News & Events
Launching X-Culture Kids (or whatever the name will be)
- November 13, 2017
- Posted by: Vas Taras
- Category: X-Culture Stories
Dear X-Culture Friends,
As many of you already know, we’re about to open X-Culture to younger pre-college participants. The plan is to start with teens (ages 10-17) and later go as young as ages 9-12.
Our early tests show, kids are fully capable and very interested to work with their international peers. So why not through X-Culture?
X-Culture was originally created for MBA and undergraduate university students.
However, from the very beginning, we would receive numerous inquiries from school teachers and parents who wanted to enroll their kids in X-Culture. Now they can.
Below is a description of WHY we do it, HOW we plan to do it, and WHO can help us.
We will keep you updated about our challenges, ideas, and developments through the X-Culture Stories Blog.
It is a new program for us. Lots of unknowns. Any help and ideas would be hugely appreciated.
Questions for now:
- What should it be called?
- Best way to promote X-Culture Kids among teachers and parents of talented kids?
- How much should it cost? It can’t be free. We need resources to run the program. But how much is the right amount?
Make the World Better
X-Culture makes the world less divided and less hostile.
Our research shows that X-Culture reduces prejudice against people of other cultures, increases interest in working with people from other cultures, and increases confidence in one’s ability to complete a project with people from other cultures.
These are very important outcomes.
With every X-Culture graduate, we reduce the chance of international conflict. With every X-Culture graduate, we increase the chance of successful international collaboration.
Literally, the more people go through X-Culture, the less likely the next war is. The more people go through X-Culture, the more people will be prepared to work together to collectively find solutions to the challenges we face as a civilization.
We live in a global world. In school, at work, in our personal lives, we increasingly must interact with people of different cultures. International experience helps interact more effectively.
The earlier one starts gaining international experience, the better.
People with international experience are in high demand, but still in low supply. They are more likely to be admitted to good universities and get good jobs.
Teaching to work with people from different cultures is notoriously hard. It is not something one can learn from books or lectures. Learning in a classroom how to interact with foreigners is like learning how to swim on a football field.
One must get in the water to learn how to swim. One must have a practical international experience to understand other cultures.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to find opportunities to gain international experience. International travel is costly. Even if one can afford to go overseas as a tourist, there is a big difference between being a tourist and being a co-worker.
Furthermore, international work teams tend to be comprised of more than two nationalities. It is not unusual to see work teams where each team member comes from a different culture. This fundamentally changes the group dynamics. Working in a team comprised of just two cultures is not the same as working in a team where every team member is from a different culture.
Lastly, the rapid development of online comminication technologies makes it easier than ever before to work in globally dispersed teams. Most international interactions happen online. The group dynamics in virtual teams is much more complicated than in face-to-face teams. Ability to work in global virtual teams cannot be learned from books, by visiting other countries, or by working in traditional face-to-face teams. It can only be learned by working in virtual teams.
X-Culture is an inexpensive, safe, and effective way to gain international experience and learn how to work in global virtual teams.
X-Culture students first receive training in areas such as online collaboration, cross-cultural communication, problem-solving in teams, and the basics of international business.
Then, they complete a business project for a real corporate client in a team of about 7, each person from a different country, thereby gaining international experience and online collaboration skills.
Just like international experience, business experience is hard to gain from books or lectures. It is hard to understand business theories without applying them in practice.
X-Culture students solve international business problems for real companies. The students receive detailed information about their client company and its products, have live webinars with the company managers, present their work to their clients and receive feedback, and can even see their best ideas implemented.
Most talented trainees often receive internship and jobs offers. Many companies also offer after-market commission for proposals that lead to contracts.
In addition to international experience, X-Culture students also receive business consulting experience.
The sooner kids start thinking about business, the better they will be prepared to start their own in due time.
Our researcher shows that practical experience aids theoretical learning. Compared to control groups, students who also had the X-Culture experience as part of their International Business courses did better on the course exams. Same exam. Same questions. More correct answers if X-Culture is part of the course.
It is possible that the knowledge they gained during the project helped students answer exam questions. However, at least partially, better performance on the exams could be attributed to improved interest in the subject and stronger motivation to learn.
Practical application of the theories covered in the course helps students understand and appreciate the importance of the course materials. Seeing theory work in practice creates a sense of discovery, which makes learning more engaging and enjoyable.
We receive hundreds of letters from former X-Culture participants who share that the experience was so interesting that they read several additional books on International Business that were not even assigned for their course. Many also shared because of X-Culture they changed their majors to International Business.
How many participants?
X-Culture Kids would be viable even if only a few hundred kids from half a dozen countries participated in the project. However, it is possible the enrollments will be much higher.
First, X-Culture Kids has a much larger target audience than X-Culture University.
There are about 12,000 universities in the world with a web presence. Not all of them offer International Business courses and not all their students are fluent enough in English to participate in X-Culture. We estimate that in any given semester only about 50,000 students worldwide are enrolled in courses suitable for participation in X-Culture – and we already capture about 10% of that population.
The target population for X-Culture Kids is MUCH larger. There are about a billion people ages 9-17 worldwide. About half of them either speak English or try to learn English. Even if only 0.0001% of this population (1/10,000th of 1 percent, or only 1 in 100,000) participated in X-Culture, that would be 5,000 participants every semester, or up to three times that a year.
In other words, even if X-Culture Kids is 10,000 times less effective than X-Culture University at attracting potential participants, it will attract the same number of people every semester.
Imagine what impact we can have on the world if we capture 0.01% or 0.1% of that population.
As a test, we invited applications for X-Culture Kids in 2017. Relying only on the word of mouth among
X-Culture instructors, we received over 100 applications. The numbers will likely be many times more with proper advertising and promotion.
A few thousand pre-college participants per semester seems a very realistic goal.
The Program Name
We refer to the program as “X-Culture Kids” for now, but it’s probably not the best name. Most participants will likely be pre-college reengages who probably won’t like being called “Kids”.
Other names we’re considering:
- X-Culture Teens
- X-Culture Academy
- X-Culture Pre-College
- X-Culture Juniors
X-Culture Kids is a startup. There are many uncertainties and until we try we won’t know what works best. The plan is to start with the same basic idea and project design that has served us well in X-Culture University.
However, because the participants will be younger and less prepared, some changes are necessary:
- Age-appropriate challenges
Industries and products that are more relevant to younger populations will be selected for the challenges. For example, for the 2018-1 round, we have an agreement with a Lithuanian educational toy maker and a Colombian chocolate maker. Furthermore, the challenge questions will be less technical (e.g., less financial analysis) and instead more creative (e.g., more product design).
- More rigorous selection
Most universities are selective and offer a rigorous training. The university students tend to be highly skilled. Also, X-Culture is part of a course grade, so the university students work hard to get good grades.
X-Culture Kids will not be pre-selected and trainer by universities. They will receive no grades. To compensate for this reduced selectivity and extrinsic motivation, stricter selection will be needed, both to attract only most prepared applicants, and to make the project more prestigious to improve motivation.
- More pre-project training
Unlike university students who already have much training and are enrolled in International Business courses, kids and teenagers will need to receive more rigorous pre-project training in online collaboration, cross-cultural communication, business report writing, and the like.
- More gamification
For university students, the project is designed to resemble real business consulting projects: strict deadlines, dry communication, professional formatting of deliverables.
X-Culture Kids will rely on gamification and fun to provide the extra motivation.
- Broader recruitment
A call for participants via the Academy of International Business is enough to attract many professors who enroll their students in X-Culture.
X-Culture Kids will require a more active and broad recruitment, including recruitment via personal contacts, direct solicitations, online recruitment, as well as via clubs and professional associations.
- Company-like management
Most X-Culture professors are Ph.D.-holding experts in business and experienced educators. They provide all the necessary help because once X-Culture is part of their course, it is part of their job. This allowed us to build a global organization with a minimal budget.
The school teachers and parents of X-Culture Kids may not be as skilled and experienced as X-Culture professors. Also, some personnel will need to be hired, such as Regional Executive Directors, Recruitment Agents, contracted IT and marketing support services. Thus, X-Culture Kids will need to be managed more as a company, rather than as a research project.
In the first iteration, the X-Culture Kids program design will look like the regular X-Culture University + more pre-project training and post-project reflections. As we gain experience with the program, the program design is likely to constantly evolve.
Pre-Project Training (4 weeks)
A series of gamified training modules, such as:
- The X-Culture Project: Purpose, History, Method, Vision
- Online Collaboration Tools (Skype, Doodle, Dropbox, Google Docs, WhatsApp, etc.)
- Cross-cultural communication
- How to be an effective global virtual team
- Effective presentation: The art of writing business proposals
- Plagiarism and academic referencing
- The basics of International Business
Practical Training (8 weeks)
The students work in global virtual teams:
- As the students are completing the project, they experience the challenges and learn best practices of working in teams, communicating online, dealing with time-zones, cultural differences, and more
- Students have live webinars with the CEOs of their client organizations, submit weekly deliverables, receive feedback, and make friends
- The teams submit their final business proposals
Post-Project Reflections (4 weeks)
After the reports are submitted:
- Students present their work in-class and/or in a live online teleconference
- Students write reflection papers where they reflect on their experiences
Post-Project Awards and Documentation
After the project is over, the students and instructors receive:
- X-Culture Global Collaboration Certificates (students)
- X-Culture Global Educator Certificates (teachers)
- Best Team awards
- Best Teacher awards
- The best students and instructors are invited to the X-Culture Symposium
X-Culture Kids will be offered concurrently with X-Culture University (2 times a year), plus likely an additional third round in the (northern hemisphere) summer as a virtual summer camp.
Benefits for Students
- International experience
Complete a project in a team where each team member is from a different country.
- Business experience
Solve a real business challenge for a real client company.
- New knowledge and skills
Training in cross-cultural communication, online collaboration tools, international business, business writing and presentation, and more.
- Personal and professional network
Friends around the world, contacts at many universities and several companies.
- Cultural intelligence
A documented significant improvement in cultural intelligence from before to after the project.
- X-Culture Certificate and Recommendation Letter
You learn and grow. We provide a documented proof.
- Stronger resume and improved chances of a new start
X-Culture experience makes you a much stronger applicant for a stipend or job.
Benefits for Teachers
- Enhanced student learning
Compared to control groups (no X-Culture), students in courses with X-Culture do better on exams.
- Improved teaching evaluations
Compared to control groups, students who have X-Culture give their teachers higher evaluations.
- Research and publications
X-Culture is a great research platformthat provides high-quality multi-source multi-level longitudinal data. If you are interested in scholarly work, X-Culture will provide you the necessary data.
- Professional network
Meet the hundreds of educators and business professionals on the X-Culture team.
- Documented proof of your achievement:
X-Culture Global Educator Certificateand support letters sent to your principal or department head.
You do a great job; we make sure the world knows about it.
X-Culture certificates for your students
Students get X-Culture International Business certificates, which help with college and job applications.
X-Culture Kids is being developed based on years of experience with X-Culture University.
We already have 90% of the building blocks: a recognizable and trusted brand, an effective program model, training materials, a system for participant management, performance monitoring, data collection, templates for pre- and post-project documentation, a large online following, and the like.
The biggest immediate challenge of X-Culture Kids is recruitment.
X-Culture offers a great value to the students and teachers. Most parents/teachers would probably want to enroll their children/students in X-Culture – … if only they knew about it.
X-Culture is a platform project. Its value lies in the variety of participants. It is useful because and only if people from different countries participate in it.
X-Culture Kids would be viable even if a small group of children from only 4-5 countries took part in it. However, a much larger and diverse group offers economies of scales and gives the project is allure and credibility.
Thus, the biggest immediate tasks and the key to success of X-Culture Kids is to inform the potential participants about this wonderful opportunity.
Since there is no global professional association of parents of school teachers akin the Academy of International Business that could serve as a universal recruitment channel, X-Culture Kids will have to rely on other channels to inform potential participants about this wonderful opportunity, such as:
- Word of mouth
X-Culture University has about 40,000 alumni, and about 5,000 more participate every semester. Our research shows that about 90% of them find the X-Culture experience to be useful or very useful for their future career.
Additionally, almost 600 professors have participated in X-Culture. About 250 of them participate on a regular basis and are avid supporters of the project.
We also have about 20,000 X-Culture Newsletter subscribers and 80,000 Facebook followers.
Happy former X-Culture participants and project fans could provide great help with recruitment.
- Local recruitment agents
Personal meetings with teachers, administrators, and leaders of local youth and parent clubs and other educational and social organizations could be a very effective recruitment channel.
Unlike former participants who would share the information about the program only occasionally and only with a small number of friends and family, local representatives can be hired to promote X-Culture on a permanent basis. They can work part- or full-time.
The most effective local representatives would likely be teachers or other educators who believe in the X-Culture cause and seek additional income on the side. However, they could also be hired full-time employees whose only job is to act as X-Culture’s local recruitment agent.
- Advertisement in local media
Where feasible, local representatives can be given a budget to place ads in local newspapers or magazines in locations where such promotion channels may be feasible.
- Targeted promotion
A Google search makes it easy to find relevant organizations in cities where X-Culture wishes to recruit participants (schools, youth and parent clubs, etc.). Brochures and other promo materials can be mailed or emailed to them directly. It is probably best if the local representatives curated this process, as the local market and language knowledge may be necessary to ensure a high conversion rate.
Local, regional, and international conferences for teachers and other educators can be attended by X-Culture representatives to promote the project.
Probably the most promising promotion channel is the Internet.
Promotion via social platforms and by using targeted online advertisement is probably going to be most effective.
Advertising via Facebook, Google, and their affiliates allows for a relatively inexpensive way to reach our target audience, such as parents of children ages 9-16 interested in extra-curricular activities and training opportunities for their children. The categories can be specified remarkably accurately and include geographic location, language, interests, and more.
- Online community
An online community (or separate communities) of like-minded teachers, parents, youth club leaders and youths can be created to provide a platform for idea exchange and socializing. It could be a discussion forum and a source of ideas and links to new training and learning tools, educational project, blogs, and more. We can also organize webinars with leading educators, successful project participants, authors of books on the topic, popular bloggers, and more.
While some of these promotion channels appear more promising than others, the plan is to start with testing them all first and then focus on those that provide the best return on investment.
We will continue experimenting and innovating with recruitment strategies and tactics both for program development and research purposes.
The organizational structure of X-Culture Kids will be a little different from that of X-Culture University.
All X-Culture University students have professors whose job is to offer their students quality training and to do and publish research. The professors provide help with various tasks and functions. The recruitment is done primarily via professional academic networks. This allows running the project with a minimal budget and no permanent full-time personnel.
It is possible that pedagogy professors will join and use the X-Culture Kids project as a research lab. Likewise, school teachers will also likely see X-Culture Kids as part of their job and will volunteer and help with various tasks and functions.
However, X-Culture Kids will rely on a much more laborious recruitment strategy and the project management will require at least some permanent staff. The plan is to use the following organizational structure, subject to change if experience will suggest a better solution.
Phase 1: Pilot
The first iteration of the project will be experimental.
Several Regional Executive Directors will be hired and given full autonomy to try various recruitment strategies. They will also be actively involved in program development with the goal of developing a program design that is engaging, developmental, and culturally sensitive.
Global coordination and transfer of organizational knowledge from X-Culture University to X-Culture Kids
- Coordination of the efforts of different stakeholders
- Complete support system (project materials, website, printed materials, data collection, etc.)
- Legal (company registration, contracts, etc.)
- Accounting (banking, invoices, receipts, payroll)
- Other contracting and personnel management
Regional Executive Directors
Paid part-time or full-time employees who help with:
- Development of recruitment strategy for a specific region (a city, a country, a region, or a global online segment, such as Facebook)
- Local and online recruitment relying on first-hand knowledge of the local culture, institutions, laws, and regulations
- Help with project design and development
- Serve as a business liaison
- Community building
- Development of training materials
- Website and other online presence
- Organize local X-Culture events (symposia, roundtables, etc.)
- Take part in and help organize the X-Culture Global Symposium
Regional Executive Directors can choose to specialize in a certain geographic area or an online segment (e.g., Facebook, YouTube, Google AdWords). They can also request that a separate X-Culture Kids web page is created for them to test the effectiveness of different page designs, or if there is a need for a page in the local language.
Interested to join our team as a Regional Executive Director? Apply here.
Unpaid project supporters (former participants, professors, online followers)
- Help spread the word about the newly-launched X-Culture Kids
- Provide occasional program development tips and ideas
We want to keep X-Culture Kids free. However, it looks like we will have to charge for participation, and here is why:
- Selection tool: Free-riding is a very common program in global virtual teams. X-Culture appears like a very valuable experience and many people may enroll on an impulse. The project is very demanding and we cannot afford to accept people who are not fully committed. A dropout in the middle of the project can spoil the experience for the entire team. A participation fee is a test of the interest and commitment. If the person is not motivated enough to make a small payment, the person will likely be not motivated enough to actively work in a team throughout the project. So it is better to not let those who are not fully committed to participate and have fewer but happier participants, than let everyone enroll, then see some drop out, and have more but less happy participants. A small participation fee is an excellent way to filter out those who were not serious in the first place.
- Motivation Tool: Free is not valued. When the product is unfamiliar and the customers have no experience with similar products to judge the true value, the price is often the only factor that signals the value of the product. Free is often perceived to have low or even negative utility (they benefit from my participation). Greater perceived value will likely improve motivation, which will make everyone’s experience better.
- Personnel and material cost: To be successful, the project needs resources to hire personnel for project management, recruitment, and development, as well as provide proper online and technical support. The participation fee may preclude some from participating, but will allow us to offer a much better experience to those in the project.
The exact pricing has not been determined yet. Any suggestions with respect to the pricing strategy would be hugely appreciated.
Probability of Success vs. Failure
X-Culture Kids is a startup. It can turn out to be extremely successful and have a 7-figure revenue, or it can fail.
I wish I could stay that we are guaranteed to succeed and change the world, but the statistics on the startup failure rate moderates my optimism. According to J. Calacanis:
- 99% of people who write a business idea on the back of a napkin never do it.
- 95% who write a business plan never execute on it.
- 90% who build a prototype never build an MVP.
- 80% who build an MVP never do a beta-test.
- 80% who do a beta-test never incorporate.
- 90% who run a successful beta never raise money.
- 80% who do raise money and launch the business fail.
In other words, only 4 in a million (or 0.000004%) ideas written on napkins become viable businesses.
Importantly, the businesses fail largely because (1) the authors of the business idea do not work hard enough on it, (2) the business idea is bad, or (3) a matter of luck or other uncontrollable factors.
The good news about X-Culture Kids is that we have already successfully cleared most of the initial start-up stages.
- The idea has been “written on a napkin”.
- X-Culture was launched and grew into a global organization.
- We already have a working prototype and MVP of the X-Culture concept and related products (X-Culture University, X-Culture Global Symposium, X-Culture Coaching, X-Culture Hackathon, X-Culture online community including Facebook and newsletter, X-Culture Alumni Association).
- We have done a beta-testing of the demand and received many applications with minimal advertising.
- We are already incorporated.
- We already have the necessary capital to launch the new venture.
So, we have already successfully passed 6 out of 7 startup stages. Statistically speaking, our chances of success are at least 20%.
However, we three more factors that can greatly increase our chances of success:
+ We already have a reputable global brand.
+ We already have a global community of X-Culture former participants and fans.
+ And we know we can do things. It required thousands of hours to build X-Culture and we did it and did it well with virtually no financial support. That allows us to believe that we’ll put the necessary effort in X-Culture Kids.
I would say our chances of success are around 50%, which is way better than 0.000004% for a brand-new startup idea.
However, 50% is not 100%. Before you fully commit to this project, please keep that in mind.
By Vas Taras