Aggregation of Risk in Pursuit of Disruptive Technologies

An open letter to Clayton Christensen as well as colleagues and practitioners of the theories of disruptive innovation:

State agencies in Ohio responsible for primary, secondary and higher education are coming together to share the risk of exploring disruptive technologies and to shepherd the adoption of successful technologies into the mainstream. We call this group “Collective Action”, and the model of disruptive innovations is a guiding element. On behalf of the Collective Action group, I am seeking wisdom and thoughts of potential pitfalls of this approach of aggregating risk capital in a loosely-coupled organization.

We take as given that each agency and educational institution can only take on so much risk when they look at the spectrum of technological possibilities. In doing so, it is the natural inclination to listen too closely to what the customers are saying and avoid possibilities on the disruptive end of the spectrum.

The vision and mission of Collective Action (excerpted below) is to aggregate the risk of each agency and institution in pursuit of truly disruptive innovations. We think our model has to stray somewhat from that of the business world because each of our parent organizations cannot afford to spin off separate development groups that can work under different business rules — the taxpayers would likely have a field day. Collectively pooled and with a long enough leash from our parent organizations, however, we believe that we can pursue actions along the theory of disruptive innovations.

Questions:

  • Have others followeda similar model of aggregating risk from different organizations under common guiding principles? We may have something to learn from those that have tried this before.
  • Based on research of organizational behavior and adoption of innovation, what would be the sort of “lessons learned” that we should seek in the experiences of participants asked to join the group?
  • At a fundamental level, does this plan to aggregate risk within a semi-autonomous collective fit well with the disruptive innovation theories, and is there advice to be offered to help ensure its success?

A subset of the Collective Action group are making a presentation at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiatives summit later this month, at which we will be describing Collective Action within the framework of the disruptive innovation theories. During the session we will also offer a bibliography of materials related to the application of the theories within higher education. If you have suggestions for other resources, I would be most appreciative to hear about them.

Thank you to you, Michael Raynor, Scott Anthony, and Erik Roth for your efforts to clearly articulate your work and blazing a path for us to follow.

Sincerely,

Peter Murray

COLLECTIVE ACTION VISION: Creation of a continuum of quality education and training for Ohioans through the establishment of innovative learning technologies and strategies for their use in Ohio K-20 educational institutions.

COLLECTIVE ACTION MISSION: To foster innovation in education and training through the sharing of risk and resources needed to invoke change. “Collective Action” refers to the investment of “risk capital” in a multi-institutional collaboration by agencies and institutions of the Ohio Board of Regents, the Ohio Department of Education, and Ohio-based institutions of primary, secondary, and higher education. These professionals with the pooled resources of their organizations will explore disruptive learning technologies and learning practices with potential to transform K-20 education and training.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.educause.edu/eli061 to http://web.archive.org/web/20081006182550/http://www.educause.edu/eli061 on October 21st, 2013.

(This post was updated on 21-Oct-2013.)