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Why Hugging Your Haters Promotes Innovation

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Few government forms or processes engender more frustration and hatred than the US Department of Education’s FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Yet with just a bit of listening to what people hate about the FAFSA, combined with an innovation framework, I helped create a profitable business.

The Problem With FAFSA

Outside of the college world, FAFSA is just a random acronym. For millions of students, parents, and families, it’s often vehemently spat rather than said. The FAFSA is a government form and process families use to apply for financial assistance for college. It’s high stakes: fill it out well, and your chances for receiving some kind of assistance for college are good. Fill it out wrong, and college remains out of reach.

Why did people react to the FAFSA with such vitriol? They hated the lack of assistance they received from the government in filling out the form. They hated the dearth of helpful information. They hated how disconnected the Department of Education was from the Internal Revenue Service, two agencies that collected the same data for different purposes but didn’t share.

No one heard their complaints.

What if someone listened? What would happen if we put thought into solving these problems? How could we help people and achieve business goals at the same time? To do this, I turned to LEAD, one of my innovation frameworks. LEAD stands for Learn, Experiment, Adjust, and Distribute.

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