Happiness is . . . Tomato Sauce?

“What is the perfect Pepsi?” speaker Malcolm Gladwell asks his audience, quoting a man by the name of Howard Moskowitz. No, this isn’t a reference to Back to the Future, it’s a real question Mr. Moskowitz spent years asking himself. This man, Mr. Moskowitz, is a market researcher and psychophysicist, best known for his work throughout the 1980’s concerning tomato sauce. In short, Mr. Moskowitz was confronted by Pepsi, then (1980’s) wanting to perfect and release a new drink – Diet Pepsi. They gave him all kinds of information, including the intended level of sweetness in which Pepsi wanted to find for their new drink (somewhere between 8 to 12). Taking on the challenge, Mr. Moskowitz did an experiment, essentially polling the American public on which level of sweetness was most desired. Pepsi then released that drink with that certain level of sweetness. Sounds straightforward, right? Mr. Moskowitz was not satisfied, however, and eventually revolutionized what the food industry does to make people happy with a simple statement: “there is no perfect Pepsi, there are only perfect Pepsis. When Campbell’s Soup came to him years later, wanting to improve their falling sales in the tomato sauce industry, he discovered – through experimentation and polling – that 1/3 of Americans liked chunky tomato sauce on their spaghetti. The thing was, however, that back in the 1980’s, there was no such thing as chunky tomato sauce, only the thin, watery kind that ran to the bottom of the bowl. In doing what Mr. Moskowitz said, Campbell’s released a line of chunky tomato sauce. They were onto something. Sales went through the roof. Why? Traditionally, companies in the food industry wanted to find the absolute best product and release that to the public, taking a one-size-fits-all approach. What Mr. Moskowitz had Campbell’s do, however, was introduce variety into their product, in this case: tomato sauce. As the years went by, other companies looked at Campbell’s and followed suit into what Campbell’s was doing. This is where different varieties of every product in the world came into existence. That’s why there’s literally a ton of different varieties of toothpastes, peanut butter, sodas, mustard, etc., etc. In the end, the speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, says, in effect, that in order to be happy, to be truly happy, we must embrace the diversity us as human beings have to offer. What a thought, right? This can easily be translated into the classroom. In order for us as teachers to be happy, and in order for our students to be and feel happy, we must embrace the diversity they as students have to offer. We should take advantage of that. In doing so, in my opinion, will make the classroom a more fun, vibrant and successful place. In the end, however, I don’t feel that my re-telling of this TED talk did it justice, so I strongly suggest to go check it out yourself!

 

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