I finished watching the final classes of the Surviving Disruptive Technologies coursera MOOC earlier this week, and I thought I’d jot down my thoughts on both the content, and the delivery mechanism.

This course was well organised, and the content flowed together really well, with video lessons referring to subjects covered in earlier lessons, all of which helped to provide continuity and reinforce the core messages.

As “homework” a lot of use was made of the discussion forums. We were asked to comment on subjects, or to provide more localised examples of services being disrupted etc. A lot of these discussions were very interesting, and attracted intelligent comment, debate and relevant links which have given different viewpoints. One topic that springs to mind particularly was about publishing - where we were fortunate enough to have a few fellow students who work in the UK publishing industry and who were willing to share their internal viewpoints which provided an interesting balance to the media led news articles perspective.

The example companies used were all, I think, American companies. This wasn’t a problem and is expected from a university situated in Maryland, but it did mean that a couple of them were less well known internationally or that the scenarios faced were slightly different. The first few classes covered companies like Kodak, Blockbusters and Borders, comparing the latter two against Netflix and Amazon. When we compared Barnes & Noble against Amazon in the discussions, a lot of the international students had a bit of a problem as Barnes & Noble are very different outside the US.

Every week there was a “hangout”, organised via Google hangouts but shared via YouTube. This enabled Hank, our professor, to have a conversation and discuss the key points for each week with students. I was invited to partake in a couple of them (as I’d been active on the forums), but couldn’t for scheduling reasons. However, I did watch some of them. It seemed to be quite a good format allowing more interaction with the professor than via the forums alone. These, combined with the effective use of the discussion forums, meant that this was course seemed to have much more interaction and conversation than the Introduction to Philosophy one I did earlier this year.

I chose not to do the project side of this; I don’t need a certificate for any purpose, so I watched the lectures, read the recommended articles, took part in the discussions in the forum but opted out of the essay element.

So, the core messages, the things to remember on how to survive those disruptive technologies. They were:

  • Avoid denial - i.e. if you think there is something possible disruptive, don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Instead evaluate it, make a strategy of the worst possible scenario, and plan for it
  • Be bold - i.e. be prepared to change the business model and execute on it
  • Change the organisation - i.e. be a leader, leaders make a big difference - Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince was quoted here as saying
    > there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in it’s success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things

All in all a good course, interesting material and well presented.