"One of the most consistent patterns in business is the failure of leading companies to stay at the top of their industries when technologies or markets change." - Bower and Christensen, Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave.
Undeniably one of the most popular concepts today, disruptive innovation theory emerged over 20 years ago as a means to explain how small companies went about overtaking larger, established companies. We have witnessed start-ups like Netflix show up to initially meet overlooked needs, but eventually rise up to reshape the entire mainstream market. When the industry giants give in and adopt to the newcomer's approach, disruption has happened.
To stay ahead of the curve, we have also seen the giants disrupting themselves. Large organizations like Google and IBM understand the cruciality of promoting an innovative culture in order to remain relevant in today's fast-moving environment. Past successes are important to recognize, but fixation on the past will blind us from seeing the adaptations required for success in the future.
Interestingly, higher education boasts as one of few markets in this past century to resist large-scale disruption. It may initially seem strange to view academia under that lens, but when it comes to the "market" of scientific research, the University is without a doubt the giant in Canada. However, more and more holes are being poked through the infrastructure that has traditionally supported this age-old institution. Government funding is failing to provide for many university labs and more graduates are being pumped out without roles to fill. More importantly, discoveries are not being translated rapidly enough to create economic value, resulting in a poorly sustained cycle. The conventional focuses of academic science in Canada are reaching a point where their narrow products are failing to serve the wider audience. Academia needs to be disrupted.
In my upcoming blog series, Disrupting Academia, I will propose several ideas and practical strategies that can help reshape university-run scientific research to once again meet the demands of the present and future worlds. During this series, I encourage you to weigh into this topic with any brief or lengthy, constructive or critical thought that you may have. It is time that we work together to address the elephant that has been long-residing in the Ivory Tower.