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Disruptive innovation: No better time

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Changing how we learn

The disruption: Learning, especially as practiced in legacy educational institutions, was already headed for serious disruption. The recent crisis finally tipped the scales, leaving many schools struggling with trying to figure out how to fit their old, industrial-age model into a virtual environment. And they’re quickly discovering that taking several dozen students sitting in a drab classroom and moving them into several dozen little boxes on an equally drab computer screen doesn’t cut it. That’s definitely not innovation.

KM innovation opportunity: Instead of asking, “How can we deliver our classes online?” we should be helping educators innovate by deconstructing and reinventing everything from the ground up, asking WWWWWH? Who needs to learn what? When and where do they need to learn it? Why and how best? These are the questions disruptive innovators are always asking. And we’re not just talking about grade school, high school, and college. We’re talking about continuous, individualized, lifelong learning in the best way possible.  No more “one-size-fits-all.” And who is better equipped than our very own KM community to help lead the way?

For example, KM’ers have been pioneers in virtual, collaborative problem-solving. This is how complex challenges and problems are addressed in the real world (see “Changing how we work” above). If the purpose of education is to prepare students to succeed in a highly competitive global marketplace, it makes sense for us to build learning models and environments that have the same collaborative features as knowledge work.

Putting it all together

The cold, hard truth is that more disruptions are on the way. They’ll come from many different directions, driven by technology breakthroughs, a constantly changing socio-political atmosphere, and any number of nature’s occasional surprises. Every type of organization is at risk: government, commercial, and nonprofit; small, medium, and large.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be ready to respond to low-probability/high-impact events with actionable knowledge already in place. And it’s not all bad. Impact can be on the upside as well as the downside. The innovation challenge/opportunity is bringing the full force of human knowledge to bear in ways that help us gain mastery over, rather than subjugation under, these disruptive forces.

Not long ago, strong physical and even social boundaries existed between where The recent crisis has completely shattered those boundaries. Let’s turn that into a positive, making the most of our human capacity for questioning, sensemaking, and creating.

As KM’ers, we’ve experienced the benefits of collaboration and knowledge sharing. That should be the main thrust of our contribution. Let’s help organizations take collaboration and knowledge sharing to the next level so they can better anticipate, prepare for, and respond to the waves of disruption which lie ahead.

We can’t sit around waiting for things to return to normal. Instead, let’s be innovators and help lead the way to a better future.

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