How Seth Godin Built a Successful Learning Community with altMBA
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What if we rebuilt education from the ground up?
This is the question at the heart of the work of the Akimbo Inc. team, a public benefit corp that offers virtual seminars and workshops for leaders across the globe.
Founded in 2015 by entrepreneur, best-selling author, and marketing trailblazer Seth Godin as a project to make change happen, Akimbo Inc. is now owned and operated by CEO Alex Peck and Chief Learning Officer Marie Schacht who are building a learning institution for the long hall. To date, altMBA and other Akimbo workshops have transformed the lives of 25,000+ people in 90+ countries around the world.
So how did Seth and the Akimbo team go from launching their flagship program, the altMBA, to building and scaling a global learning institution with 10+ offerings that open the doors to transformation for their learners?
They focused on designing learning experiences rooted in community, connection, and shared humanity where people learn together.
Here are insights from Seth on the altMBA and Akimbo growth journey.
Keys to Success: What Academies and Bootcamps can learn from AltMBA and Akimbo
Focus on community-centered learning, not education
Education is compliance and conforming, learning happens by doing, by experiencing, trying, failing, and trying again. Education requires enrolment, learning requires an emotional commitment, that’s what will get learners through the inevitable hard parts of doing something new or making a transition. Seth talks about the important distinction here.
AltMBA has a 97% completion rate, and 3% drop-off rate because participants have committed to enrolling in an emotional journey of transformation and to showing up for themselves and for their peers in the learning community.
“The purpose of community is to create possibility when we confront the things that we are afraid of.” - Seth Godin
Understand what your learners are really paying for
Money is a story. Money has no intrinsic value. What’s valuable is what we receive in exchange for money.
Students pay a flat fee for a university education at Harvard for the grade and status they’ll receive as a Harvard alum. With live learning, students will pay for new forms of status and connection. They want to be a part of something not merely because of the practical learning experience, but because they feel like they belong to a community and they don’t want to let their people down.
In a live learning experience where members are a part of a group going through a learning journey together, being seen and heard, and ‘missed’ if you don’t show up become important underpinnings of why someone pay substantial sums for virtual live learning experiences and why they’ll continue to show up for their group.
“Learning online is not how do I get someone to pay the tuition? It's how do I create a community so that there's social pressure, status rewards, and affiliation for people who enroll?”
Optimize for experience versus information
There is no shortage of free information on the internet. You can look up how to do pretty much anything. When designing a learning experience, focus on building safety, connection, and curiosity first.
Once that’s established, create a practice and allow it to become second nature because we become what we do. Instead of teaching facts, show possibilities, use case studies, create opportunities for reflection and for insights to be revealed so learners can see things for themselves, instead of being told or taught what to see.
When people become curious, they are much more likely to continue to learn and they’ll often find the ‘answers’ within themselves. Transformative learning experiences establish the conditions for revelations to be revealed.
“Establish the conditions for the revelation, and then let the learner discover the revelation. If they discover the revelation, they will never forget it.”
Set the culture to increase retention
Design the principles and guidelines of your learning community and live experiences so that the permissions of the space are clear. Create learning groups to increase accountability and retention rates, because folks are more likely to show up, and to stay, if they know how to behave in a space, when they feel like they are on the hook, and when they feel a sense of responsibility to support both themselves and their peers. Experiment with different models to understand what motivates learners.
“Be bold, make mistakes, learn a lesson, and fix what doesn't work”