Power of Experimentation

Experimentation is only possible when you have encountered and reflected on similar experiences – leading to new moments of disruptions. It is therefore cyclical as each new experience should inspire a new experiment.  You should have the ability to hypothesise the outcomes whilst remaining curious enough to presume there will be other findings.    The experiment can only be attempted if there is a bedrock of skills to ensure the security or confidence moving forward.  This process is underpinned by an acute awareness of your senses.  Experimentation therefore relies on your intuition/gut feeling/belief.

James from Alechemy Brewery spoke about his pallet being connected to not only his developed taste buds but his understanding of the technical processes involved in brewing.  If the beer tasted too vinegary it was probably due to a yeast infection, which, if it was resolved would result in an improvement of the quality of the beer.  What is the connection between ones technical understanding of a process and an individual’s inherent attentiveness to problem identifying and solving?

James proudly makes beer the public want.  He doesn’t get this information from folders full of stats, academic reports, policy documents, guidelines etc.  Alternatively he has a trusted and reliable network of like-minded people who need each other to exist.  He speaks with the pubs that buy his beers and in turn the landlords speak to their customers.  How do schools know their approaches to teaching and learning are working?

Through this line of communication he knows what beers work with certain demographics – which can sometimes be surprising.  Last year he created an incredibly hoppy pale ale which he predicted would appeal to younger men.  However it was actually devoured by ‘older women’.  Even more surprising as it was called the ‘Almighty Mofo’.  Sometimes predictions are wrong but the product still works.  The product is driven by public demand but always remains faithful to the Alechemy brand.  Who are the public that drive the learning agenda and what does a school or a teachers brand look like? How important is the brand within the schools local community?

James also understands the benefits of a positive reputation within business.  He didn’t need to spend time with us in to his Brewery – he is obviously an incredibly busy man.  The power of positive relationships becomes invaluable: the 5 people who attended the CPD session have now made a connection to his brand.  If those 5 people tell 2 more he already has 15 new customers.  Do schools aim to develop positive relationships with their stakeholders?

The radical is very present in the philosophy of the micro-brewery industry.  James often spoke of the ‘big boys’ and their tasteless product.   He also acknowledges his inability to take on the big boys in terms of price so he offers something different.  This business model becomes of interest to the learning agenda.  How do we collaborate with schools to demonstrate processes of learning that are potentially more costly and time consuming but ultimately more enriching?

James spoke of the places his beers are found and the way they are drank.  Instead of chain pubs he sells to 5* restaurants/hotels or real ale pubs.  Customers would enjoy 1 or 2 pints over a longer period rather than downing 8 or 9 pints of tasteless lager.  Could it be argued micro-brewery products are responsible for subtle cultural and societal changes?

We had an interesting conversation about diversifying to increase revenue.  One of the teachers suggested he could produce bespoke pub food like crisps, nuts, ect.  It was clear James thought this was an odd suggestion as he didn’t know anything about food production – he was a brewer.   Within the brewing industry there is a scale with different sizes of organisation: micro, regional, family, national and international.  Due to tax reasons moving through the scale is risky and has huge financial implications.  This means the micro-breweries often remain small but do what they do really well.  Is big or national always better?  Should approaches to learning always start at locale?

Finally, James spoke about his own personal investment into the business: financial, physical and emotional.  The brewery was his life.  It was clear he viewed his work as his calling – it was more than a job.  I wonder if people who work within education have the same belief or if the teaching profession has just become another job?

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