Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Opening session at EDUCAUSE is a general session open to all delegates. You really get a feel for how big the conference is in these plenaries. And at this one we had the pleasure of "recognising" our own Peter Tinson as a member of the programme committee.

The session was delivered by Gary Hamel and was called Reinventing management in a networked world. It was about change, and how to get organisations to change. How to outrun change. How to build an organisation which is as nimble as change itself. Most change encounters organisational inertia. 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy) applies to organisations as well which tend to lose energy after a while.

Most important question we should ask is are we changing as fast as the world around us.

Cultural change is fast.Technology faster.
Knowledge even faster. 8% of what we know we learnt in last 5 years.
Exponential change is all around us. Some examples - World population, energy consumption, Internet addresses, gene sequencing.

The Web is a good example of disruptive change. This is what it does:

Dematerialises. Undermines the physical infrastructure. Eg IBooks, downloads of films replacing blockbuster. Zopa. Bank with no bankers. Will on line learning replace traditional? Need to cut the business loose from physical assets
Disintegrates. It splinters organisations, markets and products. So easy to combine, recombine, mashup. Not tied to distribution economics. Bundled model of TV will get pulled apart by things like apple TV. Will specialist providers of education emerge?
Disintermediates. It dislocated activities or renders them obsolete. Eg on line insurance, estate agents.
Democratises. It gives everyone the chance to create value. Makes it easy to discover like minds and collaborate .eg linux development, crowd sourcing.

Anything that can be delivered digitally, will be. If you don't do it, someone else will. If you don't harness the power of open innovation and peer production, someone else will.

Longevity is no guarantee of future survival. Look at newspapers. Universities hardly changed in a millennium.

In many areas there have been enormous changes, and expectations have changed. For example:
How you read a book
How you buy music
How you buy software

Will how we get an education be next?

If this revolution is going to happen, who's going to lead it? Revolution is often led by insurgents not incumbents. Gues which is which:

Barnes and Noble/Kindle

In a world of discontinuous change, people who live by the sword will be shot by those who don't.

Too often in organisations change is at the margins. Infrequent and convulsive. Takes a crisis to change.

Some challenges that have to be overcome:

Cognitive challenge. Get beyond denial. Don't live in the past. Organisations don't miss the future because it's unpredictable, but because its unpalatable. AT&T couldn't believe that data traffic would ever overtake voice traffic. Cycle of denial same in boardrooms as in bedrooms. Look at music industry and mp3.
Treat every belief as a hypothesis. Every business is successful until it's not. And the not can happen quickly.
Seek out the dissidents and critics and listen to them.
Spend time out on the bleeding edge. Look outside at where change is already happening. Look at other industries. Talk to young people.
Try to imagine the unimaginable

Strategic challenge. Think of evolution. If life ran on principles of some organisations we'd still be slime. Need to evolve. Experiment. Google gets it. Constant experimentation. Lots of small ideas to test. Crowdsource your strategy. Dont keep it to a few individuals at the top.
You need 100 ideas to get 100 experiments to get 10 projects to get 1 winner.

Political challenge. Realign talent and capital. There's a bank in Bangladesh making small loans mainly to women with hardly any paperwork. Easier for a woman in Bangladesh to get resources to innovate than in most of our organisations. Give employees virtual money to invest in ideas.

Existential challenge. Enlarge our sense of mission. The one laptop per child project when started everyone said it can't be done. Need to start with an aspiration. Apple have reinvented 4 industries: Computer, mobile phone, music, retail. Apple stores are apparently the most profitable stores in the world. Comes from an underlying passion to make a difference.

We need to take a personal risk and start to change our organisations.

1 comment:

Stuart B said...

Sounds like a very interesting start to the conference - how do we capture these ideas and apply them in Sheffield - will we get a choice or will be forced to make changes?