses and experiences that your audience is actually going to love. How do you think about that, Wes?

[00:19:16] Wes Kao: I have a framework that I call the Content Hierarchy of BS. 

[00:19:19] Aadil Razvi: I knew you would have a framework. 

[00:19:23] Wes Kao: It's a pyramid where the bottom of the pyramid is more BS. And the top of the pyramid is less BS. And so what you find at the bottom are tweets, podcasts keynote speeches.

There's more room for BS because it's one directional. You as a speaker, you as a writer, you drop this knowledge bomb and then you move on. There's not a lot of pushback that you necessarily get and you don't have to address any objections or counterpoints or anything.

As you move up the Content hierachy BS, there's less room. So long-form articles. Long-form blog posts books, courses. 

There's even less room for BS there because these media require you to have rigor. Of course you can still write a book that's full of fluff that should be actually at a 10 page blog post or less.

So it's still possible. But it gets harder. 

And then courses are at the top of the pyramid, especially cohort based courses because it's Bidirectional, it's live. If you say something and you're not able to back it up, you have a room full of a hundred other people there, a hundred students who have paid good money to learn from you that, that want rigor, and so for you to just say some hand wavy thing and you're not able to back it up, that's not helpful for them. And and you can lose control of the course really really easily like that. I like thinking about the Content Hierarchy of BS because it really keeps instructors accountable and and it keeps 'em accountable to producing content that's really rigorous.

I think the other part of that the antidote to the BS is what I call the super specific how, and the super specific, how is basically focusing 80% of your courseon how. And 20% on what and why. This is usually a big mistake of first time course graders. They'll spend most of their time on the what and the why.

So if you're teaching a course on product, for example, you might say product managers have to be good communicators. 

Here's why. And then you talk about why. Your audience already knows that they should be good communicators. If you're a product manager, that's basic one-on-one captain obvious.

Maybe explaining the why is helpful if what you're saying is something that, challenges a traditional thought or something. But otherwise you don't really need to spend too much time going into that. You can say one line about communication is important. If you're a PM. Here are situations where you'll need to communicate well and why it's tricky and here's how you handle it, right?

How to communicate when you don't have positional authority, for example, how to communicate with technical teams and engineers when you, yourself are not technical. How to manage up, how to get buy-in when your idea is still hypothesis and, doesn't have that much data yet, right? How to share your assertions.

So these are all topics within the how of how to communicate that are much more helpful for your students. So focusing 80% of that how on the, how is a quick shortcut for a heuristic for thinking about how do I make my course really rigorous so that it's something that people can only get in my course and not something that they can just get if they're reading, a random tweet thread.

[00:22:58] Shane Parrish: It's also a forcing function, right? Because it forces you to shorten the length of the content. It can't go on forever. Because usually when you're going on forever, it's not the, how you're going on about, it's the what and the why. And then that's taking up the bulk of the space, and then that's when people get bored.

And that's part of the reason that these courses have such high dropout rates. It's Oh, I already know this. You're not telling me anything surprising. You're not telling me any practical skills how to do something differently. You're not positioning that content in a way that's landing for me. You're not giving me examples of how this is used in the real world. I'm not gonna pay attention. 

The most valuable thing for anybody taking a course. The most valuable thing for anybody even listening to this is your time.

[00:23:50] Aadil Razvi: Switching gears just a bit I think a lot of the questions that we're getting in the chat have to do with distribution how do you actually you create a course. How do you actually get eyeballs on that course? I know we, we've talked about free content. We've talked about growing a newsletter that was really operative for Shane. 

But what are some of the growth levers if you're in the education? Space. What are like the main growth levers? If you were to say, Hey, ignore 90% of this noise and focus on this 10% what might that look like, Shane? 

[00:24:29] Shane Parrish: I would use a platform like Maven. I think that's probably the way to go. You can create marketing around your course. But the platform will help you set you apart in terms of credibility, in terms of structure, in terms of technology in terms of rigor around it.

I think that all of that is really good, especially when you're starting out. I think it's just a great way to teach and it's a great way to get known. And having the people in your course share your course. Everybody wants to launch a course with a thousand students their first time.

That's not really how it works. You wanna launch a course and you wanna have 10 customers that love your product because those 10 go back and then they go, Hey everybody. At my exec team, we had this last year, we launched a course called decision by Design. In June of 2020, sorry, two years ago June, 2020, and people took it, and then what happened was they were like, Oh, our whole exec team needs to take this.

So we satisfied a customer need and we did it so well and in such a way that was so helpful and we gave them a vocabulary around it and positioned the content and then it just grew from there because it's now I got a hundred people at Amazon signed up for it because one person at Amazon took it.

So the those 10 people, what you really wanna do is you don't wanna focus on, how do I get a thousand people to sign up? It's how do I get ten, and then how do I exceed their expectations? How do I knock it outta the park for those 10? And then they're gonna tell their friends, and then that's how we grow. 

[00:26:01] Aadil Razvi: Yeah. Do an exceptional job for a small group of people that have that feel, that pain point the most. And doing an exceptional job creates that automatic referral mechanism.

[00:26:17] Shane Parrish: Right and the other thing you wanna do is you want to capture less value than you create. So many people are focused on capturing more value than they create, and that's a recipe for bankruptcy, right?

If a business charges more for a product or service, then the value they're creating for their customer. They're not gonna exist very long. You always want to be under. So you're charging less than the value you deliver. 

And you have to have a quantitative value statement. What is the value of taking this course?

What are people gonna get out of it? And you know that going in, you have a hypothesis of what that is, and you think you know what it is, but you also have to vet that on the other side. Did people actually get that value? 

And more importantly, it's not that they learned something. It's what's different now because you took this course? What behaviors have you changed? 

[00:27:04] Aadil Razvi: Wes, you wanna add anything to that? 

[00:27:13] Wes Kao: Yeah, I think it's really important to think upfront about course market fit. So we've all heard about product market fit and how important that is. 

And I think a lot of times people rush into creating a course because they're excited about a topic or, they're personally excited by it.

But you really have to think about course market fit in that, am I the right person to be teaching this course? To the right target student at the right price point on the right topic. So these different variables have to fit together. If you might be the right person teaching the right topic to the wrong target student, And it's not landing.

And no matter what you do, no matter how much top, top of funnel distribution you get, you're not getting the traction you want because you're, you are marketing to the wrong person, and so that's something that that we at Maven. Really encouraging instructors to think about right up front.

Cuz what you don't want to happen is to spend a couple months building this amazing course, creating a ton of curriculum and doing a bunch of marketing and then realizing at the end that, it's crickets and tumbleweed. Radio silence, just, if you build it, they will come, is just a lie.

You don't wanna build it and then hope people will come. You really wanna vet up front whether the course that you were teaching has market demand. That piece is very important and it's going to make your course creation journey much more fulfilling. If you vet whether there's market demand upstream.

[00:28:52] Aadil Razvi: What are some ways to vet that demand?

[00:28:55] Wes Kao: Yeah, I think one of the biggest ones is thinking about is the problem that 

I'm solving for my students in this course. A problem that is expensive and hairy and urgent. It's like some people teach courses on topics that are are definitely vitamins and not painkillers. And you can teach a, on a course that's more of a vitamin, but it's going to be harder to sell that course and it's gonna be harder for your student to justify spending money.

On your course or or trying to get that course reimbursed. So really thinking about is this solving a problem that's either high frequency or high magnitude in terms of the downside. So magnitude as in every time this problem happens, it's. Things are falling apart. It's terrible.

And how often does this problem happen? If it's once in a while, maybe not so bad, but if it's happening all the time there's way more urgency there. So that's one way to think about it. Another framework I'll share is something that I call outside in, inside out. So if you draw two circles on a Venn diagram, one circle is outside in.

So that's thinking about. Market demand and the outside world that you don't have control over, right? This is just how many people are trying to learn this thing or interested in this thing? How much market demand is there? And then the other circle, which is smaller, overlapped with the main circle is inside out.

As in when you reflect internally, is this a topic that you can see yourself working on over a long period of time? If there's a topic that, where there's a lot of market demand, but you are not excited, To teach that, then, you're probably not gonna last long enough to really see success anyway.

And so you really wanna find the overlap of outside in and inside out. 

[00:30:46] Aadil Razvi: Love that framework. Yeah. Market demand is the outside in, and then inside out is, can you do this for, is like for yourself, is this something that you can actually contribute and do for an extended period of. How and I think Maven is actually a really strong solution for this problem, but how should topic ex experts approach course building if they don't have an audience?

People who are in the trenches, they're, they have the experience, the how tos, the outcomes. They know how to do it. And they may even be skilled at teaching that material, but they don't have the notoriety, they don't have the authority to just tweet out, Hey, I'm starting a course on this topic. Come sign up. 

How should someone like that approach this process? 

[00:31:39] Wes Kao: A lot of our most successful instructors, surprisingly, are people who started out without a very big audience. And so a couple things think about there. One is you should start building your audience as soon as you can. So that's just something that, that you should start to do, cuz it's a great asset for you to have for you to share your ideas for, products that you might wanna sell.

So that's one thing. The second is to show up where people are already hanging out. So Shivani Berry is a great example Shivani started her course about a year and a half ago. She was a product manager at PayPal and then I think Intercom afterwards. And she quit her job to be a full-time course grader. She had no audience. I think now, even now, she has, I think 1000 Twitter followers or something. She wasn't posting on Twitter, she wasn't posting on LinkedIn, didn't have an email list. She was a full-time operator, so she wasn't really, thinking about growing her audience. And she decided to be a course grader.

And so she started showing up in communities where her students were already hanging out. So she teaches a leadership and management course for women in tech. So she started showing up in women in product communities. 

She started showing up in women in tech communities. She started doing free workshops.

At different companies. So she presented at at Amazon and walmart and Instacart and Facebook, right? So she'd show up with this, really meaty 45 minute free workshop where she would teach a topic that was relevant for audience. So she might teach something like how to deal with dominant personalities if you're a collaborative.

So that's one of the things she teaches in her course. So she would do a snippet of that to show what her course would be like. And inevitably at the end of that, there would be a couple people who thought, this is amazing. I loved the interaction Shivani, I love her teaching style.

And they'd get basically a taste of what the course is like, and then want to sign up. For that course or they get excited and share it back with their team or send it along to different people. She also started posting more regularly on social and building up her email list so that she could build that credibility.

And one of the things she did she started doing fireside chats with different women. In tech. So she interviewed she interviewed Deb Blue from Kit Scott, Radical Candra, Julie Wo. So she interviewed these different women in tech that her target student looked up to. So this was a great way to do lead gen and then be able to nurture her leads afterwards.

And by the way, yes. And this actually gets even more awesome with the results. Yeah. So her first cohort, I think was 10 or 15 people, and she basically doubled every couple of months after that. So her next cohort was 30 and then 60, and then a hundred, 150. And now I think she's staying at the 150 student mark.And her course is $1,800. 

[00:34:54] Aadil Razvi: That is crazy. 

[00:34:57] Wes Kao: Really amazing. It's such a great example of if you hustle and if you're willing to put in the effort, right? You have to be willing to put in the effort. It's great to be on a platform like Maven where there's already eyeball. Coming on, right?

Students coming on to search for courses and filtering. I wanna take courses on leadership, or I wanna take courses on design or, marketing or whatever. But you as an instructor have to put in the effort. I think that's really the differentiator that, that we've seen across hundreds of cohorts in our sample size.

Your course success really depends on are you willing to put in that effort.

[00:35:33] Shane Parrish: And it sounds like some of the techniques she was using, just listening to your story, are the same ones that have been tried and true for years, right? Yeah. Real estate agents have been doing this.

Lawyers and estate planners have been doing this. Come to my free seminar, I gonna teach you something. And instead of bringing people to her, she was going to where her audience is, which I like that twist on that the. Sorry, go ahead. Go for it Shane. I was just gonna say, audience is options, right? Your audience is your optionality and so often we don't think of it that way, but like you, an audience, people who follow you, believe in you because of the value you're delivering to them.

You can do many things with that, of course, is one thing you can do to educate people, podcasts, or another, newsletters or another. A book is another more. All of those things are. When you have an audience already with you. 

[00:36:27] Aadil Razvi: Yeah. And the framework aligns pretty closely to what you were talking about, Shane, solve high pain problem for a small group of people go where that smaller group.

Hangs out and go above and beyond capturing less value than what you're giving. And then when the time does come to, have a paid offering.

[00:36:49] Shane Parrish: You can also look at people who are growing their audience. What are they doing? How are they doing it, like Twitter?

For example, rewards threads. I hate threads. I don't use threads. However it's algorithmically rewarded and you're punished for single tweets, right? So if you create a thread, because you're encouraging, engaging in the audience now all of a sudden, So who's grown on Twitter? What are they doing that I'm not doing?

How are they doing it? And I think you can learn a lot from. People. And every platform is different, right? What we often think about is I'm gonna go on LinkedIn, I'm gonna drive people to my email newsletter. No, because the minute you drive people off LinkedIn, you're gonna, you're gonna get penalized, right?

Yeah. The same as TikTok, the same as Instagram. The same. So you have to add a lot more value on the platform than you're taking out. 

So it's not just Adding value in a course and charging less. It's also how do I add value to this platform? And what is value to this platform? What's the algorithm going on behind the scenes that I need to reverse engineer? 

And you can figure that out pretty quickly by looking at what accounts have grown super fast, what kind of content are they doing, what kind of value are they delivering? How are they delivering it, and how are they positioning that content? 

[00:38:09] Aadil Razvi: You set me up really well to shill our Audience Growth session tomorrow with Shaan Puri and Saagar Enjeti. First session of the day. Wes and Shane fully endorse it as you're hearing on this session. So yeah but to your point. Reverse engineering what's working and figuring out how can you apply that framework to your own niche. 

Like, how can you take the algorithmic asymmetries and push them in your favor to build an audience around your own topic.

Yeah, go ahead. 

[00:38:47] Shane Parrish: The biggest problem that I often see and Wes talked about this earlier, I think is. People put out content and it might be interesting, but it's not solving a problem. It's not solving a pain point. It's not making anybody's life better. It's just like a fun fact. And so when you think about not only designing a course but adding value to people, it's what problem am I actually solving? 

And can you answer that question? I think that's a good starting point. 

In our remaining in our remaining minutes, we're gonna rapid fire through some audience suggested questions. We'll keep our, the answers brief so we can bullet through them. We're doing great on time. The first question is, In the context where you're trying to teach clients about new products.

So switching gears a little bit, not necessarily teaching a consumer how to do like skill building or anything like that. It's like teaching clients about your own products. 

What have y'all found to be the, the right medium or the right way of thinking about it? Some of the examples that were given are like video or skills shop or solution brief or product sheet.

[00:40:02] Aadil Razvi: Has there been anything that you've seen that sort of stands out as the right fit for this problem?

Let's see. Yeah, go ahead, Wes 

[00:40:16] Wes Kao: Yeah. I think one thing that's worked well for Maven is helping our customers experience our product as soon as possible. So our product is a software platform where you can build court based courses. And so we have a free two week boot camp on how to build a cohort based course where you actually get to play with our software and we add a ton of value on how to think about your curriculum, how to think about course market fit, how to think about your topic.

So I think getting customer. In the door and kind of playing around with your product and getting the magic moment of your product as soon as possible is something that's worked well for us. 

[00:40:58] Shane Parrish: Love that. I don't think I have anything to add to that. 

[00:41:01] Aadil Razvi: Yeah, getting them to that like activation where they can actually experience the value of your product before having to, do any sort of serious buy in on their part.

Yeah we certainly use many of that type of thinking in Demand Curve, right? We've got our sample program. If you want to just get a sense of, hey, you get the first entire, you know how to create your growth strategy module completely free. Oh, and by the way, if you wanna up upgrade to,rest of it it's like your product is doing your selling for you at that point.

Very useful. 

What are some of the ways you like to facilitate live session activities that cater to both introverts and extroverts? Breakout rooms versus like polls and chats. I'm sure both of you have a lot of experience on, on this topic. I'll leave it to who, whoever has the higher conviction in their answer.

[00:42:06] Wes Kao: I think Shane and I are both introverts. Are you Shane? 

[00:42:11] Shane Parrish: Oh, totally, yeah. 

[00:42:12] Wes Kao: Yeah. Okay. 

Yes, me too. So I love this question because not everyone wants to unmute themselves and share in front of 200 people. I definitely don't want to. So I think if you're a course creator offering ways for people to interact via the Zoom.

It's great, right? Some people can type things in and that attracts and encourages a bunch more participation from different personality types. I also think that breaking people up into groups of different sizes is great. One on one, for example pairing people up into pairs or small groups of, four to five people that can be a lot more comfortable to speak in than in front of, 20 or, a hundred people.

And I also really like solo activities too. At Maven we call them guided exercises, where an instructor sets a timer and then everyone just mutes themselves. We might play a little bit of, little bit lofi beats music for some inspiration, but everyone is working silently by themselves, and then you move on to the next thing. I think there's a lot of ways to really draw out introverts to. 

I think one of the ways that we've done it to add to what was said is we allow people to email us after questions and then we'll put those questions in the next session. So nobody has to actually physically speak up and often people need to process.

So it's not only a sort of like introvert, extrovert thing. It's like, how do I process information? Some people process talking out loud. Other people need to like digest. And chew on it a little bit. 

And then, an hour later they come up with this great question, but then they can get an opportunity to ask it because maybe this session is closed, the live component's not on anymore, or you've moved on to a different topic.

So by the time I've processed it. So if you can capture that and get people to. Submit those questions to you and you answer them the next time. Not only are you getting feedback perhaps on things that weren't explained as clearly as you thought that they were but you're capturing a really valuable part of your audience that doesn't typically contribute in a way that doesn't put them in a position that's not their strength.

[00:44:29] Aadil Razvi: Yeah, I I feel like I'm I fake, like internally I'm an introvert, but I fake the extrovert when the opportunity calls for it. And so actually both sound, oftentimes 

I am in like a live course or something and I don't feel like raising the hand or like going up and doing that, and to Shane, your point.

Yeah, it's not necessarily even an issue of introvert, extrovert. There's just different ways that people process and learn. And so providing the optionality or the space for different learning types can allow for the course experience to cut through for all different types of folks. That's really strong. 

Last question before we wrap it up on, on this session. How do you think about educating and growing I guess educating team members, like doing rather than solo one off skill building type things. If we're talking about a marketing team of let's say nine people, how should they think about upskilling and what are the best practices for leveling up a team?

Let's say Shane. 

[00:45:58] Shane Parrish: I think about this maybe a little bit differently, right? The tendency that I've seen is to put all these people in the same course even in the same cohort. When we used to run in person sessions, we actually limited the number of people you could send from the same company.

And so when we did physical in person, I should differentiate that physical and person sessions. We would limit that. You can only have three people from the same company. And we would limit the number of people to 50. And the reason that we did that is because twofold, one, we don't want them dominating the conversation with their internal language, their internal baggage, their internal sort of I already know you.

I'm friendly with you. So they're automatically in a different place. Also, their boss or colleagues might be in the class, so there might be some posturing instead of actually learning, right? There's all these dynamics that you don't see at play when you have this happen. The. A thing that I'll just say here and Wes will probably have something a lot smarter to say about this, is the tendency is to put everybody in the same course.

The problem with that is what I call the storm trooper problem, which is if everybody in your team takes the same course and you hire people that look the same, think the same. And then you try to solve the same problem. You're all gonna be looking at the problem through different lens. So you almost want people to take different courses to experience different methods, different types of learning, different approaches to the problem, so that when you're facing a problem, when they're facing a problem, now they're gonna look at the problem differently and they're gonna come up with different solutions.

Because if the world looks the same to everybody, we're gonna come up with the same solutions and that just doesn't work.

Smart super problem. That's gonna be the the one liner that, that sticks in everybody's heads coming out. 

I can explain this from the context of, I used to work for an intelligence agency, one of those three letter agencies that you can't actually repeat without going to jail.

But the problem with this is like in the post noden, post Bradley Manning, world security clearances all started to look the same. Hiring people that haven't gotten in trouble, haven't done anything, good grades, go to a B school. And then when they come in, they're all given this platform for learning, right?

Here are the courses you need to take. Here are the experiences you have. And then all of a sudden you fast forward 10 years and they've all had the same courses, they've all had the same experiences, and they get into a room to solve a problem and they all look at the problem the same way.

[00:48:32] Aadil Razvi: There's a lot of guessing going on in the chat about which three letter agency it is. 

We've got Better Business bureau. We've got triple A. So I feel like we're getting warmer, but yeah. Wes, we'd love to, to hear your take on on Team Upskilling. 

[00:48:53] Wes Kao: Yeah. In terms of upscaling I love Shane's points about being exposed to different sources of inspiration. I think that's fantastic. I think sometimes there, there is there is benefit in having shared language, so shared baseline shared language around different frameworks, mindsets, I think that can be very helpful. 

I think beyond beyond learning those in, in courses or all reading. Some books. I think the ongoing practice of thinking rigorously and giving each other permission to call each other out when there is s shotty logic is very useful. 

So rigorous thinking is a value that we have at Maven.

And what that means is that, any idea goes from anyone. You don't have to be, in product to suggest a product idea. You don't have to be on the op side to suggest improvement. But everyone's ideas are scrutinized and we poke holes in it to make sure that the logic holds.

The logic is sound before just going with it. And that is true if the idea comes from me or from, from Gagan Biyani or my co-founder, CEO or whoever else. And so that really encourages a culture where people are raising their hands and sharing, but also not just sharing random ideas, that are flashing pan of, Oh, I saw this competitor doing this thing. We should do it too. 

It's not just that it's bringing an idea to the table and being ready to explain your rationale and your thought process of why this is going to benefit the business. What are potential second order effects from doing this? What are trade offs? What are potential downsides or risks?

How are ways that we can do this small to test it out? First what were you, what would you do if you. To start this tomorrow, for example. So thinking through a couple key questions around how does this work, I think that culture is so powerful for allowing a bunch of smart people who are already working together to, to basically sharpen each other.

Like it goes to the point of the quote, iron sharpens iron. If you've hired a bunch of smart people, let them sharpen each other. 

[00:51:19] Aadil Razvi: Iron sharpens iron. Oh my gosh. The one liners, they these are some incredible quotables that I feel like are gonna we're gonna see these all over the internet now, so I'm excited. Maybe not in thread form Shane, but certainly in tweet form. 

Thank you both so much. This was a ton of fun. We could go on for another two hours and I'm sure people would would love to hear it. But yeah, thank you both so much for your time. Let the people know what you have going on in your life and how they can get in touch.

Why don't we start with you with, Wes. 

[00:51:55] Wes Kao: Yeah. Maven just did a relaunch a couple weeks ago where we launched over a hundred courses that are coming up in the next couple of weeks. Before that, at any given time, we had about five courses live. And so the a hundred is a really big jump and we're really excited to have a bunch of courses around topics like product marketing, leadership technical skills design, so huge range of topics.

We have instructors actually have a list of some of our instructors. There's so many courses now that I have to write it down in a little piece of paper. So some of the instructors let's hear it. 

[00:52:32] Aadil Razvi: Let's hear it. Yeah. Yeah. Alright. 

[00:52:33] Wes Kao: Alright. Okay. AI product lead at Meta UX design lead at Twitter, VP of Marketing at Sparktoro to these are instructors for these courses. COO at Bridgewater, VP of sales at Yelp, e i r at first round, CMO of McDonald's, Latin America, and Global Head of Behavioral Science at Walmart. So really interesting. Okay. Experts with amazing, 

Yeah. I've heard of some of those companies before. 

Yeah. So really stoked. So go check out and see if there's any courses you're excited. 

[00:53:09] Aadil Razvi: Thank you, Wes. Shane?

[00:53:11] Shane Parrish: Can I just say how amazing it is to be alive in 2022? Where you plus one for maybe, the first time in human history. You have access to the best people in the world at their craft on demand.

So it used to be if you lucked out and you worked for Henry Ford or something, you could get some of this. You worked for a master, you could learn a little bit from working with them. But that's all luck, right? You could make it happen, but it was pretty impractical. And now you can get the top people at all these companies on one platform where you have them teaching you these on demand skills.

And they're the best in the world at what they do it. I just think that my mind is blown by the fact that we can do this.

[00:53:59] Aadil Razvi: It's truly insane. It really is. It's worth taking a step back and letting it soak in because never before in human history have we had this. And I know Shane won't toot his own horn.

So I'll just quickly shout out. Knowledge Project, Farnam Street. Basically if you want to be smarter as a human being, go and consume content and of course all things that Wes does, if you want to especially go deeper on this topic, education. Wes puts out a ton of, we've heard some incredible frameworks today, but definitely go go much deeper on on Wes follower on Twitter and I'm sure you'll enjoy the rabbit hole that you find yourself in. 

Thank you both very much. We will be starting product led growth in about five minutes with Wes Bush and Ryan Kim. And yeah, I'll see you both backstage momentarily.

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