MUST READ: Clay Shirky on Disruption

social fish
social fish

As you know, we read Clay Shirky religiously over here at SocialFishing, and in the rare moments when he posts an essay or there is a video of him speaking, we always post it and it’s always thought-provoking.  This time, however, it’s not just thought-provoking, I think it has direct implications for the association industry.  In this article, Shirky’s talking about the imminent disruption to higher education. (My bold below).

The people in the music industry weren’t stupid, of course. They had access to the same internet the rest of us did. They just couldn’t imagine—and I mean this in the most ordinarily descriptive way possible—could not imagine that the old way of doing things might fail. Yet things did fail, in large part because, after Napster, the industry’s insistence that digital distribution be as expensive and inconvenient as a trip to the record store suddenly struck millions of people as a completely terrible idea.

Once you see this pattern—a new story rearranging people’s sense of the possible, with the incumbents the last to know—you see it everywhere. First, the people running the old system don’t notice the change. When they do, they assume it’s minor. Then that it’s a niche. Then a fad. And by the time they understand that the world has actually changed, they’ve squandered most of the time they had to adapt.

It’s been interesting watching this unfold in music, books, newspapers, TV, but nothing has ever been as interesting to me as watching it happen in my own backyard. Higher education is now being disrupted; our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC), and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup.

We have several advantages over the recording industry, of course. We are decentralized and mostly non-profit. We employ lots of smart people. We have previous examples to learn from, and our core competence is learning from the past. And armed with these advantages, we’re probably going to screw this up as badly as the music people did.

Read the whole post: Napster, Udacity and the Academy

Now, this imminent disruption to higher education that Shirky goes on to describe is not a new topic, at least not in social media circles where we love to discuss the disruption of anything and everything (and, in fact, wrote a book about it).  But the higher education issue is one that I am concerned that not enough associations are thinking about (that I can see).  Associations, most of them anyway, are in the business of professional development for the people in their industries.  Are you positioning yourself to be part of the new world of social learning when it starts to happen overnight?  What happens to the millions of new college graduates in a couple of years who are used to learning online? Will they find the educational resources they need from your association website?  Will it be easy to navigate?  Will they be able to share educational courses, or videos, or quizzes, or anything else with their peers on a topic-by-topic basis?  Will they be able to include their peers, including some who may not specifically be signed up to your webinars, in their learning?  Will they find it easy to conduct online discussions around your educational content with people across the globe and in different time zones?  Will they be able to dip in and out however they please?  Will they be able to get the CE/CME/CPE/CEU and every other continuing education credit they might need in the ways that they need them?

This is a HUGE OPPORTUNITY – not a threat.  What are YOU doing to prepare for the disruption of higher education?

More Recipes
social fish
Membership as Living Community

Send this to a friend