I really like Christensen‘s Theory of Disruptive Innovation (as he proposed in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma). It succinctly describes the challenges, if not the fate, of academic libraries as we navigate through changing expectations and fast-moving, turbulent technologies. In fact, I often find that in explaining my point-of-view on where libraries need to go that I draw the core graph of Christensen’s theory on napkins, whiteboards, hands — whatever I can find. Inevitably, with the enthusiasm for the topic and quick-moving hands, the lines don’t always match where they ought and that makes the concepts all that more difficult to explain.
Tom Wilson, LITA past president and all-around insightful posted a commentary to the “Where have all the programmers gone?” post that deserves top billing 1. Please read and digest it before coming back here. And it’s not late to the party at all, Tom — I believe it is only now just getting interesting.Trendster,
I’ve moved the bibliography of the theory of disruptive innovation as applied to libraries and higher education to a new location. If you are reading this posting directly from the DLTJ website, you’ll also find it linked under the “about” header as “bibliography”.
The bibliography has also been updated to include the new (to me) paper mentioned on Monday and David Lewis’ presentation to the OhioLINK directors last week.
Somehow I completely missed this paper by Clayton Christensen, Sally Aaron, and William Clark from the EDUCAUSE 2001 Forum for the Future of Higher Education called, appropriately enough, “Disruption in Education.” Here is the abstract:
Clayton Christensen, Sally Aaron and William Clark, focus on the effects of disruptive technology that change competition in their field. Christensen’s theory, developed in the corporate realm, is based on the constant pursuit of excellence by both businesses and higher education institutions. As the quality of products increases, they often surpass the needs of their consumers, leaving a gap to be filled by a disruptive innovation (a product or service of lower quality or performance that more closely matches consumers’ needs). Other features make the innovation appealing as well, such as being cheaper, simpler, and more convenient to use. Early adopters of the disruptive technology or service most often are the least demanding customers in a market.
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.
This paragraph was at the very end of Eastman Kodak on page 46 of the January 16th issue of Newsweek.with Antonio Perez, CEO of
What lessons can you share about running a company whose core business goes into irreversible decline?
Communications and honesty. I get a lot of people coming into my office to say goodbye because they are losing their job with Kodak. And they say, “I think what you are doing is the right thing.” It’s very hard in a lot of ways. But if you do it with honesty and a lot of communication, if you are generous — and we have been — that’s all you can do. There’s an enormous capability to understanding by any human being if you talk to and listen to the person. But so far I feel very happy with the reaction of every single employee of Kodak. These are not easy times.
Over the course of 2005 I’ve become more attuned with Clayton Christensen’s model of Disruptive Technology and how it explains events shaping academic libraries (and other types of libraries, for that matter) and higher education in general. Below is the bibliography I’ve collected on this topic
to this point.
If you’re just starting in this area, I’d recommend a top-down reading. (Unless you want to start with the 2-hour audio book version of Christensen’s first work. That is how I started and I found it to be a remarkably gentle yet powerful introduction to his concepts.)
I haven’t yet gotten around to writing the blog entry about why Clayton Christensen’s work is important, but this citation was too good to let go by. How can we apply this? How about: “People don’t want an article citation for their research topic — they want an article on their research topic.” So why do we inflict confusing, jargon-filled and content-thin interfaces on our uses? So we can drive them to a bibliographic instruction session? I think we’ll drive them away.