Dave Pollard in A Prescription for Business Innovation Part 1 cites six basic principles of the innovation process:
Need Drives Innovation
Innovation starts with the Customer
Innovation Drives Technology
Innovations are Interconnected
Stories Transfer Knowledge
Innovation Requires Discipline & Patience
Having just completed an analysis of the learning industry in New Brunswick, I had the opportunity to reflect on global issues relating to the industry and make suggestions on how the industry could better position itself. Using Dave Pollard’s principles, what could the industry infer?
Since need drives innovation, a solid understanding of customers is essential. Build it and they will come, will not work. Neither will products that are developed because they have new features. Learning companies have to fill a real need – and there are lots of learning needs; just listen to the customers.
If innovation drives technology, then your competitive advantage is the ideas you can generate, not your technology, with its ever shortening half-life. Not only are creative people necessary, but they need a creative environment. Too many learning companies are still structured around the industrial command and control model.
The interconnectness of innovations means that you have to be looking outside your industry, your discipline and yourself, in order to see the connections. Perhaps magazines like the Utne Reader should become required bathroom reading.
If stories transfer knowledge, why do most companies (including learning companies) insist on PowerPoint slides with lists of bullets that are read out loud. Having survived another “death by PPT” presentation last night, it seems to be obvious to everyone, except the presenter, that no one is interested in reading a bunch of bullets. Tell a story. Tell your story. Share your stories. Remember that “markets are conversations”. For example, all learning companies should be encouraging blogging so that they can look outside the region, sharing their stories and learning. Get the conversations going.
Like blogging, innovation requires discipline and patience. As Ms. Rice says, there is no silver bullet.
One of my performance improvement projects last year was with a Montreal area hospital. We looked at the performance requirements around the adoption of a new nursing methodology. This methodology focuses on learning as the primary function of nursing care – learning for the patient, the family and the community. Health care organisations should be the epitome of learning organisations, but many are stuck in their disciplinary "silos", as well as command and control training programs. Kim Vicente’s book, The Human Factor, highlights some of these issues in healthcare.
The need for continuous learning is reflected in a recent report on a nonprofit community medical centre in the US. As the director of education, Dr. Anne-Marie Sawyer, states:
Beyond new technology and learning methods, changes have come in the philosophy of education, Sawyer says.
"We’re really encouraging people to think about not just their everyday work life but their life as lifelong learning. It never ends."
A willingness to learn is "what’s going to get people through the 21st century," she says.
That extends to the patient.
Accurate knowledge "allows people to act on their own behalf when they need to enter a health care system. It enables them to ask intelligent questions, to know where to go for information, to evaluate if they’re in the right place and satisfied with (the treatment that’s) been given to them," Sawyer says.
Via Online Learning Update
Jay Cross gave an animated session on the web this afternoon. This webinar, using HorizonLive, featured Jay talking about emergent learning, the end of industrial models and even “smart learning objects”. The commentary on the chat was fun and fast. The audio on the HorizonLive synchronous classroom platform was excellent, and I did not notice a single technological glitch. Having used various synchronous web platforms, from both sides, I can say that I’m impressed. Kudos to Matt Wasowski at HorizonLive for hosting this excellent webinar, which included over 60 people from across Canada and the USA.
Jay has followed up from his “Ã la carte” menu of this afternoon with a dessert menu of topics for further reading and discussion. Here is one of his comments on emergent learning:
Emergence is the key characteristic of complex systems. It is the process by which simple entities self-organize to form something more complex. Emergence is also what happened to that “utopian dream” of e-learning on the way to the future. Simple, old e-learning has combined with bottom-up self-organizing systems, network effects and today’s environment to morph into emergent learning.
Via EdTechPost comes this well-written criticism of open source software applications. Michelle Levesque cites the major problems as being:
Poor user interface design
Lack of documentation
Made by programmers for programmers (not focused on a target audience)
Blindness to other non-OS developed functions & features
This shows once again that there is a potential business model in adding value (by addressing these five problem areas) and selling open source related services & add-ons. The JBoss.com model seems to be a good example of this.
Project Avalanche is a new US-based cooperative, serving the technology needs of a wide variety of companies.
A for-profit initiative, chartered by a group of companies, to reduce the cost and increase control over mission-critical software. Members of the Cooperative share intellectual property (IP) and collaborate on projects that generate IP. Our subscriber agreement enables IP to be shared by and between the Cooperative and our members, and collaborations to be pursued, without legal liability risks. The Cooperative was incorporated under Minnesota Cooperative Statute 308B. Consultants, as well as hardware and software vendors, may also become members.
This is an example of a new business model for the networked environment. It is a for-profit cooperative, and its aim is to reduce members’ dependence on IT vendors. I agree with the official perspective of the coop, in that it’s not your technology that gives you a competitive advantage but your "company’s strategy, leadership and other human talent".
I think that we will be seeing more cooperatives like this in the future.
AP report available, but requires log-in on MLive.com.
The Globe and Mail has covered the recent launch of Lawrence Lessig’s new book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and The Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. The book is available free for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons license. Since the online book launch, volunteers have already created audio versions of each chapter, also available for free non-commercial use.
This story follows on the heals of a Canadian federal court ruling that making files available for sharing on the Internet does not constitute copyright infringement. However, big media would have you believe that making content available for free has a detrimental affect on sales. This assumption has been proven incorrect by a recent Harvard Business School study, showing that the number of music file downloads has no relation to in-store CD sales.
The real story here is that the Internet has turned traditional business assumptions upside down. According to McLuhan’s laws of media, every technology has unexpected, and unintended, effects on its users (Extend, Obsolesce, Retrieve, Reverse). Lessig will sell more copies of his book because it is available online for free. This is especially true in his case, because the book is about digital copyright issues. Lessig has not given up his commercial rights, but he has created a legion of potential book buyers, without an expensive marketing campaign.
The lesson for businesses is that you had better understand the medium, and especially its effects, before it flips your business model around. The open source model, applied to open content, can actually be a financially solid business model. Think of it as the whistle-blow of the cluetrain 😉
So it’s now official. Teleducation NB will be closing its doors next month. TeleEd NB has been my partner and client over the past six years. TeleEd NB predates the WWW, and has been involved in a lot of elearning initiatives, including the evaluation of LMS’s and production of the After Five newsletter.
TeleEducation NB’s mission is to provide to the New Brunswick government, education and training institutions, and private sector companies leadership, direction and expertise in the practical application and integration of new instructional methods and learning technologies.
TeleEducation NB facilitates flexible access to quality education and training by promoting the integration of e-learning in the education and training systems, thereby contributing to increased education levels and the prosperity of the citizens of New Brunswick.
Over the years, some people have voiced criticism of TeleEd, as a government agency performing functions that others might do as well. Well folks, it’s time to step up to the plate. LearnNB might do the job, but it is in its infancy. Take a look at the TeleEd site and the After Five newsletter, and see if there’s something that you or your organisation might be able carry on. It’s up to us.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the people who have worked so hard at TeleEd. You helped to put New Brunswick on the global e-learning map.
Via James Farmer comes the polo parable from David Wiley. This is a light-hearted story which will ring true for many of us in the elearning sector. Without giving it all away, the moral of the story is that "putting classroom training online" is like turning a water polo team into a polo team.
For example, the water polo coach is told by the athletic director, "Do all the things you did before, just do them on horseback instead of in a pool." Sound familiar?
The LearnNB website was recently launched as a portal to the learning industry in New Brunswick. The site currently has a recent article on the state of the industry, and you may sign up for the newsletter. More information and tools will follow soon.
Members of the industry met in Fredericton today to get updates on recent initiatives, such as the creation of a local chapter of the Canadian Society for Training and Development, as well as upcoming trade missions to ASTD’s annual conference in May and the CSTD conference in Toronto in November.
There was also some interest in working on open source software applications for learning. If this interests you, please contact me, as we would like to hold a conference on this subject sometime in the next year. Engage Interactive in Fredericton has developed some OS applications, and I know that some of our friends at the NRC elearning research group would be interested.
A recent report on The elearning Sector in BC provides a marketing strategy for the industry. The report covers Global Trends and Market Opportunities; some regional comparisons and strengths and weaknesses. The key recommendations made in the report are:
To grow effectively, we recommend that companies:
1. Focus on the United States and Canada.
2. Target three to five vertical sectors, like the Olympics, rural communities, the federal government, healthcare, oil and gas and resource sectors.
3. Consider e-Learning opportunities related to gaming and simulations in the longer term.
4. Look at international markets in three to five years.
Industry associations and post-secondary institutions can support the growth of the sector, through education and research. Governments can provide ongoing support for industry-wide marketing, along with sponsoring further industry research and related policy development.
These recommendations could work for other North American regions, such as Silicon Valley, Ontario or New Brunswick. In BC’s case, the industry is even more fragmented than New Brunswick, but there is more access to larger firms (as clients or for sub-contracting) in BC than here in Atlantic Canada. One of New Brunswick’s advantages, of having one third of its population French-speaking, is quite unique when compared to BC. This advantage has yet to be translated into business success.
Many regions are looking for a way to capitalize on Canada’s perceived leadership in elearning. Like any other industry, success will come with the best business model, that is vigorously implemented, at the right time.