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Christensen Was Right: Transformations and Revolutions Must Be Disruptive, Not Sustaining

We are experiencing a revolution in knowledge work. It will build on leveraging the combined strengths of both humans and technologies.  Humans are on the threshold of fusing machine intelligence in new ways, achieving a new kind of collaborative intelligence (CI). Collaborative intelligence will transform how humans engage with machines to create and use information, reveal insights, and deliver outcomes at accelerated speed and greater scale. Knowledge work will never be the same, nor will knowledge workers.

During this revolution, two sorts of transformations must occur. In the workforce, investors, employers, and their partners must discover how to transform current and future operations by leveraging predictive analytics and AI. Successful change to CI will be driven by visions of great leaps in productivity, profitability, competitive advantage, and wealth. Change agents will be highly motivated to make this revolution the next big thing.

Concurrently, traditional training/education providers and new generations of partners and competitors will be rethinking how we train the workers of today and tomorrow considering pervasive CI. Their students must be prepared for perpetual learning and upskilling over careers spanning 60 years or more in jobs and careers very different than today’s. To achieve this, the talent development industry must plan from the future back to the present, not just extrapolate past practices using new technologies.

The big difference between these two transformations is that most traditional training and higher education enterprises are thinking of AI as a sustaining technology that can be layered on top of existing practices, if they are preparing for oncoming changes at all. They are looking to sustain their current strength in the marketplace. They are not truly thinking in the future tense. They are proving Clayton Christensen’s insight that incumbents and current market leaders are not good at delivering breakthrough transformations. They typically deploy sustaining innovations that digitize existing models rather than disruptive innovations that fundamentally change existing practices. The fact that they have much to lose limits their imagination, vision, and ability to fundamentally change.

Higher education has invested heavily in technology, but typically in a sustaining manner. Most recently, the introduction of predictive analytics, big data, and online learning have primarily virtualized existing practices. Online program managers (OPMs) have been a distinct disappointment, mostly serving as digitizing agents to translate current offerings into digital modes. Higher education must break out of this rut if it is leveraging AI/CI to achieve its potential to transform learning, reskilling, and the very nature of work itself. The good news is that there are both established and new players in the higher education market who are preparing to deliver on the revolutionary promise of AI/CI. Strategic Initiatives is following these innovators and will work to keep you informed on their progress.

Our next series of blogs will build on this theme in preparation for our presentation at SCUP 2024 on July 23, 2024, on “Harnessing the Disruptive Power of AI,” at which we will showcase some of the promising new approaches on the road to transformative, revolutionary. disruptive CI. We will even reveal how even traditional higher education can get on board. Keep your eyes peeled!


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