Monday, September 3

The Strange Tale of a Strange Prince

image courtesy of stock.xchng

(click for: Japanese version)

If somebody asked me to give the names of some good businessmen, I would readily answer Steve Jobs, Soichiro Honda, and Kiichiro Toyoda. In spite of the emergence of many great start-up companies from Silicon Valley, my image of good business remains largely influenced by Japan.

I haven’t met a really big businessman in person yet, but I’ve met enough start-up and middle-level businessmen – both Korean and Japanese. And I find one particular case very strange.

Because it is such a strange case, I have decided to make it a fairytale…

Once upon a time, there was a Foreigner Prince who journeyed to a distant kingdom to start up a business -- an English language institute as a matter of fact. The Prince was very poor at that time, so some kind people in the new land took him in and helped him.

The Prince’s English skill wasn’t good. But he had a set of books from the Callan School in the Kingdom of London. Have you ever heard of this school?

It’s a good school, and it’s especially popular because of its unique method, which is of course called the Callan Method.  This method is very similar to the Direct Method of language acquisition, which can be quite effective when practiced properly and adequately.

The Foreigner Prince in the far-away kingdom copied the original books of Callan. He didn’t ask anybody for permission, but he started teaching them anyway. Then, when his institute got bigger, he started hiring some teachers and training them to teach the Callan Method.

Outside, the Prince was very careful to maintain the image of an honest businessman, but if somebody dared to dig deeper, they were bound to discover many cans of worms

But whether legally or not, the Callan Method should still be effective if done properly. It can help improve the students’ English skills. And if the Prince had continued doing that, it would’ve been fine for the students.

But then the Foreigner Prince decided to change big parts of the Callan Method, to practically destroy the original plan of the book. He made it too simple and included some of his own English (which was of course low-level, unnatural, and full of mistakes). He started to call it by a different name as well.

From that time onwards, the Prince was under the illusion that he had discovered an amazing method of teaching English. He didn’t realize that behind him and around him, the great teachers in the kingdom were the real source of his magic. They had great skill in teaching English and had helped hundreds of students.

Day by day, the Prince became more and more conceited. Like I said, he lived in a fantasy world in his mind where he was the best and he had invented the perfect method. He even attacked the original source that he copied, the Callan Method. He told everybody that the Callan Method was too old and his method was the best in the whole wide world.

Strangely, the Prince never spoke English himself. He always spoke only in his native language. Why? Because he didn’t want anybody to hear him make many mistakes in English. He spread the news about his Magic Method far and wide -- through Twitter, Facebook, and Internet blogs every day, every minute. But he never spoke English because his skill was still low even after such a long time.

(If his Magic Method was indeed so effective, why couldn’t he help himself improve his English? It was a sad, sad situation.)

He attacked all the people who tried to compete with him. He sent spies to destroy them. He was especially good at one strategy, which is spreading lies and saying dirty things about his rivals. This was his best skill. You see, the Prince has a background in acting. So he can easily show emotion and tears, and use words in his advertising which manipulate the feelings of people.

He was so convinced he was the best in the world that he didn’t realize, one by one, his best teachers were leaving him. He didn’t care about anybody anyway, because his Magic English Method was the best and he had made it. Only he was important and necessary. He didn’t need anybody else. By this time, he had already cut off all ties with the people who had helped him before.

And then, he made his biggest mistake: He also started spreading bad rumors about his own teachers. He insulted their English skills. He said their English skills were inferior to his Magic Method. Without his Magic Method, they were nobody.

The great teachers just quietly left him.

But day by day, the skills of his new, inexperienced teachers are getting worse, and the quality of education is going down. His institute was not the same as before. The magic that the Prince thought came from his Magic English Method was already gone.

Up to this day, the Prince can still survive as a businessman. But that’s only because there isn’t enough good competition to challenge him.

But according to the prophecy (and according to the laws of the free market and economics), a real, great businessman model will rise to defeat him. A pure person who will give the best quality education service and truly improve the English level of students -- by action and not by words. So the students are not losing hope. They are all waiting for the day when a real prince like Soichiro Honda and Kiichiro Toyoda will come.

– The End --

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