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Oct 3, 2011 Discussion with Christina about "4 hours per month enough?"

1.) How did you arrived at the 4 hours/month?

The 4 hours are designed to be used not so much as to write the standards from scratch, but as a check and balance for work that Greenwood will write as a first draft. This is what we call "first try by layman". (Yes, please don't laugh!) :-) We have been using this tactics for many years as a competitive advantage of Greenwood.

The reason why we would almost always get completely lay people (like Greenwood in this case) to write the initial draft is that Greenwood knows nothing about image training, so it has no preconceived notion as what it should look like. But it knows the market and it knows education, especially education delivered in a web-based, multimedia format. It knows what the customers want. Once Greenwood took the first dip, much of the framework suitable for delivery is packed in. Furthermore, all the marketing strategies are also integrated into this first draft. When the experts (you) come in, you get to appreciate what a "terrible" job we have done and can start to "fill in the holes".

If otherwise, to reverse this process will possibly entails quite a bit of "back tracking". That is, what you have produced would need to be rewritten because the format, and structure, while make perfect sense from an image consulting point of view, could be awkward or expensive to deliver in a web-based, online world. Worst would be the market rejecting it because they just don't know any better. (I can see that the Chinese market, as big as they are, are still very primitive in terms of image and etiquette training. This is especially true outside of the Beijing and Shanghai areas. What are quite 'normal' and accepted western practices are not accepted in the China market. This was something that, unfortunately for Greenwood, we had to find out the hard way in years past.)

So I am hoping the 4 hours can be maximized in effectiveness, and used in the most productive way, which is for the "big guns" (you) to critic and edit what is wrong, instead of starting from scratch.

2.) A process/task timeline?

This is the sequence that I see needed:

1.) Define the scope and BOUNDARIES of Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 (2 months)

2.) Expand the documents for Level 1 (3 months)

- Learning Outcomes (what students need to learn)

- Image Training School Guidance (the test format)

- Employer's Orientation Guide (what to expect)

3.) Do documents for Level 2 (4 months)

4.) Marketing of Level 1: announce IITTI to the world

5.) Do documents for Level 3 (6 months)

What may make sense is instead of doing a "waterfall" approach, we will do an "iterative" approach. (A waterfall approach is the classic, traditional design process where the product is designed once and be expected to be complete and "perfect". This is analogous to a boat on a river that once it went over the waterfall, it cannot go back upstream to an earlier part of the river. Iterative approach is a more modern approach with the wisdom of understanding that no matter how smart or experienced the design is, the chance of it not needing revision or changes due to market demands is very small; and if the mindset doesn't allow for further improvement (possibly big improvements and drastic changes, that is) as time goes, it is destined to doom and failure.)

I am hoping we can use an iterative approach so that we can evolve over time to include all the future field experience into our future editions as we move forward. In other words, we will have IITTI 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc. (The implication is that a student who went through the test for say Level 1 version 1.0 in 2012 may consider to re-take the same Level 1 test in version 2.0 after it launches say 3 years later.)

3.) Where do you see the country/culture focus to start? China and India?

Yes, I think China and India would be a very good start.

4.) Duration of the agreement? What about non-performance or withdrawal?

We could make our Alliance permanent. The non-performance issue could be dealt with by our whole group to suggest that if the decision is unanimous, then the non-performer would be asked to withdraw.

For the longer term, if we are going to make our Alliance permanent, we may want to consider asking each image consulting company to have a succession plan where the successor would be, at the minimum, an AICI FLC, or something similar. I am hoping all the hard work that our companies put in for the next few years will not go unrewarded for any of us in the longer term. I am building IITTI as something that I wish could be quite big. But to build something solid and pervasive require time and patience. Many times, short term gains are detrimental to long term benefits. If our duration of the agreement is say only 4-7 years, we may have a tendency to harvest the benefits early on by sacrificing the longer term (and bigger) rewards.

5.) What is the marketing plan of IITTI?

I have found that the most credible advertising is through word-of-mouth, especially in a fiercely competitive market like China.

I have seen big companies bringing in buckets of cash and tried to make it big in China, but without success (e.g. eBay). Trying to win the China market with money is not going to work; the Chinese are becoming very shrewd consumers. You probably agree with me that the Chinese national psychology is very complex.

I know that most, if not all, of our 5 companies are doing some train-the-trainer work. So this would be an excellent way to promote the IITTI standard. (A way to help your company in generating more revenue is to incorporate the orientation and training of the IITTI standard by means of its learning outcomes and testing format during your regular workshops: for example, instead of the "normal" say 3-day training that you are doing now, why not extend your training to 3.2 days where you spend an extra 2 hours in helping your trainees in understanding IITTI? In other words, IITTI gives you something else to sell. A win-win for your company and IITTI.)

Another major thrust would be for us to approach western trade groups in our backyards to generate awareness of the IITTI standard. Greenwood will embark on such task when the time is right. There are trade organizations (such as Chamber of Commerce) that caters specifically to Canadian companies doing business in China.

In China, undoubtedly we will need to make connections with many external organizations to increase the awareness of IITTI. I see it will be a bumpy ride, and we will be walking a tightrope with a fine balancing act in many sense of the word. It will test our alliance time and time again. But if we can stick together, I think we have a fighting chance.

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