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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

Next Steps

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

Overcoming Barriers

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-

technology's development.•


Architectural SSL - January 2013  

Chronicling the Advancement of LED and Solid-State Lighting in the Built Environment.

Architectural SSL - January 2013  

Chronicling the Advancement of LED and Solid-State Lighting in the Built Environment.