Monday, May 23, 2011

Adapting to new business reality

I am at the SIIA Educational Technology conference this week. The opening keynote was great. Maybe more of the same messaging I have heard elsewhere (and am often sending myself), but I liked the presenter's approach to conveying the information.

The presenter was Genevieve Shore, worldwide CIO and Director for Digital Strategy for Pearson. Okay -- she is a CIO and leads digital strategy, like me, so admiting biases, that won points in my book up front. Anyway, her presentation was "how do we adapt to new business reality" and she offered five points of advice:

1- Be disruptive.
We must challenge our companies, customers, employees, etc. How do we change everything while holding on to our traditions? She commented, "This is the moment of our lives when we will see the most changes to [learning]. The next 5 years will be mind-blowing." going on to talk about the disruptive trends that would fuel this radical change to learning in the next five years: gaming, tablets, continuous assessment coupled with artificial intelligence, and location.

2- Be global.
As we transition to a more global community, we must do truly global thinking. She then provided interesting data points or perspectives on India, China, Africa and elsewhere.

3- Be social.
Through several examples and discussions of different technologies she boiled down to a couple questions: How can we be social? How can we make many-to-many work, yet at the same time, how do we make and keep it increasingly personal?

4- Be Valuable.
She commented that, "The world has changed. The most important word on the internet is no longer 'search' but 'share'." In discussing business models she noted that you "need multiple business models today to have a business," which suggests to me the need to think openly and broadly about what we do and how we do it -- and recognizing that we might have "multiple business models co-existing at once" and that there may not be any "one" business model for the future. Her point being that things will be more complex in the future, and that looking for the "one" model is probably a fruitless effort. If anything, the one model is a combination that provides several other models simultaneously.

Her other point in here, which I particularly appreciated was "sometimes you have to be wrong to eventually be right." I would have put this observation under "Be Disruptive," but the lesson to be open to failing and failing fast was well made. She noted that we are just starting to see the first ebooks for education -- and that it is a new product that is not really an ebook. Much as I have tried to talk about "digital course materials" as a more accurate term than "ebook." She also suggested that we find time to talk about metadata -- that it is critical to make it easy for students to search and share. She asked the group to think about working toward global, open metadata standards for the benefit of all.

5. Be Trustable.
Her last set of comments reminded me of comments Chris Tabor at Queen's University often makes about trust. She talked about how we must be careful in how we manage the ownership of data about customers, and the importance of trust in our relationships with students.

Overall, a great session. In the panel I chaired today I pulled out several other comments of interesting, but one particularly stuck with me in the context of the points Genevieve made. Matt McInnis from Inkling had a captivating image of a coming "renaissance of learning materials," that he sees as just beginning. I agree, and that is yet another concept I have been promoting for a while.

It is always reassuring to hear, once in a while, that other thought leaders think things are going in the same direction. The future is not yet determined -- but it is taking shape. I will bang my head on that wall one more time and suggest that stores that stores and the store channel have an opportunity to act, and waiting until 2015 to begin adapting to what will clearly be a new business reality for our channel is not a particularly good strategy for making it to 2016, 2020, or beyond.

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