Jobs launched an innovation in the retail space precisely because he had a bigger vision than his competitors. His customers would enter an Apple store to shop for products and leave “feeling” inspired. —Carmine Gallo

One of Steve Jobs’ innovation secrets, Carmine Gallo tells us, was his desire to create insanely great experiences that affect us emotionally. When he decided that his company would create Apple stores, for example, he was convinced that he needed to do more than “move metal,” which was the commonly held approach to selling computers. He had a much bigger vision. Gallo quotes Apple store designer Ron Johnson who describes what they were trying to accomplish with the Apple store:

To succeed in any business, you need an exceptionally clear vision… The fewer the words the better… When we envisioned Apple’s model we said it’s got to connect with Apple. It was easy. Enrich lives. Enriching lives. That’s what Apple has been doing for thirty plus years.

To create stores that enriched lives, Jobs and Johnson, Gallo explains, established criteria that clearly differentiated them from other retailers:

• Design uncluttered stores
• Locate the stores where people live their lives
• Allow customers to test-drive products
• Offer a concierge experience
• Make it easy to buy
• Offer one-to-one training

A classroom is not a store designed to sell electronic equipment. However, a lot can be learned from Jobs’ desire to create insanely great experiences.

First, we can all ask what our vision is for the experience that our students experience? Are we committed to inspiring students to love learning, to experience respect, to love to read? There is value in asking, “What kind of experience do I want for my students in my class this year?”

Second, we can ask, How can I arrange my class so that it best embodies that vision? Sandi Silbernagel from Slidell, Louisiana found her vision by asking a simple question, “What would I want if I was a seven year old?” Her answer was “comfortable,” and she created a classroom culture that beautifully brought that vision to life:

You can see a short video of Sandi talking about her class here .

You can download a checklist for analyzing your classroom’s environment here .

Creating insanely great experiences for learning takes a lot more than a pithy statement and a perfect room, but environment does make a big difference. Steve Jobs knew that, and his company greatly succeeded because of it—Apple recently passed Tiffany’s for having the highest sales per square foot of any retailer. When we understand the importance of environment, we improve our chances of making a difference for our students.  And in my mind, that’s insanely great.