Update from Europe

Foreign environments exhilarate me. I just got back from Online Educa Berlin and a series of private conversations in Europe. Insights are overflowing my ability to record them and I’m having a ball.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

Online Educa always leaves a special afterglow. Over the course of three days, I conversed with hundreds of colleagues from forty or fifty countries. I used to say that after conversation, the most important learning accelerant was beer. I’ve changed my mind. Riesling is a more effective learning lubricant.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

This year’s highlight was the debate. Donald Clark and Jef Staes convinced an audience filled with academics that “banning schools and universities from awarding degrees and diplomas would improve both competence development and lifelong learning.” Read Donald’s take on the debate here. As recently as a year ago, this outcome would have been impossible.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

The eloquent opening keynotes by Mark Milliron (Western Governors Univesity) and Sir Michael Barber (Pearson) undoubtedly softened up the debate audience. College and universities that fail to change face extinction.

So many friends, too little time.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

After Berlin, I flew to Frankfurt. At an outrageously tasty Italian restaurant, TULSER‘s Jos Arets and Vivian Heijnen and I brainstormed plans to help people be healthy, happy, and productive:

Frankfurt Frankfurt

Stay tuned.

Travel has its up and downs. The biggest downer was United Air Lines. I flew UAL back because I qualified for more legroom – “economy plus.” I don’t know how UAL stays in business.

United Air Lines United Air Lines

Pre-arrival lunch consisted of a bag of potato chips, an inedible cold cheese and turkey roll, a packet of mustard, and a small piece of candy.

“I can’t believe you serve this incredibly unhealthy food,” I told the cabinet attendant as I handed back my untouched meal.

“I can’t either,” she replied. “It’s worse when flying the other direction, and there’s nothing I can do about it. You have more power to fix this than I do, but you don’t have much power either.”

Unlike my Lufthansa flight to Europe, United charges for wine and beer. I paid $7 for a plastic bottle of mediocre red. Also, there’s no individual entertainment. Everyone watches the same movie. I told the cabin attendant I was going to cut my Gold Premier card in pieces and send it to UAL management. She wished me luck.

At the opposite extreme, the Hotel Spenerhaus in Frankfurt was a dream. I had a small but adequate room. Squeaky clean. Across from a church but they’d considerately provided ear plugs. Free Gummi bears on the pillow. Free peanuts on my desk in the afternoon. Fine free breakfast. Free newspaper. Free apples on the counter.

When I checked in, I asked about Wi-Fi. Free. “You are our guest,” said the manager. Recommendations for dinner? A great tapas bar two blocks away the first night. The Italian restaurant served the marvelous antipasti pictured above with lunch. (We returned that evening for pasta with fresh white truffles.) Two blocks from the cathedral. Three blocks from the Christmas market. Surrounded by art galleries and antique stores. Wunderbar.

The function of business is to delight the customer. Hotel Spenerhaus gets it. United Air Lines doesn’t. United says “United is the world’s leading airline and is focused on being the airline customers want to fly, the airline employees want to work for and the airline shareholders want to invest in.” Ha! I bet UAL doesn’t exist ten years from now.