A tale of two disruptive innovation implementation case studies provides best practices for interested institutions.

disruptive-innovation-studyIf a traditional college or university wants success for its implementation of a disruptive innovation, make sure that it’s not subject to the same guidelines and strategies currently in place.

In other words, disruptive innovation success means implementation via an autonomous subunit.

This finding is part of an analysis of two university case studies that tried to successfully integrate the disruptive innovation known as “work-focused learning,” which (in the UK especially), is a learning model offered to undergraduate students who want to earn an undergrad degree in three years but are unable to stop working full or part-time and cannot obtain that degree through conventional routes.

At one university, the model of work-focused learning was initially an autonomous subunit of the institution’s traditional mission and management. At the other university, work-focused learning was integrated as part of the institution’s traditional teaching mission and model.

“When planning for curriculum and business model change in universities, it is useful to be able to provide an analysis of proposed curriculum developments to distinguish those that are incremental and sustaining in nature from those which are disruptive innovations,” explain the study’s authors—Stephen Powell, a researcher for CELT at Manchester Metropolitan University; Bill Olivier, professor of Educational Technology at IEC, University of Bolton, IEC; and Li Yuan, senior researcher at University of Bolton.

After an institution identifies which innovation are truly disruptive, it’s critical, continue the authors, that research is conducted to determine “to what extent do they have the structures and processes in place to successfully respond to, or possible initiate, disruptive innovations,” since these innovations often “place new demands on staff, budgets and organizational models. These include changes to established ways of teaching, professional development activities, research, scholarly practice, IT systems, decision-making and administrative processes. Any of these may provoke conflict with particular interest groups.”

(Next page: The 2 case studies; key takeaways)