Episode 15: The Impossible Is Bound to Happen

by Feb 24, 2020

Welcome to Education and Technology Futures, a videocast that highlights interesting trends and connections in the worlds of education, technology, and culture.

Every business in every market has core market truths they hold to be sacrosanct, the core things that you swear will never change.  And yet, at some point they will. It’s a helpful exercise to sit back and wonder how such change will affect your business and work.

Full Transcript

Full Transcript

Have you ever wondered what you might have done differently if you had known how things would turn out in the future?

I’m guessing more than a few textbook publishers have wondered that in recent years.

Flashback to 2006. On the digital side, e-textbooks are just barely a thing. Textbooks from major publishers have resource websites and most publishers have some kind of basic homework management system, with an option for loading quizzes into a local LMS via SCORM.

This is pre-iPhone. Facebook is in the earliest stages and Twitter is just being launched. E-commerce is not pervasive, the cloud hasn’t really happened, online learning is mostly local, and the traditional university model appears pretty healthy.

And for publishers content, particularly royalty-based print content, is both king and queen. Having worked for publishers in that time period, I can assure you that no one could envision a time when publishers couldn’t control the higher ed course materials market via their proprietary content. The biggest question everyone had back then was about how to get investments in digital technology to pay for themselves.

Flash forward 14 years and we can now see what was completely invisible to textbook publishers back then — that general education course content, the primary revenue source for publishers at the time, would lose its value to open educational resources and other web content. And as a result, the major publishers would lose much of their value as well.

My point here is that, at any moment in almost any industry, there are crazy and disruptive things, no matter how improbable they may seem, that will indeed occur in the future. I’m talking about things that defy what everyone currently believes to be true about a business or market or culture. 

So, whether you work in education, technology, or some other industry, why not take a moment today and think about those things, the business and market truths you hold to be sacrosanct, the core things that you swear will never change. It could be the absolute importance of the college transcript or the belief in long-form writing and the use of keyboards.

Whatever core market truths you see, those things that can never change because what would we all do if they did, why not take a moment and ask this simple question.

“What would this look like if those things disappeared?” More important — “What would I do with the freedom afforded me by their disappearance.”

It’s an interesting thought.

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