Disruptive Innovations – Bridge the Gap, Ignore the Competition

May 05, 2016

CKGSB Assistant Dean Zhou Li shares his views and observations concerning the three main sources of disruptive innovation facing universities: technology, consulting firms and the clients themselves.

Since it was first defined by Prof. Clayton M. Christensen in 1995, we’ve seen “disruptive innovation” in almost every sector – from healthcare to technology – dismantling existing markets and networks with innovative new ideas.

A recent UNICON News article collected views of several thought-leaders in the executive education industry on how “disruptive innovation” in their sector could bring challenges. CKGSB Assistant Dean Zhou Li shared his views and observations concerning the three main sources of disruptive innovation facing universities: technology, consulting firms and the clients themselves.

On technology-enabled learning delivery mechanisms that might seem like disruptive innovation, Dean Zhou said:

“It seems to me that university-based providers, especially engineering schools or departments of engineering at a university, are leveraging both a deeper understanding of technological innovation, and have more experience with supporting start-ups at a faster pace than their counterparts at the business school of the same university, while providing more interesting content.”

On the possible disruption by consulting firms, Zhou Li expressed concerns that university-based education lag consulting firms in one critical area:

“Few business schools offer insight on China and other emerging economies, notwithstanding the role that China and other emerging regions play in redrawing the global business landscape. Corporate players in the West have moved faster than their counterparts in education. A plethora of entities from the corporate sector, including consulting companies, investment banks, wealth management firms, and industrial companies, conduct and distribute in-house research reports, organize forums, and provide on-line programs covering emerging economies to attract and serve clients. I receive many more reports on China from the corporates and think-tanks than from business schools.”

The third potential disruptor is the fact that clients or companies are finding ways to meet the development needs of their executives in-house. Dean Zhou added:

“Many global companies have developed their own in-house leadership development programs that bring in executives from key markets worldwide. And they rotate the venues for board and senior executive meetings, moving them from one key emerging market to another. These programs, often designed by consultants who have worked at the company’s headquarters, are usually much more directly relevant to specific management issues or business opportunities in global markets of interest.”

Zhou furthermore expressed concerns that business schools have been slow to react to the implications of the 2008 financial crisis, and as a result will face tougher competition from other entities, including in-house development programs:

“Without humanistic care, which addresses all issues that affect a business directly or indirectly, including socials and environmental issues and society’s expectations of business people generally, business schools will lose the public’s interest, and potential users of the schools’ programs and services will find alternative solutions to management issues.”

The panel of experts surveyed in the article all agreed that the best way to minimize the threat of disruptive innovation in education is to collaborate with companies to bridge the gap, with Zhou saying:

“We don’t look at this as a zero-sum game, in which one party’s gain is another party’s loss. At CKGSB, we are always open to collaborating with both business schools and non-business schools, as long as they add value to help develop the leaders we envision – those who would have global vision, a humanistic or social caring spirit, and innovative mindsets. We prefer to concentrate on closing the gap between what business leaders need to become to reach their objectives and what we are missing to take them there, rather than worry about our so-called ‘competitors’. That is why we work with anyone who can help us achieve our goal of bridging the gap.”

None of the educational experts were prepared to be victims of any of these potential disruptive innovations. They all agreed that university-based providers still have many advantages such as their credibility and abundant experience. Each one offered ideas to minimize the threat and, in some cases, to turn disruptive lemons into profitable lemonade.

To read the original article by UNICON News, please click here.

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