It’s an essential question to ask both about how you perceive your own participation in professional development activities as well as about how your prospective customers perceive participation in your organization’s offerings.
When we view something as an expense, our expectations are relatively low. An expense is simply a transaction in which we give something – usually money – in exchange for “stuff.”
Sometimes it’s stuff we keep; sometimes it’s stuff we consume, whether literally or figuratively. Either way, we don’t really expect the stuff to grow in value.
But an investment is different. By definition, we expect an investment to grow in value. We put in our money, or time, or whatever other resource specifically because we hope to get more back than what we put in. We seek a return on our investment and we are usually disappointed if we don’t get a good one.
When we treat education as an expense, we tend to focus on price. We focus on features. We want a “quid pro quo” – a clear sense that that the “stuff” we get is equal to the money we pay. Notably, it is only when education is viewed like this – i.e., as an expense – that the term “expensive” comes into play.
When we treat education as an investment, on the other hand, price is never the main filter.
Indeed, when we view education as an investment, we are often willing to pay many multiples of what we would pay for education that we perceive as an expense. That’s mostly because we don’t focus on features. We focus on outcomes, on impact. We can see, and we believe in the change the educational experience is capable of creating.
As learners, that means we believe in who we are buying from, and it also – crucially – means we believe in ourselves.
As sellers, it means we believe in our learners and also it means – again, crucially – that we believe in ourselves and in the value we offer.
Now, step back for a second and think about your own professional development plans for this year.
And think also about how your prospective learners perceive your offerings.
In both cases, which is it: expense or investment?
Your answers will speak volumes about your own future and the future of your learning and education business.
The original version of this post was published on the Tagoras Web site on January 5, 2015.