Philosophy Training
November 1, 2016 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I am looking into founding a training company to offer critical thinking / logical analysis / other philosophy related skills to businesses. This is not something we really know how to do. Have you either hired training for a company or been involved in doing it? More detailed questions inside.

I am a consultant engineer. Broadly speaking I have experience consulting with different companies, project and programme managing and a little bit of business development. I would be doing all of the "businessy" things.
My wife is a philosophy lecturer, she is an expert in epistemology and we've written a joint paper in the past on epistemology in businesses.
She is also an expert in teaching critical thinking and informal logic (decision theory) and has one book upcoming and a further book on business epistemology planned.

As a lecturer she has chunks of time off during the year, so we're looking at having her deliver half day, day long and maybe three day long training courses to businesses. These would cover a range from entry level "how to think better" to higher managerial level social epistemology, possibly ethics?.
This would be at first a supplemental income and we'd see where it goes from there.

What I want to know is if you've been involved in company training is this just too outlandish a thing to sell to a company?
What sort of balance between businessyness and pure philosophy would you expect to see. How about in terms of balancing business credentials with philosophy credentials.

How would you generally expect to charge for this service? By participant? Fixed price for a day?

And finally, a funner question that everyone can pitch in on, have you got an ideas for names for a training consultancy like this?
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Business journalist here.
Budgets are tight and companies are unwilling to part with money unless you can explain what the benefit is for them in hard cash.
So if you can sell it to them by explaining why teaching employees to think logically will save them money / help them close deals / excel in negotiations, then I think you have a chance.
The "philosophy" angle is an interesting qualifier that will help you stick in people's memories, but your main point has to be a cash related one.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:39 AM on November 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

And finally, a funner question that everyone can pitch in on, have you got an ideas for names for a training consultancy like this?

Featherless Biped
posted by thelonius at 8:42 AM on November 1, 2016

I have bought training services, and I worked for the last 5 years running a training business for a well known business school. I think your idea sounds really interesting, but I can't see most companies buying it. Buyers will want to see clear measurable data about participant performance (how they improved their ability to do their job as a direct result of participating in your program), and a calculation on their return on investment, and they'll want to see your historical performance with other clients. I'm not sure you have either of those, nor could you calculate it in a believable manner (it's incredibly hard to do, and to do right). Most are also starting to shift to online delivery models as their workforce is geographically distributed, and travel expenses often dwarf the direct training expenses.

Training and L&D buyers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, as are their stakeholders who control their budgets. Big providers are struggling in this market, and it's getting increasingly difficult for new providers to enter the market.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:54 AM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's not outlandish, especially if she has a book and it's not your primary income. The company I work for engages a "leadership" consultant to do things like Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Strengthsfinders training, and they pepper their PowerPoints with philosophical quotes. I remember once there was one from Chateaubriand, because I was reading Chateaubriand at the time. And people share TED talks on LinkedIn all the time. So there are companies that are interested in things like this. You just have to find them and sell to them. Easier said than done.

Personally, I'd expect it to be mostly business-y, with little actual philosophy. As someone who enjoys philosophy and thinks business is mostly BS, I'd be interested in the philosophy aspect more, and this might set you apart from competitors. I suspect I'm in the minority, though.

I can't speak to pricing.

The previously-suggest idea of creating a web-based presentation is a good one. You can still sell in-person stuff, but at least at first, that might be a way to build the business.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:16 AM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Plenty of workplaces have annual training requirements regarding workplace tolerance, elimination of bias, non-discrimination, and similar. These are topics that can be approached philosophically.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Twentysix year federal employee here. I've been a classroom instructor, training users on new procurement tools. In my time here I've sat through every kind of training you can think of. This is a fine idea, it's something i could easily see being incorporated into new supervisor training or executive leadership development, something we've been doing a lot of with many baby boomers eligible to retire. With respect to ethics training it's something I've received every year but ours is more bound by regulations and rules, it's not the trolley problem.
posted by fixedgear at 10:10 AM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I haven't been in this business but I know of a business that offers something like what you are describing: Dialectic Solutions. (I came across them once while looking into examples of people using their PhDs in interesting non-academic ways.)
posted by synecdoche at 10:26 AM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

A *very* distant internet acquaintance of mine tried pretty much the same thing circa 2012-13. Didn't work out.
You might want to reach out and see if she has any lessons that she's willing to share. No guarantees though: Link.
posted by _backslash at 11:47 AM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Similarly, you might look into what Lou Marinoff and the American Philosophical Practitioners Association are up to.
posted by tangerine at 4:05 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Many, maybe most, courses take a case study approach. It's a good way to show how the primary material works in a business context. Case studies also made a great sales tool to illustrate that your ideas are of use in the real world.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:22 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's a great idea but would pitch it more along the lines of a coaching or personal development course (i.e. a perk) for employee enrichment purposes rather than as part of a mandatory training programme. Having said that you will need to explain what practical applications there might be, so it would be good to knock up some short case studies or scenarios to describe the benefits with a more personal slant (e.g. Take the frustration out of dealing with complex situations! Understand how to better organise your thinking! Etc)

As for what to call it? In 2008 a London writer liveried a van as a conceptual 24 hour emergency philosophy call-out service. It was just a prank but I saw the van zipping round Liverpool Street a few times and though it was a hilarious and brilliant idea, not least because of the name: 'Grey Matters' - might something along those lines work for you?
posted by freya_lamb at 5:53 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

for inspiration, you may also want to look at people who do this for a living: Daniel Fincke who delivers philosophical classes online and Claartje van Silj Philosophical Coaching (mostly for academics)
posted by coffee_monster at 9:57 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

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