Is it time for ISTE to die? Is ISTE too big to succeed?
The interesting thing about Clayton Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation theory is that it plays out pretty well over time. If you’ve read his and Michael Horn’s “Disrupting Class”, you’ll remember their many examples about companies that were too big to succeed when a significant change force occurred. Disruptive Innovation reminds us why Kodak, while inventing the digital camera, couldn’t or wasn’t capable of, creating a product to compete with film cameras. Companies are very good at sustaining themselves and gradually improving their products over time for their established clients. They’re terrible at creating new products that compete with their established product lines. What’s guaranteed, though, is that large companies die when disruptive products enter the market.
The same is true of ISTE.
I wonder if ISTE, which i’ve belonged to since the 1980′s (yes, the 1980′s) has reached the point that they are too large to evolve, too large to serve everyone’s needs, and too large to react to change, particularly a significant (disruptive) change force.
Take online learning. While ISTE has been around for more than 30 years, online learning is in it’s infancy. Just more than a decade old, this disruptive innovation is finally about to hit its tipping point. Our California eLearning Census, conducted this spring by CLRN, found that 45% of all districts and charter schools are implementing some form of online or blended learning. Clearly, online learning has been growing steadily the past decade, by some estimates up to 20% per year, and is about to pass the tipping point. But where is ISTE at reflecting this disruptive and clearly innovative form of learning?
Still wondering what’s going on, i’m afraid. ISTE is so good at satisfying its current clients that it seems unable to adapt. ISTE isn’t alone, though. Companies always see the disruption coming before it runs over them. Kodak certainly did. Companies just don’t know whether the disruption is real. They’re often oblivious about the disruption’s eventual impact on the company’s products so they don’t how to react. Christensen’s advice in Disrupting Class is that companies should set-up an independent subsidiary to create the disruptive product which, in turn, will compete with the original company’s clients. Disruptive Innovations always kill the companies that make the established products. Remember Kodak or Polaroid? Remember Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), once the largest provider of mini computers?
Someday, we may be saying, “Remember ISTE?”
Online learning does have customers (Christensen calls “non-consumers”) whose needs aren’t being met by the nation’s largest ed tech organization. This is why iNACOL was born. Now, instead of ISTE being Mecca for all ed tech ideas, iNACOL’s Virtual School Symposium, currently a sub-2000 attendee conference, has become the primarily landing point for K-12 educators involved in online and blended learning. ISTE has become too big to react and, i suspect, too big to succeed.