Rebirth of Reason

Franchising the Philosophy of Objectivism
by Barry Kayton

Basking in the virtual sunshine of Galt's Gulch, contemplating the implications of Objectivist epistemology or applying the Objectivist ethics in our day to day choices, we tend to experience the philosophy of Objectivism in a deeply personal way. So it is easy to forget that Objectivism is a world view which we first encountered with curiosity or excitement or perhaps with skepticism. Whatever our individual responses were, we encountered the philosophy as an outsider leaving a world of conventional thinking and entering a world in which everything is coloured with a new, scarcely describable light. But even if we know that Objectivism is a world view that exists independently of our personal experience, it must be foreign to our minds to think of the philosophy as a product. But that is precisely what it is.

Objectivism is a product that initially took the form of fiction and later expanded in the form of non-fiction. Objectivism is a product primarily of Ayn Rand's mind. But is is also a product in ongoing development at The Objectivist Center and a product offered for easier consumption here at SoloHQ.

Thinking of Objectivism as a product opens up a range of possibilities for taking the philosophy to a wider audience. To my mind, the most exciting and promising possibility is that of franchising the philosophy through a network of independent, money-making training centres. Let me elaborate...

Objectivism is currently spread by means of Ayn Rand's novels and non-fiction, and the efforts of The Ayn Rand Institute, The Objectivist Center, SoloHQ and others. But there is great potential for faster growth by means of a network of franchised training centres. These training centres would be for Objectivism what your local bookstore is for books: the means of making a product available to customers. They would be self-supporting commercial enterprises that derive income by means of spreading Objectivism to customers (fee-paying trainees).

Would these franchises need to be operated by Objectivists who have reached an advanced level of understanding (perhaps the equivalent of a masters or doctoral degree)? Not necessarily. If you assume that customers could learn Objectivism directly from the course materials, then the facilitator of the course would need a thorough but not an advanced grasp of Objectivism. The challenge would be to design the course materials in a way that would guarantee the integrity of the learning process.

But what kind of courses would attract a sufficient number of customers to make these franchises commercially viable? Consider the customers and courses in this table.

Customers Course
Preteens (9-11) Basic Thinking Skills For Preteens; Morals for Minors
Young teens (12-14) Basic Thinking Skills For Young-Teens
Mid teens (15-17) Thinking Skills For Mid-Teens; Philosophy for Teens
Late teens (18-19) Advanced Thinking Skills
Business owners Business Ethics
New entrepreneurs Thinking Skills for Entrepreneurs
Scientists and Engineers Epistemology for Scientists and Engineers
Writers Critical and Creative Thinking for Writers
Philosophy Students Objectivism for Philosophy Students
Rand Fans The Philosophy of John Galt
Self-improvement market Efficient Thinking
Employees Efficient Thinking At Work
Existing Objectivists Living Objectivism - A course in applied Objectivism

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the courses that could potentially be offered, but only a sample of the kinds of courses I envisage.

Notice that most of these courses are not targeted at existing Objectivists but at a much wider audience. But each course would be a launching board for the introduction of Objectivist philosophy, and many customers would be introduced to Objectivism perhaps for the first time when taking these courses.

It stands to reason that in order to attract customers, these courses would need to be marketed aggressively on radio, in newspapers, in magazines, in schools and colleges, and to businesses. Furthermore, the courses would need to be designed to be interesting and interactive or participatory. They would not involve a passive audience listening to a taped lecture or even an audio-visual presentation. Instead, trainees would be involved in discussions, brainstorming, problem-solving, interactive games, etc. Participants would learn primarily from their interaction with full-colour, high-quality materials and from one-another - not from the facilitator. They would leave each course having completed an extraordinary learning experience and they would take away their own specially-designed package of materials. All the materials required by a facilitator would be packaged in a custom-designed portfolio case for each course.

The role of the franchiser would be to develop these courses and to produce, package and distribute the materials to the franchises. The process of establishing each franchise would entail training facilitators to a level of competence in basic Objectivism, as well as training them to facilitate the interaction of participants with the materials. Additionally, facilitators would need to be good communicators. Facilitators would be trained to respond to any difficult questions in the following sort of way, "That's an interesting question. Let's see if we can work out a non-contradictory answer. If we can't work it out now, then we can give it some more thought this evening and see if we can resolve it at the next session."

Is this network of franchised training centres a crazy pipe-dream or a commercial possibility? Suppose that a two-day course is priced at US$150 per participant. With eight participants per course, two courses per week, eight courses per month, the total monthly income is $9,600. This represents the implementation of only eight of the suggested fifteen courses - and then only once each per month. Also, this estimate does not reflect corporate clients that would probably be prepared to pay higher prices and would probably require training for groups of ten to fifteen participants. Naturally, you can play with these variables to achieve more or less realistic estimates and see the effect on potential income.

Of course, each new franchise would go through a growth cycle with business slow at first and building gradually. But don't forget that a franchised network would share the cost of advertising which makes possible an aggressive marketing campaign. Furthermore, experience would be shared amongst franchises with pioneers experiencing the sharpest learning curve and late-comers benefiting from their expertise.

Objectivism is a fantastic philosophy. Is it really mad to consider franchising it? What do you think? Do you think philosophy can be franchised? Would you be interested in buying into such a franchise? Would you be interested in being a facilitator of one of these courses? Do you know people who would be interested in doing (and paying) for one of these courses? Post your comments and suggestions to the discussion forum below.

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