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  • Mark P Stevens

Learning is...the next Innovators Dilemma


The best selling business book, "The Innovators Dilemma" by Dr. Clayton Christensen, theorizes that successful companies get too big and invested to truly innovate. So innovation has to come from the bottom, from a little guy that makes one piece of the process simpler, better and cheaper for everyone. (for examples see mini steel mills, disk drives, the Model T and PCs)

In a "Wired" magazine interview Jeff Howe asked, "If you had to list some industries right now that are either in a state of disruptive crisis or will be soon, what would they be?" Christensen answered, "I think higher education is just on the edge of the crevasse. Generally, universities are doing very well financially, so they don’t feel from the data that their world is going to collapse. But I think even five years from now these enterprises are going to be in real trouble." Why? "The availability of online learning. It will take root in its simplest applications, then just get better and better. You know, Harvard Business School doesn’t teach accounting anymore, because there’s a guy out of BYU whose online accounting course is so good. He is extraordinary, and our accounting faculty, on average, is average."

Howe asked, "What happens to all our institutions of advanced learning?" He said, "Some will survive. Most will evolve hybrid models, in which universities license some courses from an online provider like Coursera but then provide more-specialized courses in person...it has to be a hybrid like a Prius, where you take the best of the old with the best of the new." (In other interviews he explains the financial drivers also at play)

Corporate learning is undergoing the same dilemma. Our people need to be constantly re-educated and trained on new tools and processes. Yet they have to conduct business while doing it. Learning is not a one time thing anymore, it is the new work - it NEVER ends. The innovation here is also coming from below. Simple, easy to use interventions help people learn as they work. Rather than massive corporate universities and bloated LMS, think Google and YouTube, screen layovers and infographics.

The innovation will come out of the "simplest of applications, then just get better and better." Have you seen the same? Or are you wishing for something simple to help you learn so you can get on with your work? Tell us about it.


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