Interview with Guy Kawasaki on Enchantment, Education & Technology

Entrepreneur, author, evangelist, venture capitalist — Guy Kawasaki has done a lot.

He started at Apple Computers in 1984 and quickly became one of their chief “evangelists,” convincing skeptical software and hardware designers that they should be developing products, not for the monolithic IBM, but for Apple’s newly launched Macintosh.

In 1987, with Apple having plenty of software and his mission thus complete, Kawasaki left the company he had spent three years championing. Since then he has co-founded AllTop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular web topics, and Garage Technology Ventures, a venture capital firm. He has also penned ten books on entrepreneurship, marketing, management and the business world in general.

His latest book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, details techniques of how to charge personal and professional relationships with the same enthusiasm and loyalty that Kawasaki helped foster for Apple.

Certification Map recently spoke to Guy Kawasaki via email about how enchantment could occur in the classroom, his own forays into learning technology, the future of education and more.

Certification Map:
In your new book, you write that enchantment, your method of persuasion and influence, “can occur in villages, stores, dealerships, offices, boardrooms and on the Internet.” Can it occur in the classroom as well? In which unique ways can an individual teacher enchant students?

Guy Kawasaki:
The classroom is one of the most natural places for enchantment to occur because the expectation is to gain new and exciting knowledge. Like all forms of enchantment, the three pillars of classroom enchantment are likability, trust and quality. That is, the instructor must be likable, trustworthy and knowledgeable about the subject at hand.

At the conclusion of each chapter in Enchantment, you include a personal example of enchantment from friends and colleagues. We couldn’t help but notice that the segment didn’t feature any stories about teachers. Has an educator ever enchanted you?

One of the biggest influences in my life was a high school English teacher named Harold Keables. He truly taught me how to write. He passed away years ago, but I’m sure he’s having a good chuckle watching me write books.

I remember what we had to do with our writing that didn’t meet his standards: First, we had to write the sentence as we did. Second, we had to cite the rule that we broke. Third, we had to rewrite the sentence correctly. That’s how I learned that the key to writing is editing.

You spent some time as Director of Marketing for Edu-Ware, a now defunct educational and entertainment software company. What did that experience teach you about the intersection of learning and technology?

That was a very long time ago — the state of the art was Sticky Bears teaching rote memorization of addition and subtraction. It was clear that computers could supplement education, but honestly, it was too early to foresee just how much computers would change the world.

In Enchantment, you discuss the necessity of using many different forms of media to engage with people. You put a special emphasis on Twitter because of its ability to engage quickly and often with many, but we hear you were initially hesitant to become a Twitter user and it took the persuasion of one Laura Fitton to make you sign up. Can you talk about your hesitation and what finally convinced you?

When I first looked at Twitter, I thought it was the dumbest thing in the world. Why do I care if LonelyBoy15’s cat rolled over? To this day, if a person’s initial reaction to Twitter is that it’s stupid, he or she passes the IQ test.

What finally convinced me was the ability to search and monitor things like your name, organization, product and competitors. And then to reach people in fast and free ways that were relevant to your market. That’s when the scales fell off my eyes.

Many schools, colleges and universities are finally catching on to social media. Do you think application of such technology is limited to a promotional or informational vehicle for these schools? Or can it actually be used as a means of teaching and learning?

Any platform that is fast and free with 200 million people on it has to be useful for teaching and learning. Maybe people haven’t figured out how yet, but the fundamentals are there. It’s time to “let a hundred flowers blossom,” as Mao said. A few years from now, this question will seem silly.

During a 2009 interview with Fresh Dialogues, you said, “I think Kindle’s on to something, but I don’t know if it’s for books… I can see it for reference books.” Has your opinion of eReaders changed since then?

This is the fundamental problem with the Internet: Anything you say can be used against you. Seems like I vastly underestimated the practical potential of eBooks. I’ve bought two books in paper format (one was The Chicago Manual of Style) in the past 15 monKawasaki's websiteths. And during the past 15 months, I’ve read more than in any other period of my life because of eBooks. When I finish a book at 10:00 P.M., I’m reading another one by 10:15 P.M.

Along with eReaders, online learning programs are being praised by some as the future of education. Despite a few hiccups with for-profit schools, many prestigious research universities are now making the transition to online programs. How do you feel about this trend?

I do think that one of the most valuable parts of one’s education is hanging with the other students, and that’s still not as good in the virtual world.

On the other hand, online education will democratize education and remove the barrier of physical location. There’s nothing but good news here. It’s going to be a brave and good new world.

Guy Kawasaki’s latest book, Enchantment, was released by Portfolio / Penguin on March 8th, 2011. You can purchase it and receive a free copy of Garr Reynolds’Presentation Zen by ordering through Kawasaki’s website.

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