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Here’s How Prison Taught Me How to ‘Lead From the Front’

The lessons I learned during my 17,520 hours of incarceration may help you, too. Just don’t learn them in their native environment.

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In an earlier part of my life, I went to prison for two years. My incarceration began two months before my 28th birthday, and I was released two months before my 30th. I went to prison due to previous convictions and a fight I was in when I was 22 (six years earlier).

Related: The 10 Biggest Business Lessons We Learned In 2017

I was a much different person going into prison in my late 20s than I had been when I got into that fight at 22. So, prison was a crushing blow to my life, considering that I’d already changed my life around.

That’s how, going in, I found myself confronting two choices about how I’d spend my time:

Choice 1: Be a part of the “yard society,” playing cards all day, shucking and jiving with the fellas, talking about past and future crimes I had committed or planned to commit . . . or

Choice 2: Figure out how to use every waking second of my upcoming prison time to be as productive as possible.

I chose the latter option (which I’ve previously written about). Specifically, I chose to stay open to learning in prison, which I did, in terms of the specific subjects I studied and the stuff I learned about myself that I’d never known.

One more thing I learned about was leadership lessons. I used those lessons and my prison experience as the launch pad for my current success. I’m a firm believer that any situation can create an opportunity to learn if you have the right mindset. That’s how I came to the leadership insights I gained as an inmate.

What kind of leader are you?

Before I expound on those lessons, it’s important to review the various leadership styles, as there are many out there to choose from. There’s a leadership tactic, for instance, called shepherd leadership, which is fashioned after a shepherd taking care of a flock.

Related: 5 Important Business Lessons You Can Learn From Billionaire Oprah Winfrey

A shepherd leads from the front versus a leader who “facilitates” and “guides.” I believe that the latter leadership style is important at times — for example, for empowering employees or teams to handle objectives while you work on the business versus in the business.

I also believe that there are times when a strong leader knows when to follow (and here I’ve been inspired by an article I read in 2012 in the publication Executive Education, from The Wharton School). A strong leader puts aside her or his ego and steps aside in order to focus on what’s best for the group. An example would be a medical emergency when a doctor — with the technical skills to deal with the scenario at hand — is best equipped to handle it.

I believe a true leader knows when to flex his or her leadership capabilities, and knows to be ready for that exigency, with a massive arsenal of leadership weaponry he or she can choose from.

I also believe that taking charge and leading from the front (as Napolean did and as I explain below) is a powerful skill and equally needed when the time is right.

As cultural icon 50 Cent and his co-author Robert Greene explained in their book The 50th Law: “The greatest generals in history . . . are invariably those who lead from the front and by themselves. They can be seen by the troops at the head of the army, exposing themselves to the same fate as any foot soldier.

“The Duke of Wellington said that the mere appearance of Napoleon Bonaparte at the head of his army translated into the equivalent of an additional forty thousand men,” the book continues. “A kind of electrical charge passes through the troops — he is sharing in their sacrifices, leading by example. It has almost religious connotations.”

This is the type of leadership I admire. In prison, I quickly learned that taking charge and being a frontward-facing leader was the most effective approach for that environment, where respect is demanded and aggression is the norm. However, my frontward-facing leadership wasn’t planned, and was a lesson I accidentally stumbled upon.

Here’s how that happened:

1. Mindset is everything.

As I already wrote, in prison, I made the conscious decision to make the waking portion of those 17,520 hours productive. Overall, I was relentlessly focused on bettering my mind, body and spirit. I learned conversational Korean, studied everything from string theory physics to ancient Greek and even taught myself the basics of computer programming without the internet, using textbooks.

I had all sorts of business publications sent to me, from Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Wired, to the Wall Street Journal and San Jose Mercury (for tech related news).

And I trained my body religiously, performing hundreds of burpees a day. No matter what yard I was sent to, I diligently focused on my program. That left me little time or room to get mixed up in prison politics or yard dramas. Mindset was the only thing I had any control over, and it empowered me to be the person I needed to be for myself, my future, my family and even the people around me in prison.

2. How I became an agent of change.

By having the right mindset, I saw an interesting thing happen. No matter where I went, and whoever was around — from my cellmate to other prisoners in my housing unit, to even the correctional officers who delivered my mail, people gravitated toward me, asking questions about what I was focused on.

Even though I wasn’t leading groups or recruiting people to better themselves, my actions made me an agent of change, no matter where I was in prison. I began to positively influence the people around me. The people in my housing unit started reading my books, joined my workouts and focused on their emotional and spiritual states.

3. My responsibility increased.

Carrying myself the way I did, resulted in an overall respect for my character during my incarceration. As counterintuitive as it may seem, in prison, character and respect are two very important traits to possess. There are prison politics that are put in place to make sure people treat one other with respect and don’t steal, and to weed out the people causing problems on the prison yards.

I found myself in leadership positions in prison, where I helped make sure the yard ran smoothly and ensured there was continued peace throughout. This increase in responsibility helped me improve my leadership ability even more and allowed me to focus on being the best version of myself.

If you’re looking to improve your leadership capabilities, the best way to do that is just start leading. Be bold in your requests to take on new positions, seek ways to be an agent of change and experiment with the various types of leadership. In those ways, you’ll improve your leadership experience.

Also, take a page from my upcoming book on my convict period: When leading teams and people, recognize that it’s critical that you understand how you show up. It’s critical that you become conscious of the actions you represent, versus the words you speak, and how you treat your teams. Learn various leadership styles, and adopt the ones that will empower you and your teams.

As I look back, I see how prison taught me more about myself than almost any other experience I’ve faced. It made me mentally stronger and helped me establish habits I still use today (like my insatiable hunger for knowledge and self-education).

Related: 7 Business Lessons From the Gridiron

Eager to learn more? How about we agree that you just take my word for it (or read my book), rather than try to learn these prison leadership lessons in their natural setting?

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Hip Hop Legend Damon Dash Explains How His Street Mentality Catapulted Him to the Top

Damon Dash not only solidified himself as a music mogul but grew an enterprise into fashion and lifestyle, growing Rocawear into a top streetwear company that sold in 2007 for a reported $204 million. Dash later opened DD172, an art gallery and creative collective in New York City, in addition to founding Creative Control, a digital media platform that explored the intersection of music, art and culture. His portfolio of ventures also includes a spirits company, another clothing company and Dame Dash Studios.

Related: Music Mogul DJ Khaled Hustled for 25 Years, and Now He’s Living His Dream Life

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9 Blockchain Influencers for You to Follow — Who All Happen to Be Female

Blockchain is so hot right now. Coinschedule reported that 235 ICOs (initial coin offerings) debuted in 2017 alone. But do you really understand how the multiple Blockchain variations at play in today’s landscape work? An founding document behind the technology, Satoshi Nakamoto’s 2008 paper, contains sophisticated mathematical proofs that are probably incomprehensible to the average bitcoin buyer, never mind the general public. 

Related: Beyond Cryptocurrency: 5 Do’s and Don’ts for Using Blockchain in Your Business

That’s why it’s vital to find industry influencers who truly understand what they’re talking about. This means people who’ll help you sort out Blockchain, even if you’re lacking a Ph.D. in math or experience at writing code.

The influencers I’m about to suggest to help you with this sorting out are all female — with a reason. And that reason is that I find it so refreshing to see so many women jumping into the Blockchain universe, given the barriers to women in tech overall.

This helps creates diversity (welcome!) in that space and reassures all interested parties that the future of the internet will have more to offer than the traditional Silicon Valley archetype.  

So, here are nine influencers I follow — again, all women — who have helped me understand Blockchain’s unique aspects, its trends’ future and the current state of cryptocurrency. They may do the same for you.

1. Christa Freeland, director of Partnerships, Nano Vision: This revolutionary healthcare startup uses microchips, cryptocurrency and AI to gather and analyze healthcare research data. Freeland has built key partnerships for the company’s Blockchain and data platforms.

Related: 2017-Budget Expectations of Financial Inclusion for Women Entrepreneurship

She’s also a notable entrepreneur in her own right, having founded Switch Cowork, a platform that facilitates shared coworking spaces. Currently, she also serves as managing director of Powershift Group, a company that founds, funds and scales promising tech startups.

2. Elena Knysh, VP of Sales, SolidOpinion. This ICO company uses Blockchain cryptocurrency to incentivize quality customer engagement and allow content-smart ad placement by advertisers. SolidOpinion’s clients include the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and Spil Games. Reading this white paper from SolidOpinion provides a great look into the ad space and how Blockchain will play a major role. 

3. Anna Irrera, fintech correspondent, Reuters. She’s an experienced financial reporter with a close understanding of the Blockchain economy. Her articles consistently deliver breaking news and astute analysis.

4. Tamara McCleary, expert on marketing, branding and Blockchain. McCleary is the founder of Thulium, a hugely successful financial and technology branding firm. She was named one of Onalytica’s top 50 Blockchain influencers.

5. Elizabeth Stark, co-founder and CEO, Lightning. This company is responsible for a decentralized, scalable and fast system of Blockchain-based financial transactions. A former professor at Yale and Stanford, Stark anticipated, in an article published on Coin Telegraph, that the further decentralization of the Blockchain system is inevitable. 

6. Meltem Demirors, director of development at blockchain advisory firm Digital Currency Group. Demirors manages a portfolio of 100 companies. She is also a Blockchain and technology lecturer at the MIT Media Lab and at the University of Oxford.

7. Diana Biggs, twice named one of the UK’s top 25 fintech Influencers by CityAM. CityAM is London’s first free daily newspaper. Biggs currently serves as industry engagement advisor for the University College London’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies and as HSBC’s head of business model innovation for the U.K. and Europe.

8. Neha Naruladirector, the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. Narula leads the Lab’s research on new digital currency and Blockchain applications. She’s delivered a Ted talk on “The Future of Money,” and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Blockchain 2016-2017.

9. Imogen Heap, Grammy-winning British artist. She’s the founder of artist and musician collective Mycelia, a group that explores how Blockchain technology can be used to disrupt the music economy ecosystem and ensures fair pay for artists. She practices what she preaches, having released her album, Tiny Human, on the blockchain Ethereum in 2015.

Related: You Don’t Have to Be All That Corporate to Make an Impact With Corporate Social Responsibility

These nine women are pushing the Blockchain boundaries. They’re creating the dawn of wide adoption for this technology;and they’re helping to welcome Web 3.0, which is sure to usher in a much more diverse and decentralized internet age than we have today.

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Thanks to Blockchain, Decentralization — and Data Security — Are the Future

Nowadays, everything is going digital. The photographs we once stored in photo albums are generally no longer printed; they’re stored in online albums. And few people anymore use physical paper planners to keep track of their lives; instead, daily reminders and appointments are stored in digital calendars.

Related: 8 Crazy and Surprising Ways People Are Using Blockchain

What’s more, few people maintain handwritten ledgers to track their bank accounts. There are websites and apps that do the work for them and allow easy access this data.

Meanwhile, companies across multiple industries are storing all of their files and data digitally. From financial records to personnel files, digital networks are storing companies’ internal data. The data companies collect from customers is often stored this way, as well.

Sounds good so far — except for the fact that with so many things going digital, we are more and more susceptible to security breaches. And, in addition to the risk that we might be hacked, when we store everything on computers, we face the possibility that one of those digital networks we’re using will go down.

That happens with some regularity: According to recent reports from Datacenter Dynamics, a British cloud-hosting company called UKFast suffered an outage at its data center in Manchester after workers there accidentally axed a cable connected to the computer network.  And, earlier this year, Amazon’s cloud service also experienced an outage, attributed to either a bug in the network’s software code or human error.

Security breaches and outages, then, are a concern for many who have turned to digital storage. But the good news is that technological innovation is coming to the rescue.


First, there’s Blockchain. Blockchain technology is a digital ledger which stores data blocks that are highly encrypted. This technology has begun to decentralize data, and the innovation it represents could well be the future of data storage. Already, businesses  utilizing Blockchain are seeing many benefits.

And one big reason for those benefits can be attributed in large part to the fact that it’s easier to maintain the privacy and security of files and data on a decentralized network than a centralized one.

Related: How Blockchain Is Enabling the New Era of Digital Financial Investments

Blockchain vs. data servers

Last year, the Ponemon Institute, a research firm, reported on global cloud data security. The study found that 73 percent of information technology professionals surveyed called cloud computing applications and platform solutions integral to business operations today. Researchers have predicted that these solutions related to cloud computing will increase 81 percent over the next two years.

But this migration to the cloud could spell problems: 60 percent of the more than 3,000 IT professionals surveyed said it is more difficult to protect confidential or sensitive information on cloud servers. Alternately, Blockchain can provide the same data-storage capabilities as cloud hosting, but with more security and prevention of breaches.

Blockchain technology is more secure than cloud computing, by design: The cryptography that makes up the Blockchain design was actually created for the purpose of addressing the security concerns associated with digital products, like cloud networks. Since Blockchain is a decentralized network spread out across computers in different locations, there is no single point of weakness vulnerable to security breaches. Security has been built into blockchain technology, making it automatic. 

Additionally, decentralized storage allows for drastic reductions in pricing, so that any company, not just the largest ones, can leverage the technology. With Blockchain-based data storage, small companies don’t have to spend money and resources building the infrastructure to hold data and files. Those companies pay only for the amount of data storage they need.

As Mike Stollaire, president and CEO of Titanium Blockchain Infrstructure Services, recently told me by phone, “We are not only replacing cloud storage but also providing processor and memory, so that resource-intensive projects involving artificial intelligence and virtual reality can be accomplished by anyone in the world at an affordable price.”

The world computer you can’t shut down

Stollaire’s company, Titanium, is being positioned to decentralize storage, processor power and memory throughout the globe by utilizing more than 200,000 devices comprising the Ethereum “world computer” (ETH)  For those unfamiliar with ETH, this technology takes the cryptographic payment structure of Bitcoin and adds a Turing complete scripting language.

Ethereum is attempting to use Blockchain technology to create the most viable tool for executing smart contracts. The term “Turing complete” means a system capable of performing any logical step of the computational function, creating a globally decentralized, non-owned digital computer for executing peer-to-peer contracts. In layman’s terms, Ethereum is a world computer you can’t shut down.

Because of this, Titantium’s system will be available almost 100 percent of the time, performing optimally, with essentially no outages.

A decentralized world computer that can’t be shut down would be extremely useful for keeping our data safe. Consider, for example, that since 2009, more than 50 percent of all U.S. internet traffic has traveled through Northern Virginia, an area sometimes called “The Silicon Valley of the East.”

Internet traffic is still being tunneled through this Dulles Technology Corridor today. And given the magnitude of this traffic, concerns have been raised as to whether it’s safe for that much data to stream through just one geographical area. As the outages previously described illustrated, confining a storage network to one location can spell disaster if the network experiences problems.

For this reason, a number of large companies are utilizing Blockchain for their data storage needs. And other tech companies are harnessing the technology to innovate other industries. Earlier this year, Sony, for example, announced it had developed a Blockchain system for education.

Using this system, Sony promises to make educational achievements and activity records both open and safe. According to a recent Sony press release, the system “centralizes the management of data from multiple educational institutions and makes it possible to record and reference educational data and digital transcripts.” In this way, education records will be both more secure and also more easily transferable between and among education institutions.

At this juncture, decentralizing data is integral to the growth of online data storage. In light of recent big breaches, including those attacking Arby’s, Verizon and Dun & Bradstreet in 2017, we are realizing the importance of better data security and access.

Related: 8 Benefits of Blockchain to Industries Beyond Cryptocurrency

As companies begin to rely almost entirely on digital data storage, round-the-clock access to this digital infrastructure is key. Decentralizing data will limit the weaknesses found in typical cloud storage networks and ensure these systems are safe from attack.

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AI, 3D Printing and Robotics)

We’ve been hearing for years about the digital transformation of multiple business sectors. And the technology sector is hardly alone in this regard: For the past decade, legacy industries have been making the transition, too,and the result has been massive opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Related: How Tech Is Becoming an Integral Player in Energy Solutions

 Moreover, as each new age group has increasingly gone “digitally native,” the overall workforce has demanded higher workplace technology standards.

Entrepreneurs have left their fingerprints all over the resulting current digital landscape, creating brand new technologies and updating antiquated processes. Such innovations are being driven by the younger generation, whose members have stepped up to become the new leaders in the field. With this millennial management has come an openness to adopting new technologies, and a knack for solving old problems with new approaches.

One of the biggest industries opting for digital efficiency and subsequently thirsty for young, entrepreneurial leadership? Oil and gas.

Why oil and gas?

One reason this particular sector is ripe with entrepreneurial opportunities is that oil is projected to stay below $60 a barrel throughout 2018. With this booming market and its eagerness for innovation, the industry is ripe for disruption to existing business models, and for real growth. 

“Companies that are willing to innovate and invest can unlock tremendous value and may remain financially strong regardless of what happens to global supply and demand trends,” Deloitte executiveJohn England wrote in a 2018 Energy Outlook white paper.

“So, the digital cavalry is coming,” continued England, who is vice chairman, U.S. energy and resources leader, and U.S., and Americas oil and gas leader for Deloitte.”But it likely won’t rescue everyone — possibly only those who are brave enough to embrace it.”

What might seem like yesterday’s technology headlines are headlines only now making a splash in the oil and gas industry. This means that technology experts from entrepreneurial companies should be watching the horizon for opportunities in energy. Here are four innovations transforming that sector:

Artificial intelligence

“Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to have the biggest technological impact on the oil and gas industry over the coming years,” according to Omar Saleh, Microsoft’s oil and gas director for the Middle East and Africa, who spoke to CNBC.

ExxonMobil, ranked No. 1 in the industry by Forbes’ 2017 Global 2000 ranking of the world’s biggest public companies, is spearheading AI exploration through a partnership with MIT to explore the oceans using AI software. With the biggest names in oil and gas investing in AI ventures, it’s clear that the technology will have a major impact in the coming years.

Cloud computing

Oil and gas giants have long been wary of cloud technology because of security risks. While adoption may be low as of today, there is still a strong future for cloud computing. A forecast by the U.K.-based Oil & Gas Council explains that, due to the “many commercial benefits and the world of possibilities, cloud computing is becoming a popular model for the IT savvy business that has growth on its agenda.”

“Some of the most complex organizations from banking to government, have fully embraced the computing power and agility of cloud,” Shiva Rajagopalan, CEO and founder of Seven Lakes Technologies said during her remarks for my podcast scheduled for next month. “They’ve been rewarded with a competitive edge to respond to markets faster and incubate transformational ideas within the organization at unprecedented speed.

“The faster information is available,” Rajagopalan added, “the more quickly large corporations spin up new ideas, initiatives and innovations. The oil and gas industry should be afforded exactly the same competitive edge, not confined by their own data centers.”

3D-scanning technology

3D printing has moved beyond the hype phase, and we are now seeing practical uses in play. For oil and gas, 3D printing means fast, cost-effective representations of assets that can be used for maintenance planning and execution.

According to LaserDesign, “3D printing allows oil and gas companies to reverse-engineer and measure oil and gas tools in virtually every shape and size. Scan data can confirm whether the replacement part will fit existing equipment and also provide a clear documentation of tooling erosion to improve product design and reproduce tooling components.”

Related: How Startups Can Be Invited to the Big IoT Party

The internet of things

The value of the internet of things (IoT) becomes apparent when companies can demonstrate new applications for information gleaned from these technologies. Paul Turner, CMO of Cloudian, said he believes that the promise of IoT lies in creating a set of standards “to guide how devices are structured, and a common language that can be understood . . . ” Such standards, Turner said, “are critical for IoT companies looking to sell their technology to oil and gas.

“Startup companies looking to sell IoT solutions to the oil and gas sector should also adhere to standards,” Turner told RigZone. “Value is derived not only from the data collected and aggregated, but data being in a well-known format.

He added: “A service model that features one data repository that can be used by many companies is needed.”

Advanced robotics

One of the biggest challenges in the oil and gas sector is how to mitigate risk. One of the best ways deploying sophisticated robotics that humans can operate, keeping themselves out of harm’s way. Earlier this year, Chevron announced a partnership with OC Robotics to inspect offshore oil and natural gas pressure vessels in the North Sea. The robotic P100 snake arm, is built to operate in confined spaces, deploying an arm into the inspection area, using wire ropes and software.

“There is real potential to improve inspection outputs and extend asset life by characterizing vessels and assessing fitness for service without human entry into dangerous and confined spaces,” Rebecca Smith, project manager at OC Robotics, was recently quoted as saying by JWN.

Exciting advances in AI, cloud computing, 3D printing, IOT and robotics are transforming the future of the oil and gas industry. “The upstream oil and gas companies have survived turbulent markets, fine-tuned lean teams and know exactly where to drill,” Rajagopalan told me. “In spite of all that transformation, meeting production targets remains a blindfolded, high-wire act. This must change.”

Raising “an army of people” to solve the problems ahead isn’t enough, she said. What may be, she said, is adoptable predictable technologies, which give time back to the field “so that they can shrink unplanned down time.” 

Related: From Corner Office to Field Ops: 4 Ways to Make Data Actionable

Entrepreneurs and startups looking to be a part of the next generation of technologies should explore this billion dollar industry because that rig drilling away down in Texas or out in the Gulf is no longer working your father’s oil field; it’s the digitally driven oil field of the future, powered by disruptive tech. 

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This Media Company Used Hip Hop and Sneakers to Attract 55 Million Viewers and Sell for Over $250 Million

Rich Antoniello is the co-founder and CEO of Complex Media. Complex is the intersection of all things pop culture, from hip-hop to sneakers, and dominates the male market of 18- to 24-year-olds with 55 million monthly viewers. Through the company’s latest annual conference, ComplexCon, it’s now disrupting traditional retail by providing a fully immersive experience for event goers. It has been disrupting media for over a decade and caught the attention of Verizon and Hearst, who jointly acquired the company for reportedly well over $250 million in 2016.

Related: This Entrepreneur Built the Hottest Celebrity Spot on the Planet — and a Brand With Staying Power

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This 1 Particular Area of EdTech Is Ripe for Disruption. 3 Things You Need to Know.

It’s no secret that the education sector is ripe with opportunities for disruption and innovation: Edtech venture funding exceeded $1 billion in 2017, and the market is expected to grow to $93.76 billion by 2020. Entrepreneurs are using digital technology for diverse applications: to facilitate online education, train coders in developing countries and innovate classroom collaboration. But one major issue within education has yet to be solved: the unbelievably high price of textbooks.

Related: Stop Shooting For the Moon! Raising Prices Won’t Raise Your Profits. Catering to a Niche Will.

The cost of college textbooks nearly doubled over the past ten years, outpacing the growth of tuition costs by 25 percent. The average grad student spends $1,200 per year on textbooks — nearly 5 percent of his or her disposable income.

The sky-high value of the used college textbook market — $5.5 billion, according to BookBusinessmag.com — testifies to the fact that many students and families are eager for more affordable options. The challenge for entrepreneurs, then, is to find a way to meet this demand in a profitable, sustainable way that will meet the needs of students, professors and educational institutions alike.

Ready for this opportunity? Here are three things you should know if you’re considering taking a crack at this complex problem.

1. The traditional publishing giants got themselves into this mess.

The modern textbook publishing industry is dominated by a small number of large companies that have relied on more or less the same business model for decades  — even as educational practices have changed significantly. These traditional publishers have been slow to innovate and adapt to new educational needs and market realities.

“The textbook publishing industry was lulled into an uncompetitive stupor by 20-plus years of price-driven growth and high margins,” Alastair Adam, CEO of FlatWorld, a digital-first college textbook publishing company, explained to me. The status quo worked well for traditional publishers as long as students were willing to purchase new textbooks, Adam said. But that held only as long as they had no other viable options.

Today, with the cost of education at historically high levels, many students no longer see purchasing new textbooks as a viable option. Years of price hikes and complacency by publishers are bringing them significant losses as that revenue goes toward the used-book market. The majority of students today purchase their textbooks on the used market, share with classmates or don’t purchase textbooks at all.

Of course, textbook publishers aren’t blind to the plight of cash-strapped students. David Levin, CEO of McGraw-Hill Education, testified to this in 2015 when he wrote, “Enrolling in college requires a significant financial investment from students and their families, and I understand the frustration they feel when, after signing up for years of loans, they see a charge for an expensive textbook appear on their credit card.”

Related: Edutor, Pearson Partner to Provide Digital Textbooks to Students in South Africa

But acknowledging that a problem exists and knowing how to fix it are two different things. And the traditional players have been largely unable to develop sustainable solutions to this long-time challenge.

2. “Digital” isn’t a magic bullet.

Some conventional publishing companies — McGraw-Hill Education included — have sought to regain market share by transitioning into the digital textbook space. By offering their products digitally, publishers are able to sell them at a lower price and, at least in theory, regain ground that they’ve lost to the used market.

But simply transitioning to a digital model isn’t going to fix the industry’s deeper problems. A recent report by U.S. PIRG found that traditional publishers tend to carry many of their detrimental habits with them into the digital world. “Even as they move into etextbooks, publishers incorporate paywalls, expiration dates and printing restrictions that further continue the practices they’ve used to control the traditional market,” said Ethan Senack, a higher education associate at U.S. PIRG.

Merely pivoting to a digital-only approach, then, will not address the deeper, more systemic issues within the textbook publishing industry. And the transition to digital has thus far not been shown to improve student outcomes. According to Adams, “Focusing solely on digital solutions as the answer to the industry’s woes is like trying to fix high airfares by investing in flying cars. A better approach is to break down the price barrier, just like the low-cost airlines did.”

True innovation will come not in scrapping the traditional idea of the textbook, but in re-thinking the ways that textbooks are produced, manufactured and sold. For example, FlatWorld uses standardized templates for each of its books; it also prints on demand and ships directly to students, bypassing considerable design and inventory costs. Benefits from solutions like these are passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices.

Entrepreneurs entering the space should look for opportunities to disrupt the traditional textbook publishing business model without relying on digital quick fixes that don’t result in genuine progress.

3. Keep the educators at the heart of the process.

When approaching innovation within the textbook publishing industry, it’s important to consider not only the students but their professors and other teachers, as well. Many attempts to solve the textbook cost problem have fallen short because they’ve failed to take into account the needs and preferences of educators.

Take Open Educational Resources (OERs) as an example. OERs, or free, openly licensed text, media and other assets represent an inexpensive way for students to access educational materials. But they have faced significant barriers for adoption because they have an alienating effect on professors who have spent years designing courses around textbooks.

Professors are at the heart of our higher education system, and any viable innovation within the space must embrace this reality. “The value in textbooks is in leveraging professors’ time and expertise,” Adams said. “If we can make textbooks affordable again, we can leverage the time and knowledge of professors rather than disintermediate them.”

Given the lack of sustainability inherent in the current textbook ecosystem, it’s only a matter of time until a novel (pun intended!) solution achieves widespread adoption. Innovators and educators, meanwhile, who are searching for that solution will do well to learn from the faults of traditional publishers. They’ll also be wise to avoid short-term fixes and to consider all stakeholders when they develop new products.

Related: 4 Psychological Techniques That Can Improve Your Product Pricing

Overall, textbooks are a hard market to read, with a lot of players rewriting the story, and it’s going to be interesting seeing what the next chapter (another pun) brings.

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This Entrepreneur Built the Hottest Celebrity Spot on the Planet — and a Brand With Staying Power

Mark Birnbaum is the co-founder of the EMM Group, owner of the Catch restaurant chain, which are arguably the hottest restaurants in the world with A-list celebrities visiting weekly. He recently sold 50 percent of his company to Tillman Fertitta, the Texas billionaire who’s the man behind the CNBC show Billion Dollar Buyer and also recently bought the 17 restaurants of BR Guest. In this episode of Action & Ambition with Andrew Medal, Birnbaum discusses his beginnings and how he turned his passion for nightlife into a thriving business.

Related: Here’s How to Sell Your Business for $100 Million-Plus???????

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