Technology has become the most disruptive force in business. Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen was among the first to recognize the potentially devastating power of technology in The Innovator’s Dilemma, a wake up call published at the dawn of the internet age in 1997. This dilemma, Clayton explains, stems from an incumbent’s focus on organizational structure and core competencies, which drive resources into high volume areas designed to maximize revenue.
Even more, the internet eases the path for upstarts to enter markets and quickly challenge incumbents on a global scale. How can established players survive when the field is increasingly stacked against them? That’s the question answered by Hank Lucas’ Surviving Disruptive Technology MOOC, which opens on July 10th. Sponsored by the University of Maryland, where Lucas is a long-time professor of information systems in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, this MOOC explores why great businesses turn sour in the face of disruptive technology — an instrument that he defines as “so compelling that people abandon current technologies and flock to the new one.”
Surviving Disruptive Technology is one of this month’s headliners, which boasts several inviting options in management. The University of Michigan is offering another round of Leading Teams, co-taught by Scott DeRue, the Dean of the Ross School of Business. Wharton also returns with another edition of The Power of Team Culture, which looks at organizations from their historical roots and mission to the personalities who set their unwritten expectations. At the same time, the University of Virginia is sponsoring Managing An Agile Team, which looks at agile principles in terms of allocating resources and managing processes.
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Those aren’t the only MOOCs certain to take professionals out of their comfort zones. Afraid of finance? You can choose Finance for Non-Finance Professionals from Rice University. Need to brush up your quant skills? Don’t worry, Wharton has you covered with Introduction to Financial Accounting. Unsure about the competitive landscape you’re facing? Take your pick from courses ranging from Advanced Competitive Strategy to Anticipating Your Next Battle In Business and Beyond, or even Stanford’s Game Theory. If you’re looking to break into philanthropy, you won’t find a better guide than Stanford’s Giving 2.0, which shows you how to allocate your dollars to maximize your impact.
Each of these MOOCs offers a deep dive into an important business issue. In Lucas’ disruptive course, for example, you will learn that every company is at risk; no venture can escape the reach of eCommerce. In some cases, companies will compete directly against upstarts looking to build share. To survive, others will forge partnerships with asymmetrical threats like comparison sites to reach an audience that is increasingly steering away from company sites. However, many take a middle road, believing, in Lucas’ words, that their firms’ “longstanding success made them unsinkable.” Unfortunately, such history often feeds denial or (at minimum) a resistance to change from a entrenched bureaucracy. Whatever half measures are taken, however, only staves off the inevitable.
Take Kodak, which eventually declared bankruptcy after losing more than 100,000 employees when film gave way to digital photography. At its peak, Blockbuster maintained over 8,000 stores, making it a real estate venture as much as an entertainment distributor. Despite warning signs in the mid-90s that digital could someday upend the movie and game rental market, Blockbuster’s leadership rationalized that such changes were years away. They were wrong, as Netflix seized the high ground that Blockbuster ceded. As a result, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010, shuttering over 90% of its stores a decade.
Kodak and Blockbuster are just two of the cases that Lucas shares in his course to illustrate the disruptive power of innovation. Lucas also looks at how social media is re-writing the rules in how consumers interact with companies. He also looks at how technology has completely re-shuffled the publishing and news industry models, along with how the U.S. Postal Service, a public entity, is faring against more successful technology-driven rivals like UPS and FedEx. The course concludes with students weighing potential solutions ranging from staking out new market positions to driving internal changes that produce more proactive and open-minded employee cultures.
To learn more about these courses — and many more — click on the links below.