Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Disruption is coming

I just finished reading Free by Chris Anderson.  He takes you through a historical journey showing how the concept of free (as in product, service, etc.) originated and evolved.  Isn't it amazing how many things that cost quite a bit to create, are now free.  Give away the phone when a plan is purchased, give away the razor when the disposable blades are purchased, give away the software (Googles business plan) and hope people click on ads (works for Google), the list is long. 

Think about the evolution of technology...  how power/speed, storage, and bandwidth has increased with a doubling affect every 18-24 months over many years and the cost is similarly halfed and now approaching free (think netbook with a plan).  Google, Microsoft, Amazon etc. have enormous data centres with "unlimited" storage - it's relatively free to give away.  Everyone seems to give away free storage these days - this is a disruptive force.

Yahoo only a few years ago provided 10mb for an email account - Google entered the field with gmail and 1gb free (100x Yahoo!).  Yahoo had invested in "old" storage technology that cost a lot more than what Google was able to buy.  Yahoo's business model is suddenly obsolete - disrupted.  Yahoo responded, quickly, and remains the #1 provider of free email.  Interestingly, Google now provides 8gb for gmail accounts.  It continues...

Digital vs Physical...  that's a disruptive force.  Think education for a minute.  Is there any "industry" as unchanged as education and as labour intensive. Okay, maybe health care is similar.  There is a lot of experimentation with online learning in K12 education and as the user experience approaches that of the "holodeck", this will be a viable digital alternative or supplement to the physical classroom experience we're all familiar with.  In Disrupting Class, Christensen talks about teachers becoming professional learning coaches and content architects to help individual students progress.  I hope that schools and school districts will learn and respond as Yahoo did with Google and reinvent their "business model".  K12 education is mostly unexpecting the coming disruption - I believe we in K12 need to prepare, quickly, to remain relevant as providers of education.  I also hope that the physical aspect (teachers and students learning / teaching together) continues to be an important part of the K12 educational experience.