Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with my good friend and former collaborator Tarun Sachdeva— angel investor in Disco, former Wattpad product leader, EIR at Golden Ventures, and Former GM at Endeavour (talk about an incredible resume!).
In our conversation, Tarun’s passion for building the future of learning and the creator economy came through in spades - he shared some authentic and wise thoughts on designing learning experiences in an attention-starved world, the intersection between education and entertainment, and how creators are shaping next-gen learning experiences. We got a peek into his own journey of becoming a creator, sharing in public, and the learning that comes from owning your creative practice.
Read on for my top 5 takeaways from our conversation!
Tarun Sachdeva: The future of learning experiences and using your creative practice to learn yourself
#1 Storytelling is an important tool in the competition for attention in learning - Tarun so astutely identified that media companies and learning platforms alike are competing for attention:
"The biggest thing is competing for everybody’s attention[...], you're competing against some heavy hitters that are optimizing for attention, driving eyeballs, and driving hours and hours of time daily on their products. Storytelling is so essential to keep people's attention, it's such an important tool of pedagogy. In media companies, that's what they have optimized their businesses around. And there's so much that you can learn from that, and how the techniques and the ways in which they do that, apply to education.”
#2 On education and entertainment - celebrities can be a hook, but the rest of the magic is all in the student’s learning journey, and how the creator has to evolve from central character to facilitator:
"Celebrities are important and it's an amazing hook to drive people to it. But the rest of the journey is the student’s journey, right? It's the journey of how students help themselves achieve the outcomes that they want to achieve, and the creator or the person that's at the center of it is playing a central role when they are inviting people to it, but then playing almost a facilitator role as they are actually going through it”
#3 On driving engagement in remote-first learning environments - the powerful combination of both of a “no classroom” approach in tandem with an activated and engaged peer network:
"There are tools and software that are enabling students to move through their own curriculums themselves, or with a group of other students[...] I came across this world of Discord study groups[...]and it’s really amazing how students are forming around topics and areas of interest to provide each other support[...] I think there's a lot of ways to drive up engagement in your courses [...] I think one key thing is you have to allow your course participants to talk to each other. So I think the way that you drive engagement is how do you help your network participate with each other more? And, and that doesn't mean you know, you’re talking to them, it's you allowing them to talk to each other.”
#4 On effectively learning about an industry - start with your own curiosity and then immerse yourself in the space you want to learn:
“[A friend] gave me a list of things to do if you want to learn about how industries work well, and one of them was obviously put some skin in the game, invest in companies. And talk to those founders and investors that are building and trying to figure out what the future of that is, they have put more thought into it than you have. Build some software, build a product, build a course, do the dirty work of actually understanding the core mechanics of what happens at ground level so you can understand how that industry functions. It's not a market, it's just a bunch of individuals interacting with each other, understand what those interactions are.”
#5 On building in public, creating a practice for yourself, and fighting the need to be perfect - Tarun’s writing practice became an effective way to not just get his thoughts out there, but to stay accountable:
"I decided to start a small blog and just start a writing habit where I filled out half an hour with writing. And I didn't expect it to be a tool for learning, to clarify my thinking, or I didn't expect it to be anything. When you do something in public, and it's raw, and it's unfinished, it changes your relationship with your work, right, it kind of externalizes your identity from your work. Just by virtue of just doing that on a regular basis, the relationship with your work will change, and the quality of your workload will also change.”
Watch the full session with Tarun here: