The process began in July 2012 with the seed of an idea. An idea that I hoped might improve engagement and completion rates in online learning environments.
Nine months later, the experiment complete, the contestants shared what was best about the project for them (via a survey):
I’ve begun to seriously create “real” systems, game plans and focus on gaining market share. I’ve learned tons about internet marketing and while I still have lots to learn, I also know that I function best if I am doing what I do best and hire out the other stuff.
The focused learning. Much of the teaching I had heard or known before. But learning in a sequential, planned format was very helpful. Also having assignments that forced you to do the work was very useful.
I would say the BEST thing overall [about PK] was the database of knowledge, talent and expertise that I was exposed to as a result of participating. Tea, Nick, the weekly mentors and my fellow contestants all included. I’ve got so many “bookmarks” of things to go back and revisit-when I can actually pick it apart word by word and spend the time necessary to implement the things that really apply to my business and where it’s at now.
Over the past 13 weeks I have really focused on my business as a business, not just as something I do in my spare time. That’s been invaluable.
I also loved being able to interact with the other contestants, to get to know them, and help where I can. So many times you have this idea of what you think your business is, and you don’t realize what it means to other people. Being able to help others see their businesses in a new light, and see them get all excited all over again, that was really awesomeness. I also enjoyed being told when I was doing things right. I have a butt load of self doubt, and always think that people are making nice just because. Hearing from you guys, and occasion the other judges, that I’m not crazy and I sort of know what I’m doing, it made a world of difference.
I came away feeling totally inspired to follow through with all the new ideas the course has sparked. And learning not just from the course content and the experts, but also from the other participants’ work. I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s missions and learned a huge amount from them.
Gaining the confidence to speak my mind, my message, and my Truth, regardless of how weird it’s gonna seem to other people.
There was a tremendous amount of knowledge, wisdom and honesty about what works and doesn’t work in building an online business. Next best thing was the collaboration that spontaneously happened between almost all the contestants despite the fact that it was a competition (and that we’re all a bit on the competitive side). I learned as much from my colleagues on the show (including the Play-at-Home folks) as I did from each of the hosts/judges.
It forced me to work ON my business and not in my business and gave me the much needed boost in clients and confidence.
I ‘ve learned so much, stepped out of my comfort zone and put some new pieces of my business in place. I feel like I’m much better positioned to launch my new product and promote my services to the right audience.
In terms of new knowledge gained, 90% of the respondents said they learned somewhere between 50% and a “metric ton.” And about 75% said they felt between 50% and a “metric ton” more confident in their ability to implement their own marketing plans going forward.
And here’s what we learned about the structure of the program:
1. Competition isn’t always the best motivator for creative thinking. When someone’s work is going to be judged and scored, they tend to want to please the judges — especially if the work they’re doing is fairly unfamiliar or new. Beginning students do need to learn to ask questions and go beyond minimal rules and requirements; but asking them to do so inside the rubric of competition probably isn’t the most effective way to get them there. The competitive environment is probably better suited to advanced students who are somewhat comfortable with their skills and ready to stretch beyond their comfort zone.
2. Gamification only works if people feel like they’ve got a chance to win. As time passed (and certain players pulled ahead), those who fell behind became discouraged. When folks feel like they have no chance to win, the motivation to stay and play tends to disappear as well.
3. The pace of the program moved too quickly to allow for learning of new tools. Even though the contestants all agreed that they learned a great deal conceptually, the challenges of absorbing a new lesson and then executing a mission each week meant there wasn’t a lot of time left for mastering new tools and technology. This was a problem as much of online marketing requires a certain level of technological know-how (even if that’s just to manage the staff who implement).
4. Great team work and collaboration doesn’t come easily. Even though I knew it would be challenging for complete strangers to learn to work together, I underestimated how it would impact the program if/when things went sideways in a particular team. And changing teams up only seemed to complicate things. In the future, I’d be sure to provide more upfront support and guidance with regard to team-building and leadership development.
So even though there were great strides made for all the participants, another season of Prosperity’s Kitchen (at least in it’s current format) isn’t in the cards. Mostly because in order to really do this thing right, it would require a bigger team and a year-round commitment — in short, it would mean building an entirely new business outside of what I’m already doing with Word Chef. And that’s not something I’m ready to tackle.
In the meantime, I’ve created two new programs that will allow me to leverage what we’ve learned here into something truly fun and effective. They are:
The Digital Dining Room – a year-long program/community that will focus on teaching one topic per month (as opposed to one per week). We’ll keep the accountability and feedback portion of PK via monthly missions, but there won’t be any monetary awards. Instead, we’ll collectively select the best finished project as a case study to be explored in-depth via webinar and then featured on the Word Chef site. I will also provide technical assistance and tutoring wherever necessary. Group collaborations and networking will be encouraged throughout the year via a private Facebook group, a private forum on the DDR website, and specific lessons around masterminds and group work. This page has the details and list of topics we’ll cover.
Creamed! The Content Marketing Showdown – a series of five episodes featuring content marketing “experts” who want the chance to show off their fabulous marketing skills. Structured like the Chopped competitions (Food Network), these episodes will each feature three judges and four competitors (total of 16). The winners of the first four episodes will face off against each other in a final round to be the ultimate Creamed! Champion. If you know of any creative marketing folks who’d like in, send them over to the Creamed! site (still in process). We’ll be looking for sponsors as well as small biz folks who’d like to be the focus of a particular episode (the contestants will be tasked with creating content suitable for that business).
Whew! After 6 months of planning, 45+ hours in Google Hangouts, 2,260 video views (of a combined 101 videos in the PK Playlist) and 37,357 page views of this website, I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done here collectively. Yes, engagement levels and completion rates were up dramatically (compared to other classes I’ve taught online). The biggest win for me though, is that the participants actually learned new strategies and gained confidence in themselves. Accountability — even when it’s framed in a competitive atmosphere — really does work.
I can’t thank these folks enough for their help:
The AmBUZZadors: Your support and help in spreading the word was undeniably crucial in getting this project off the ground. Graci!
The Guest Mentors: Your time and expertise were generously given and much appreciated. You have my eternal gratitude.
The Advisory Board Members: Your advice and counsel made all the difference. Thank you!
The Contestants and Play-at-Home players: Your commitment to your businesses and to each other made all of this SO worthwhile. It was a joy to work with you and for you over these past many months. Merci!
And of course, my co-host, Nick Armstrong of WTF Marketing: Dude, your clients are some of the luckiest people in the world. It was beyond wonderful working with you! I’m forever in your debt.
What about you? Were you a contestant, play-at-home player or audience member? Is there feedback you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments!