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Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns

By Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson; McGraw Hill 2008

Innovation guru Christensen has taken his principles of innovation and applied them to one of the most intractable systems in the country—our public schools. And while this specific topic won’t appeal much to people outside the educational system, plus active parents, some of his thoughts have broad application in change management for any organization.

First, he concludes that disruptive change never comes from within an established and successful organization: only those that can afford to create totally separate entities with totally different rules can hope to innovate. Second, unless everyone in an organization has the same goals, self-interest, language, and agreement on how to achieve those goals, the traditional leadership tools—vision statements, charismatic leadership, incentives—more often result in eye-rolling than significant progress.

Finally, because everyone has different learning styles, people with expertise in a topic may the least able to teach others who don’t have the expertise (think about programmers teaching computer-phobic English majors). If you’re attempting innovation that requires new learning, this should help you design different teaching tools for different people.

On the LL Innovation Meter, I’d give it a 7 for general audiences, an 8 for people in education or training.

Lynda Lawrence is an innovation consultant with Ideaworks Consulting. She teaches Strategic Innovation and Design Management at the Merage School at UCI, and is an advisor to the Beall Center.


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