Friday, May 4, 2012

Disruptive innovation: News Journal hits nail on head . . . while missing the point

Today's WNJ editorial page features a piece on how online learning is dramatically changing the playing field for colleges and universities across the nation.

In so doing, the writer seizes on the term disruptive innovation:

Educators who haven't heard the phrase "disruptive innovation" should look it up.  It was coined by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christiansen to explain what happens when a new technolog or a new application of a technology challenges an old market.
For example, look at what low-cost, high-value Toyota cars started doing to General Motors in the 1970s.  Of the challenge digital publishing poses to printed magazines, newspapers and books.  Or what Tivoli and mobile tablets are doing to television shows.

The irony here is that disruptive innovation can also be the result of a process change, or an organization chage, as well as the result of new technology.

Educators in Delaware understand this quite well.  Since the advent of New Directions, Content Standards, DSTP, Charter Schools, School Choice, and Neighborhood Schools in the 1990s, followed by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top in this decade, our public education system has been reeling from one disruptive innovation after another.

Strange, isn't it, that the New Journal would seize on the term to describe a university-level educational trend that has yet to even brush Delaware, while ignoring the public education changes that have been roiling our political debate for nearly 20 years now.

And here's the crux of disruptive innovation:  you can adapt, but you can't go back.  For better or worse, the bell of charter schools and school choice in Delaware cannot be unrung.  The fact that a coalition of education administrators, senior union officials, and state politicians committed us to Race to the Top cannot be changed, no matter how many flaws can be found in the execution.

The old system of public education in Delaware is now a part of history; what will replace it--and whether that replacement will actually work to the benefit of ALL students in the First State--has yet to be determined.


pandora said...

Disruptive Innovation = School District Administration job description. ;-)

Hube said...

Disruptive Innovation = School District Administration job description. ;-)

LOL! Love it!

tom said...

Clayton Christiansen may have coined the specific term Disruptive Innovation but the concept, variously described as "disruptive technology", "quantum leaps", "revolutionary ideas", ..., predates him by at least a century, possibly two.

Alvin Toffler & Marshall McLuhan both wrote about it in the 70's. Karl Popper, Alfred Korzybski, and historians Henry & Brooks Adams all wrote about it early in the 20th century. I also think I remember some stuff by Isaac Newton on the topic but I can't find any specific references at the moment.