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Productivity has been on my mind a lot these days.

At this moment, I am gainfully unemployed. I say "gainfully" because while I have no paying clients, I'm busier than I've been in quite a while. I have no less than six initiatives keeping me occupied. None of them are paying me yet, but they're generating a lot of activity and buzz.

As I've been doing this for the last three weeks, I've been forming up a concept that has been on my mind for a couple of months. If you could think of all of the industries where disruptive innovation is oh-so-ripe, what would it be?

The oldest institution/industry I can think of that has had no real disruptive innovation for hundreds of years is:

Higher education.

I ask: why does it make sense for the person who ambitions to be a social worker to rack up $60,000 to $80,000 in debt for a $20,000 a year job?

Most of college is reading books. Does it take several hundred dollars per credit hour to read a book and test on it?

I get that some professors really work hard to be great instructors, but in my college experience at Iowa State University, there were just as many who outsourced it to TA's. In fact, when I was there, I worked briefly for the Iowa State Daily. I was to attend then-president Martin Jischke's press conference, during which he awarded teacher of the year awards. They went to TA's. I asked him, what does it say about the quality of ISU's professors that the teacher of the year awards went to TA's, and not tenured professors? He said it meant that ISU had great TA's.

It's no secret that universities are bastions of liberal thought. A conservative professor unafraid to teach conservative views? It's unheard of. But liberal professors who aren't shy about pushing their liberal opinions? That's pretty much par for the course.

So yes, I think the university experience is overripe for disruptive innovation. And I have some ideas about that... and they begin with this thought:

Colleges don't teach people productivity. And I could argue - successfully, I think - that productivity is what really matters about whatever we do. So what would an education centered on productivity look like?

And from that, what does a fiscally responsible, affordable, self-motivated adventure in curiosity and self-improvement look like?

Hint: it doesn't look much like a university.

Our real lives don't look anything like the university experience because the university experience doesn't have much to do with real life. And isn't life training supposed to be the purpose of the university experience?

Enter disruptive innovation...


by Brett Rogers, 2/28/2009 9:55:53 AM


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