Mutate now, avoid the rush

The education sector is not alone in the business of reshaping itself for the 21st century. It doesn’t matter what industry you look at, they are all undergoing rapid change to find new ways of doing things differently to enhance their core business.

The sectors that are thriving are the ones that have faced and embraced the challenges and opportunities of a digital world and are engaging their employees and staff to work through the solutions and innovations needed to succeed. Those that haven’t managed to evolve or who are dragging their feet are rapidly finding themselves irrelevant and at risk, like the dinosaurs, of becoming extinct.

Some recent examples in our Australian context include iconic brand, Qantas, who are looking to separate their domestic and international arms in a bid to make them more competitive in the new global marketplace.

The two major players in Australian media, Fairfax Media and News Limited, have both announced major restructures in recent weeks in response to the rapid uptake of new media and the impact on traditional news sources. James Packer has signalled his intentions to move away from the media business, which is a huge turnaround for one of Australia’s long-time media families.

Even the banking sector, who are renowned for their conservative business practice, are looking for  ways to reach customers’ needs in real time and provide access to their products via new media. The Commonwealth Bank has recently launched a new suite of apps including a tool to allow customers to value a property by taking a picture on their smartphone and a way to pay ‘anyone, anytime, anywhere’.

Internationally, Apple has transformed itself from a technology business to a lifestyle business. Today, Apple is not simply about selling devices, although they do in the millions, it’s now focused on the business of integrating their technology into our day to day lives. Services like iTunes, iCloud and Apple TV are responsible for transforming the way we access music and video content; how we store our personal and professional data; and the way we watch television.

Nicholas Negroponte who wrote the book ‘Being Digital’ in the 1990s, observed that middle management were a relic of the past and middle anything would vanish without a trace. And that’s been proven true. Twenty years ago, if I wanted to go overseas I would have had to visit a travel agent; now I just go online. Does that mean the death of travel agents? No, it just means that they have to reinvent themselves which means new jobs and new skill sets. So, schools need to teach differently to the way they taught 20 or even five years ago.

The point I want to make is that schools shouldn’t feel like they are being singled out when faced with social pressure to change the way they go about the business of schooling. Today’s world is providing new challenges and ways to do things, but it is also providing new opportunities and we need to become part of the solution in responding to the changing culture. The radical changes we are seeing in big business are signposts for us in education that we need to sit up and take notice. Or else run the risk of becoming the ‘nothing in between’.

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