Bob Lefsetz (“first in music analysis,” and arguably the best. Unbridled and passionate: I understand about 1/4 of what he’s ranting about. I’ve had Hitch a Ride in my head since last Tuesday) guided me toward a great New Yorker article on Clayton Christensen.
Working in my field, of course I know about Clayton but since I’m not one to quickly read and digest books I’ll admit that I have yet to crack up The Innovator’s ANYTHING. But you get a taste of the man through this article and the connections he made between companies that succeed and fail in the face of new technology…new technology that isn’t exactly better than the old tech. From steel mills to computer disk drives to land-moving machines, the young, nimble new start-ups gobbled away business by going after low-return products.
Read it. It’s great.
The thing that jumped out to me as I digested was the way in which the smaller, quicker companies took their dregs of the market and made them accessible to those who previously couldn’t have access to them before. Access, it would appear, is king. The kids don’t want the best radio; they want their radio, a radio that sounds awful but they have access to. And so the disruptive technologies proliferated and took over the big guys.
Does this continue to happen? Kind of a dumb question, because of course it does. Think education: you’ve got the “big guys” (traditional higher education institutions) that are kind of like the Zenith and RCA of yesteryear. They have a traditional product that is grounded, tested, and “true.” Now you have these start-ups coming out with new ways and opportunities to learn…and slowly but surely people are waking up, rubbing their eyes and saying “hey, there’s something here. I can improve my career without spending thousands of dollars to keep centuries-old buildings maintained.”
Now, the proof will be in what one does with this education, otherwise it’s like having an equation without solving for anything. That’s where it becomes imperative to complete a project that demonstrates the work being done. Easier to do in “finite” fields like computer programming, but harder (but I would argue not impossible and more rewarding) in ones like organizational design or other social fields.
We’re in an era – more than ever – of disruption. It’s glorious, if you really think about it, and the opportunities to guide your career are incredible. It’s like being a surfer on the beach and the waves…the waves…are so, so tasty.
Surf’s up. Gonna get on your board?