Every age has a theory of rising and falling, of growth and decay, of bloom and wilt: a theory of nature. Every age also has a theory about the past and the present, of what was and what is, a notion of time: a theory of history. Theories of history used to be supernatural: the divine ruled time; the hand of God, a special providence, lay behind the fall of each sparrow. If the present differed from the past, it was usually worse: supernatural theories of history tend to involve decline, a fall from grace, the loss of God’s favor, corruption. Beginning in the eighteenth century, as the intellectual historian Dorothy Ross once pointed out, theories of history became secular; then they started something new—historicism, the idea “that all events in historical time can be explained by prior events in historical time.” Things began looking up. First, there was that, then there was this, and this is better than that. The eighteenth century embraced the idea of progress; the nineteenth century had evolution; the twentieth century had growth and then innovation. Our era has disruption, which, despite its futurism, is atavistic. It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation, and shaky evidence.

Most big ideas have loud critics. Not disruption. Disruptive innovation as the explanation for how change happens has been subject to little serious criticism, partly because it’s headlong, while critical inquiry is unhurried; partly because disrupters ridicule doubters by charging them with fogyism, as if to criticize a theory of change were identical to decrying change; and partly because, in its modern usage, innovation is the idea of progress jammed into a criticism-proof jack-in-the-box.

Jill Lepore, What the Theory of “Disruptive Innovation” Gets Wrong

(via stoweboyd)

(via stoweboyd)

Harvard is going to make a lot of money,” Mr. Ulrich predicted. “They will sell a lot of seats at those courses. But those seats are very carefully designed to be off to the side. It’s designed to be not at all threatening to what they’re doing at the core of the business school.” Exactly, warned Professor Christensen, who said he was not consulted about the project. “What they’re doing is, in my language, a sustaining innovation,” akin to Kodak introducing better film, circa 2005. “It’s not truly disruptive.

Business School, Disrupted - NYTimes.com

the way that tech often does disrupt industries - by affecting parts of the industry that no-one paid attention to but which were actually key leverage points. Not many magazine people thought of themselves as being in the trucking and light-manufacturing business, for example, but they were, and that was why the internet had such an impact on them. But the opposite can also be true - there are industries where tech doesn’t look important but is actually crucial, but there are also industries where tech looks crucial but doesn’t actually matter very much at all

Ignorance — Benedict Evans (via interestingsnippets)

(via interestingsnippets)

IKEA engages its own designers to create furniture kits that customers can retrieve from the warehouse, take home, and assemble themselves, without having to wait for delivery. IKEA designs furniture that is explicitly meant to be temporary, not to become heirlooms. IKEA offers child care because unfettered concentration on furniture purchases is an important experience. And it positions an affordable cafeteria in the store so customers can refuel. Although IKEA has been slowly rolling out across America for 30 years, even though its “formula” is open for all to inspect, and despite the fact that its owner is one of the wealthiest people in the world, nobody has copied it. Nobody. The reason? We believe that because other furniture retailers think about their market through the lenses of product category and price point, they don’t even see the need to integrate differently, and they therefore rarely are hired to do IKEA’s job. As a result, IKEA just sits there, neither disrupted nor disrupting. Were it to someday decide that it wanted to diversify and optimize itself for other jobs, it would need to set up separate business units in order to achieve the integrated structure required to provide the experiences appropriate to those jobs. The evidence appears to be that if an organization aligns itself around a specific job to be done, then it obviates the need to disrupt others, and it causes others not to be able to disrupt it.

How Disruption Can Help Colleges Thrive - NEXT: The Future of Higher Education - The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Librarians initially described internet search technology as a niche and emphasized their own unique (and superior) value,” write the researchers. The emerging technology was dismissed, Nelson says, “as something that wasn’t going to spread and be widely used.” But that idea began to fade as more than 70 online search engines emerged between 1989 and 2011. Nelson and Irwin define occupational identity as an overlap between “who we are” and “what we do” as they explored the “paradox of expertise” in which librarians failed to grow their informational prowess with an emerging technology. “What made us curious about what happened was that librarians had technical skills—many had been building online databases of their collections with search capabilities very similar to what search engines aimed to develop,” Irwin says. Yet librarians, he says, had misinterpreted the possibilities of internet searching for such information.

Futurity.org – How librarians survived the search engine

Face it: the future cannot be predicted. Models are fine but the real world is rife with the humors of non-linearity, shivering across vast ecosystems that make nice spreadsheet charts turn into run-away hockey-sticks with the flap of a butterfly’s wings. Like stock market crashes, riots, and earthquakes, discontinuities warp linear projections with sudden disruptions that often defy prediction. As they say, change is the only constant.

Future Thinking Isn’t About The Future, It’s About The Present | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation

So I’d be very surprised if in ten years we don’t see hundreds of universities in bankruptcy

Which MBA? | Clayton Christensen: Still disruptive | The Economist (via khuyi)

Working on it.

(via caterpillarcowboy)

(via caterpillarcowboy)

When a company or industry is facing changes to its business due to technology, it will argue against the need for change based on the moral importance of its work, rather than trying to understand the social underpinnings.

10 Rules of Internet - Anil Dash Via Radar/Torkington.  The full list is quite good. (via journo-geekery)

(via journo-geekery)

The pending closure is credit negative for a small subset of the higher-education sector with similar attributes to Saint Paul’s and other closed colleges: very small, private colleges with a high reliance on student charges, indistinct market positions, and limited donor support,” Moody’s analysts said. “We anticipate more closures for these types of colleges given the current pressures on all higher-education revenue sources and increased accreditation scrutiny.

College’s Closure Signals Problems for Others, Credit-Rating Agency Says - Bottom Line - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Everywhere I turned I came across industry members who are way too focused on current channels and products. They’re happy that 20-30% of their revenues are coming from “digital”; of course, by “digital” they mean quick-and-dirty print-to-e conversions, print-under-glass, or any one of a number of other descriptions of today’s ebook marketplace. Many of them will tell you privately that “the ebook revolution” was overblown, they’ve wasted way too many resources on speculative e-projects and now see no reason to throw more good money after bad on this front. The Digital Discovery Zone was a quaint little area set off by green carpeting and featuring about a dozen of the usual suspects, many of which are sponsors of the various industry conferences. It felt like walking through a petting zoo at your local state fair. I half expected someone to say, “wash your hands if you touch one of those animals, honey, you don’t want to spread any germs.” Isn’t it amazing that we still separate the “digital” players from the rest of the exhibitors at a major trade show?

Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies: Why BEA was like a live performance of “The Innovator’s Dilemma”