By Kevin Willmorth, editor
The Evolution of Solid-State Education Talk to customers from their perspective and everyone wins.
In the early stage of any emerging technology, from the perspective of
state lighting must keep in mind that they need customers more than
the technology developers, education of customers to establish a com-
customers need them. Deliver information in a way that entices them
mon ground of communication is essential. As this process takes root,
to feel they need the technology enough to invest time and effort to
greater detail can be delivered, increasing the depth of understanding
learn more, and everyone wins. When a product requires more training
for decision-makers from product makers to end users. Soon, more
than customers are willing to invest, simpliﬁcation of the product may
specialized education emerges, helping create greater understanding
be necessary to improve deployment success. This strategy can also be
of speciﬁc details necessary to engineer products or realize greatest
applied against competitors who fail to simplify to ﬁt customer percep-
end-use success for solid-state lighting products.
tion. Simplify and clarify are two words that cannot be over-stressed.
These branches might include color performance, thermal considerations, driver characteristics, dimmer control functionality, service life testing or efﬁciency of systems. The greater the difference between an innovation and the prevailing incumbent technology, the greater the demand for increased education to overcome the difference in understanding. But this is not the complete story. Of critical importance to all who pursue educational efforts,
When it comes to education efforts, address customers from their perspective. Making a connection between lighting needs and the value a technology brings to serve those requirements, in balance with perception, will improve customer communication dramatically.
whether at a trade conference or in customer interaction, is to remember that recipient participation is voluntary. End-users can choose to learn—or ignore—new information and continue to do whatever they
The assumption that any technology can be deployed by forcing
wish. There exists a ﬁne line between deployment of an innovation
educational programs onto a reluctant market is a common error.
that delivers value that causes market transformation through enthu-
When forced, response and interest will revert to pain avoidance,
siastic customer reaction, and marketing follies that demand more of
where all that will be learned is enough to keep from being bothered
customers than they’re willing to invest.
any further. This is not a positive condition, reﬂected in the state of
Take, for example, the automobile. It required growth of customer
current energy codes, where customers comply with demands without
knowledge and understanding in order to succeed. Conversely, the
engaging the underlying goal. This is an example of failed education,
concept of the smart home has been a mismatch between perceived
leaving the market under regulatory control, and new learning stops
need by the customer and the required commitment to understand-
at the end of a code paragraph.
ing. Where the automobile was a transformative technology because people were willing to take on the learning curve, the smart home
has languished because customers do not perceive it a strong enough
SSL has entered a phase where educational programs need to evolve
value—at least at this juncture—to invest the time required to apply it
toward greater involvement of customer perspectives, through both
effectively–regardless of continued educational efforts attempting to
adjustment of content and reconsideration of product features. Evolu-
turn this around.
tion of education demands increased sophistication of approach, but not the presentation of complexity of subject matter. A key part of this
approach is to address lighting industry customers from their own per-
When the barrier of customer reluctance to self educate is encoun-
spective. Making a connection between lighting needs and the value
tered, there are two questions that need to be answered: First, is the
the technology brings to serve those requirements, in balance with
value of the technology, as perceived by the customer, high enough to
perception, will improve communication dramatically. This requires
warrant investment in self-directed education? Second, is the technol-
looking beyond the simplistic savings of energy, or return-on-invest-
ogy conﬁgured appropriately to attain requisite understanding from a
ment analysis, as these may not be the highest priority on a recipient's
minimal amount of investment by customers? In too many cases, fea-
list of application demands. The evolution of education that moves
tures and details are included that confuse or block customer interest.
beyond talking at recipients, by bringing them to the technology—vol-
Further, when a technology is presented too aggressively, customer
untarily enthused to engage and learn more—is the next stage of the
defenses pop up, ending all learning. Marketers and educators in solid-
36 • 01.13 • ARCHITECTURAL SSL
Chronicling the Advancement of LED and Solid-State Lighting in the Built Environment.