Patrick Riccards, the President and CEO of Driving Force Institute, is a creator at heart. A father to two children, Patrick has always wanted to continue his career growth, while having the time and flexibility for his kids. Over a decade in the industry, he has set an example for the burgeoning entrepreneurs, by being an eective leader of excellence, eciency, and commitment.
A mentor once told Patrick, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Chasing that dream of his, Patrick started his first business nearly 15 years ago, right after the birth of his daughter. He built Exemplar Strategic Communications into a top boutique communications and public aairs firm in the education space and then followed that with Eduflack Strategies, providing strategic development, messaging, and consulting services to the C-suite.
Four years ago, Patrick was serving as the chief communications and strategy ocer at the Wood-row Wilson Foundation, and started doing a deep dive into how to improve the teaching and learning of American history. It became a passion project for him, leading to the creation of the Driving Force Institute.
Speaking about his entrepreneurial journey, Patrick said, “Each of these businesses was built on a simple premise. We don’t fear failure. We fail fast, we don’t repeat failures, but we realize that failure is one of the greatest learning tools for a new business. If we don’t experience failure and setbacks, then we simply aren’t innovating.”
Approach towards making American history relevant
Patrick saw a clear and driving need for interesting, relevant and provocative way of teaching American history. He started experimenting on ways to find an interactive learning method and looked at the options of online quizzes, simulations, and even at video games. But then he quickly became convinced that short-form videos were the way to go and founded the Driving Force Institute. Patrick believes that history can be interesting, relevant and entertaining when presented in the right way and they have found the secret sauce.
Today, DFI is the largest producer of American history education videos in the United States, working with some of the top brands in the field, including NY Historical Society, the Smithsonian, and American Battlefield Trust. It won a Telly award last year for producing videos that learners love and educators need.
PATRICK BELIEVES POSITIVITY AND FLEXIBILITY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTES OF A SUCCESSFUL LEADER TODAY.
Learning from experience
Prior to launching DFI, Patrick served as the CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), executive director at the American Institutes for Research, and CEO and chief strategist for Exemplar Strategic Communications. Each leadership role has taught Patrick a new skill set. At ConnCAN, he learned how to successfully raise money and gain a deep appreciation by making his team understand what was being done and why. At AIR, he learned how to adopt a startup mentality in a 70-year-old company with hundreds of millions in revenue, acting nimbly to do things previously unexplored. Exemplar taught Patrick to build from scratch, boasted his self believe to a greater hight because he knew, with a new family, he had no choice but to succeed, no matter how challenging the role is.
Adding to that, Patrick said, “DFI helped me bring all of that together into a new entity. We aren’t the first company to use video to teach academic content. But we do it in interesting, provocative ways that have been tested to be eective with high schoolers who believed history was boring and irrelevant. We’ve built a social enterprise that has raised millions of dollars to create more than 500 films to make American history interesting for today’s learners. Our model relies on partners who bring skin into the game, an approach that has helped us reach nearly 43 million users today. We build on the lessons learned in previous leadership experiences, benefiting from the successes while not replicating the shortcomings.”
Key to be a successful leader
Patrick believes, positivity and flexibility are the most important attributes of a successful leader today. He said, “For 20 years, my wife preached that I need to be positive and flexible. This is particularly true for a leader. We all come in with clear ideas for what we want to do. We all hopefully understand what our NorthStar is. But if you want to make a dierence, if you want to have an impact, you have to be flexible.”
Patrick with a revolutionary approach, positive mindset and innovation driven thoughts, has successfully survived the hardships and embraces the milestones. He is proud of his successes and lessons that every step of his career taught him. But the Driving Force Institute is perhaps what he is most proud of. He showed that American history can be interesting and relevant to all learners. He even worked with states to help their Departments of Education create new learning content aligned with state standards. And in a few years, DFI figured out how to successfully deliver their product to tens of millions of people, through a model rarely used in the education sector.
Patrick with a revolutionary approach, positive mindset and innovation driven thoughts, has successfully survived the hardships and embraces the milestones.
Dream big, no challenge is ever-lasting
Dreaming big is the first step towards achieving the goal. Patrick believes, true entrepreneurs need to be both, innovators, and dreamers. The greatest challenge to such dreams and innovation is ensuring that others share your vision. There can be a problem but there are solutions to that problem. No challenge is too great. People may not see what you do, but that is not a failure. There is always a possibility to overcome a problem. Patrick says, “I don’t want to work with those who don’t see the possibility. I want healthy sceptics who will push me and force me to do all I can to achieve the dream.”
With the help of Makematic and Do Goodery, the Driving Force Institute has shown the power of short-form video in the teaching and learning of complicated academic subjects. To date, the company’s focus has been on American history. Moving forward, there are other subjects that could benefit from this approach.
Speaking about their future goals, Patrick said, “I’ve been particularly proud of our work in states such as Florida and Kentucky, helping them ensure learning content aligned with their standards. We are beginning to work with other states as well. As more states update their American history and social studies standards, there will be more opportunities to produce contents that will ensure what is taught in the classroom aligns with the new standards, without having to wait for years for the textbook publishers to catch up.”
Advising the emerging business leaders, Patrick said, “To succeed in the journey, one needs to develop a strong toolbox of knowledge and skills. Know the strengths and constantly address the shortcomings. Learn from the setbacks and mistakes, trying not to repeat them. Keep working, keep learning and keep failing fast and with purpose, the success is meant to come.”