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2008 2008 - Leading the Change

Leading the ChangeCurrent leadership models are inadequate for disruptive innovations

Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D. Ames, Iowa, USA
Blog: http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org

Bio: Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Educational Administration Program at Iowa State University. He also is the Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators.
Bio page: http://k12online08presenters.wikispaces.com/Scott+McLeod

Presentation Title: Current leadership models are inadequate for disruptive innovations
Description: In this 20-minute voice-narrated PowerPoint (Presentation Zen style) Dr. McLeod reflects upon key concepts from Dr. Clayton Christensen’s work regarding disruptive innovation. The presentation draws primarily from two of Dr. Christensen’s books, The Innovator’s Dilemma and Disrupting Class, and focuses on the different ways of thinking that are now mandatory if school leaders are to successfully navigate their organizations in transition to the 21st century. Key points from other leadership models also make their way into the presentation.

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[tags]k12online08lc03, k12online08[/tags]


  1. Melinda Miller

    I have been waiting for the podcast since I saw that it was posted! This really made me think and I may be confused now more than ever. The main point that kept coming to mind is how slow school are move toward technology advances. Time and money being the biggest factors. Not that we should or can use these as excuses but they are out there.

  2. Scott McLeod

    Thanks for the comment, Melinda. One of the big takeaways for me from Christensen’s work is that HOW we move toward technology advances is as important as IF we move toward technology advances. And most schools are going about it wrong because they’re trying to retrofit disruptive technologies into the current system. That almost never works because the system was set up for a different purpose.

  3. Carmen Hartzell


    A new teacher shared this article today. It is very applicable.

    Seems like we can get so busy filtering internet, banning social networks, and enforcing cellphone and ipod policies…..so busy we can’t stop to think of the educational potential. These are the disruptive innovations in my mind…and its easy to see why it is less of a struggle to start over than to change an organization.

    Thanks for starting the conversation.

  4. Christine Hollingsworth

    Thanks for a very informative presentation! I plan on reading both of those books and sharing this information to the organization that I work with. I have a quote hanging in my office that says “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” Sums it up well, I think. Thanks for helping me not become irrelevant by providing me with the tools for change.

  5. Christopher

    Great presentation! A disruptive innovation has a strangely ominous yet progressive ring to it. I hope education does not go the way of the eight track, but like the mobile phone, flourishes into a more accessible and equitable system.

  6. Steve Taffee

    I believe the Christensen’s book, Disrupting Class, is perhaps the most important book on education that I have read in the last decade. Thanks, Wesley, for doing a fine job summarizing it. I hope that it will lead to a wider audience but more importantly, to a wider and deeper discussion about the changing role of educators.

    There are those who might argue that the current system of public schools in this country is so broken that almost any change is better than what we have, I am not convinced. Christensen’s book is largely silent, for example, on the many other roles that schools play in socializing youth, providing for co-curriculuar activities, and – let’s face it – child care facilities for working parents.

    I look forward to the conversation…

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  8. Wesley Fryer Post author

    Steve: I have been the convener for the “Leading the Change” strand, but I am not the presenter nor can I claim any of the credit for the fantastic ideas in this presentation. All that credit belongs to Dr. Scott McLeod— and I agree, he has done a great job summarizing these ideas. I have not YET read either of Christensen’s books but that is going to change over the upcoming holidays! I heard Bob Sprankle reference Christensen’s book as the most important one he’s read since Friedman’s “The World is Flat,” and with accolades like that (as well as yours and Scott’s) it would be foolish to NOT read it and turn over his ideas in even greater detail than Scott has been given time to do in this 20 minute presentation. This was a great overview and introduction to these ideas and has inspired me to learn more.

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  10. Kevin Jarrett


    Thank you for the inspiration today! I have been mulling some ideas around in my head for a couple of months, and your presentation as well as a blog post by Dean Shareski got me motivated … the result is here:


    Would love your thoughts and comments!

    Best, kj

  11. Cheryl Oakes

    You are brilliant! It was great to hear your voice and your presentation of Christensen’s ideas. I am preparing my slide show for our school committee tomorrow night. Here is my last slide I am leaving them with.

    I wrote this before I listened to your movie and now I am sure I will present this information. “It has been predicted that by 2014 25% of students will be taking online classes. At first I thought this was silly, but now already in WOCSD we are demonstrating how this happens.
    By offering online computer instruction we have engaged students in activities at their level of instruction AND we have freed up the teacher to work with smaller groups of students or with individuals.
    So…. in 2008-2009 in WOCSD we have over 50% of our students able to access an online piece of instruction.”
    Presentation to Wells Ogunquit School Committee, November 2008, Cheryl Oakes

  12. Scott McLeod

    Thanks, everyone, for the kind words about the presentation. Some questions that are kicking around my head:

    1. Assuming the natural laws of disruptive innovation apply here too, will the monopoly position of K-12 schools hasten or delay the move to a different system?

    2. Will extracurriculars, athletics, and the need for student ‘babysitting’ ensure that schools always will exist?

  13. Jeffrey Burt

    Another important aspect of the potential change by 2019 is that universities are already embracing this disruptive change. It is not impossible to imagine that universities will accept virtual high school transcripts much in the same way they are accepting portfolios from home-schooled children.

    It is easy to imagine secondary schools as personal learning centers where the collective resources of a district and the collective knowledge of a faculty will be coupled with the collective understandings of the world to produce an innovative and exciting place to learn (see The Met in Providence, RI as an example). As an administrator who has been thwarted in his attempts at changing this age-old institution this presentation has only confirmed my belief that we need to push for innovation for the greater benefit of our students. Thank you for this insightful discussion!

  14. Scott McLeod

    @Steve Taffee: I agree that schools’ current roles regarding co-curriculur activities and child care for working parents are important ones. But schools’ primary purpose is supposedly academic and it’s increasingly clear that other ways are emerging to address that. If our best argument for schools is sports, clubs, and babysitting, I don’t think that’s a very strong one. I’m most worried about the socialization issue – see, e.g., http://snipurl.com/narrowcast – but mechanisms to address this also may emerge. It’s just so hard to discern what it all will look like 20, 30, 40 years from now…

    @Jeffrey Burt: Yes, it will be interesting to see what kind of influence postsecondary institutions’ use of online learning will have on P-12!

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  19. Kay

    This video was very interesting. I am currently at a school that has problems with technology. Kids are texting but not really have the assess to the computer and other helpful technology. Kids immediately go to Myspace and facebook instead of doing work. Somehow they have learned how to pass the firewall.

  20. ryan

    Dr Mcleod-
    You talk extensively about organizations that, while they continue to do the right thing, eventually fail when the disruptive technology eventually becomes “good enough” and takes over. What is your view of companies that were successfull at making the switch, such as Nikon. If Nikon was able to make the switch within the company, what would this imply for school?

  21. Scott McLeod

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the comment. A couple of questions:

    1) Has Nikon successfully made the switch? What’s their market share compared to before? Was it / is it one of the leading companies in what it does?

    2) Assuming it has successfully made the transition, it would be interesting to see what Nikon has done (I have no idea). IBM, for example, had to set up a separate unit outside of itself that was more nimble and had more autonomy than the rest of Big Blue.

    I don’t know how many dominant companies, faced with a disruptive innovation, have remained the market leader in the new environment. Christensen’s own research on leading companies seems to indicate extremely few…

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  31. Urbanmath2010

    I am in support of the this article regarding disruptive innovation, and I can see how the school systems will have to modify its systems to compete in the 21st Century, and focus on personal education.

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  33. Tim Hartley Stutt

    Very interesting presentation. It suggests to me that when we look to putting technology in schools, sometimes it’s better to wait for the next iteration of devices and software than to just buy the latest thing out on the market. Consider, mobile devices, which have been around for awhile in schools. The first few generations of these products, while innovative, did not reach the threshold of “good enough” to break through to mainstream adoption. Now we are starting to see mobile devices which offer enough benefits for learning that we may compare and contrast them with desktops and laptops as viable alternatives. Making the case for the transition in schools is a challenge as you indicated.
    Thank you for the presentation!

  34. Tim Hartley Stutt

    Thank you for this presentation.

    This is happening right now with mobile devices, which are just starting to break through the “good enough” threshold for mainstream adoption in schools.
    The popularity of the iPad and other handheld devices suggests that we are experiencing disruptive innovation as it relates to our personal technology, and this will begin to affect institutions and schools more and more over the next several years.

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