Monday, 12 August 2013

Disruptive Education

I was sent a link recently advising me of an online course at a US University on Emotional Intelligence. I checked out the course, watched some clips, have only a sketchy idea what I will be doing... so I signed up.

The course takes eight weeks, and while I won't get a qualification, I will possess the knowledge, and will get a certificate of completion. As this is a course on Emotional Intelligence, it will come in useful for teaching leadership, as that is one of the many components that I take my students through. It will add value to my teaching through adding richness to my current level of knowledge.

The amazing thing is that this knowledge exchange is free.

This is a MOOC - a massively open online course, being run by "Coursera", the online arm of Case Western Uni in Cleveland, USA. The course instructor is a leadership legend, Richard Boyatzis, writer of many books, journal articles and chapters on leadership, emotional intelligence, mindfulness and competence.

Who would turn this opportunity down?

Yep, I am busy. And yes, this is going to be a bit of a wedge. But I figure that it is worth throwing some time at having the chance to learn directly from a real leadership scholar.

All of which made me think. An early 20th century economist, Joseph Schumpeter, noted that significant advances often arrive arm in arm with "creative destruction"; we win some and we lose some (Manyika et al, 2013). Cars moved us faster, further and more smoothly, but farriers, coach builders, saddlers and blacksmiths largely ended up out of business. Those once mainstream professions have now moved into the micro market of specialist artisanship.

Clayton M. Christensen of Harvard has written a lot on this field, which is now known as "disruptive innovation". In an interview earlier this year with Art Kleiner of s+b (Strategy and Business Magazine), Clayton related "At the fundamental level, most jobs don’t change very much, even though the technology does. When he was the emperor of Rome, Julius Caesar had to exchange messages rapidly with his far-flung governors. He used horsemen with chariots. Today, we have FedEx, but the job hasn’t changed. If you’re focused on the job that has to be done, you’ll be more likely to catch the next technology that does it better. If you frame your business by product or technology, you won’t see the next disruptor when it comes along".

Generally when we think of education, we see a classroom. But fundamentally, it is about one person learning something from an 'expert'. That expert can easily be online, and the learner anywhere in the world, connected via a website - a transfer point. They don't have to be at the transfer point at the same time; in fact, as far as internet learning goes, it is easier on the learner if the expert is not there. It takes the pressure off the learner.

I have done online courses before. However, I have had to pay for them. This will be the first expert-delivered MOOC I have undertaken.

I will report back on how it goes at the end of the year!

  • Kleiner, Art (June 2013). The Thought Leader Interview: Clayton M. Christensen, The Discipline of Managing Disruption. Strategy + Business, March 2013 online. USA: Booz & Company Inc. Retrieved 19 April 2013 from
  • Manyika, James; Chui, Michael; Bughin, Jacques; Dobbs, Richard; Bisson, Peter & Marrs, Alex (May 2013). Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy. USA: McKinsey Global Institute. Retrieved 16 August 2013 from


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