I am writing a short three-part blog that reviews the Three Horizon framework for innovation that Paul Hobcraft detailed in the last few days. The first post focused on the first horizon, finding ways to enhance value in existing programs that are close to our core business. The next horizon is, frankly, the most challenging for schools, yet probably is the most critical in the near to mid-term. (Paul’s thoughts are in quotes; my commentary follows.)
“Horizon Two includes the rising stars of the company that will, over time, become new core businesses. These businesses may be step-outs from the core or related extensions that simply require new capabilities and time to build. This is where you often face that point of disruption, that famous innovator’s dilemma described by Clayton Christensen. It is a view of the things that are beginning to change, to threaten what you have as a core. It is the place were those disruptions can offer emerging new business that others will see, if you don’t. (In order to take advantage of) this H2 you need to research, demonstrate and disrupt… ensure you are actively working on it in different ways (piloting, prototyping, developing new business models).”
This horizon lies at the core of stress for our schools. If you subscribe to the theory of disruptive innovation, and it is becoming increasingly clear that knowledge-based industries are deeply impacted by these disruptions, then as a leader you have to create organizational structures that leverage Horizon Two opportunities. To not do so is to ignore the key existential risks of this generation in education.
What are some of the disruptions that are on our Horizon Two? Clearly, many are related to technologies that are in the process of changing the foundational relationship between student, teacher, and knowledge upon which our system of education has rested for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Schools are in the process of shifting to a vastly more blended learning environment, which offers the opportunity to both lower cost, and enhance the learning product (create new value). Colleges are exploring radical shifts by providing free access to accredited courses, and these changes will filter down to K-12 education very quickly relative to our historical adaptation curve. Schools are opening campuses overseas where students can study without losing contact or program access to their home campus. Schools are partnering with local industry and community organizations to provide non-traditional experiential opportunities that engage individual student passions and creativity that create context for the more traditional content-driven classroom programs.
What do these Horizon Two opportunities have in common? They have the potential to create added value, but that value creation comes with some real risk. Implementation of these Horizon Two innovations requires that schools get outside of their traditional methods of program development and decision-making. They require rapid prototyping, acceptance and rewarding of risk, de-centralized decision-making, networked and cooperative program development, and revisions to our tried and true business models. Leaders are tempted to talk about innovation as the general climate of change demands that they do so. Innovative leaders will have to embrace both the upside and downside of the value equation that comes with Horizon Two opportunities.