Saturday, December 19th, 2009...12:13 pm
A Lesson from Spaghetti Sauce
- Howard Moskawitz revolutionized the food industry. His theory was that, back in the early 80′s, Pepsi should not be looking for the best Pepsi, they should be looking for the best Pepsis. Meaning there is no one best recipe, but there should be a couple offerings that will cater to a larger audience. This was ignored by Pepsi at first but taken to the bank by the makers at Ragu. On his advice they were the first to begin offering 3 different types of sauce, regular, spicy and extra chunky. They cashed in to the tune of $600million over the next 10 years and started this trend among other food manufacturers. Schools basically offer one type of (regular) instruction with the only choices coming in the areas of electives. High Schools need to incorporate alternatives to the 9 period bell-to-bell school day.
- In doing the research for Ragu, Moskawitz taught us that people generally don’t know what they want nor can they always explain what it is that they are looking for. All those years of focus groups, never once did a desire for chunky tomato sauce come out. It was for this reason that Gladwell spoke of this platonic notion that in these circumstances a professional or expert in a given area needs to step in and identify what would work best in that particular situation. His example was a chef in a restaurant who creates a common reduction to use on multiple plates that he knows will taste best. Disaffected students know and can easily communicate what they DON’T want from a school, but usually have a hard time identifying what exactly would make them get out of bed in the morning. School leaders need to create “spicy” and “extra chunky” alternatives for kids who are turned off by bland, traditional spaghetti sauce school days.
The spaghetti sauce industry went unchanged for over 30 years. Moskawitz made them realize, as Gladwell put it, “Oh my god, we have been thinking about this all wrong.” Today Ragu offers approximately 36 types of spaghetti sauce. Traditional “spaghetti sauce” still has a place in education. There are a number of students who still benefit from the way it has always been, but every day more and more students fall through the cracks because they are looking for “spicy” or “extra chunky” but it’s not really out there. The New Jersey DOE is doing its part to provide recommendations on how high schools can better prepare students for the 21st century, part of its recommendations involve alternative options to gaining high school credits. Unfortunately, there are limited options for students who struggle with the traditional school structure, most of them are square pegs trying to be forced into the round holes of a normal school day. These kids could be better served and actually receive valuable experience for the future and experience success if they could only order off of a less restricted menu.