The write lesson at Starbucks


Are today’s students learning the wrong lesson from college?

I decided to try this Starbucks place everyone is talking about. No, it’s not a flashback post. I’m just not a coffee drinker, so I’m sitting here drinking an Orange Mango Smoothie, extra plastic top, extra grande straw, looking for a different view on things as I write today’s post.

My usual hangout for this type of change-of-scenery is Barnes and Noble. But since I’m a book-and-a-half behind schedule (see myLinkedIn booklist) I didn’t want any temptation to buy another book for the queue (and, there are two books in my Amazon cart screaming at me to click ‘buy’).

Bam! As luck would have it, a group of college students are chatting, led by someone with an interesting accent. She is going over some information for what must be some type of business class project. Did I mention that I like the accent? I hear occasional references to manufacturing, distribution, sales forecasts and other related issues as they huddle around a 15″ widescreen laptop, enjoying the same free Wi-Fi as I am.

As I sit here typing, I hear numbers changing and evidence of a running simulation. One surprising fact I notice –  the laptop is a Gateway. Hmmm. I thought college students all used Macs, especially ones who meet at Starbucks to do their homework over a grande half-caf tall latte. Myth busted.

Oh well, back to the point of the post. What could the wrong lesson be? Good question. As they were discussing strategy and distribution channels, one of the team asked a question, and the fearless leader replied “I outsourced the manufacturing. It was easier.”

Shipping jobs out of the country, even hypothetically, is bad enough when it’s because of being cheaper (and yes, they mentioned that fact too).  But tell me that you are doing it in because it’s easier, and now I’m worried.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive. I know ease (i.e. managerial laziness) is one of the more compelling reason to outsource. For all the talks of cost savings, it’s becoming more evident that some of our big corporation outsourcing efforts really don’t save the money expected, once you take all of the costs into account.

Have I rambled on enough for you to figure out the real point of this article? That’s right. This isn’t about college, politics, or outsourcing (all fun topics, to be sure). It’s about writing. Can you handle the truth? When you sit in the same room day after day, you are in danger of becoming stagnant.

Have you ever noticed that happening with your writing, or your speaking? What are you prepared to do to get out of that funk? Are you willing to chip-in $6.37 to keep your local Starbucks afloat? Are you willing to sit in semi-comfortable pleather chairs and listen to your local college students solve the world’s problems? What is stopping you from making the change?

Believe it or not, tonight’s post wouldn’t have had a single word about outsourcing if I would have written it at home. And while I don’t expect to write any more on the subject soon, going on a different tangent once in a while frees up the mind to consider some new points of view.

Side note: do some research later on Mac vs. PC use at the local University, and write a post about the wonders of free Wi-Fi relative to not-so-free coffee.

So maybe I’m wrong, and this team of five students isn’t learning the wrong lesson in college. Maybe instead they are helping me learn the write lesson at Starbucks…

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