The Critical Path #142: The Great Insufficiency

Horace discusses his latest work at the Christensen Institute and considers why the educational system works the way it does. Can large scale education be modularized? In the second half of the show, Anders and Horace discuss the rumors about the possibility that Apple might be working on a car.

via 5by5 | The Critical Path #142: The Great Insufficiency.

  • Anthony Daniele

    It was interesting to hear the customary chat about modularity vs integration, then have the conversation shift to solar, and First Solar in particular. There was a parallels between the 2 I would’ve liked to see explored.

    First Solar is the quintessential integrated solar company. They compete over the entire value chain, from manufacturing to installation and maintenance. They would probably respond to comments on their panel efficiency in the same way Apple did with clock speed in the 90s. It becomes less important if you can manipulate other variables, like land price, solar insolence, sun tracking and maintenance.

    Integration is also happening in go-to-market strategies. Where the consumer used to effectively buy their electricity upfront by buying panels and getting them installed, companies like Sungevity are now providing a solar lease, where the user pays nothing up front, but agrees to a monthly fee for the right to consume the energy generated from the panel on their roof.

    I would love to see you look into integration and modularity in the solar space, particularly with things like storage coming along, but I understand The Critical Path may not be the right forum.

    Asympower, perhaps?

    • marcoselmalo

      How long before we are talking about Grid Neutrality?

  • Martin

    The problem with education is that the job it’s hired to do isn’t actually education – it’s credentialing. With no mechanism to measure what the student learned, there’s no way to shift the focus of the job back to be education. If you can do that, then all sorts of interesting things can happen.

    • Christian Peel

      I think that the job people are hiring Coursera to do is education. Yes, students often hire a university to provide parties, spouses, sports, as well as education, but more and more people are *already* going other places for education than classic institutions.

      • simon

        That still doesn’t address two biggest parts of “credentials”. One is pseudo filtering. You’re less likely to be considered for a position by some employers unless you’re a from a prestigious institution. The other part is networking, where you get access to potential capital and employment opportunities by knowing other grads from the same institution.

        You can be successful without going to a top school, but going to a top school makes things so much easier. The very person who runs this site, Horace, is taken more seriously and had more opportunities because he received his MBA from a prestigious institution.

      • Christian Peel

        I agree with everything you say 🙂 In the language of disruption theory, Coursera is not *good enough* yet to get you a job; it’s a low-end disruption that is not even being considered a threat by Harvard or most universities. But it’s getting better …

      • Martin

        Coursera and others are partnering with universities to provide credentialing. My institution does exactly this.

        But the credential is really only valid for a short period of time. It’s been 2 decades since I completed my degree but my current skill set is completely different than when I graduated and much of what I learned in school I’ve since forgotten. My credentials both overstate and understate my actual abilities.

        A prospective employer should be able to request a much more up-to-date credential, and an individual should be able to be assessed at a reasonable cost, and be able to easily fill in either new skills (consider how quickly engineering changes) or revisit rusty skills without the hurdles of matriculating at an institution (which takes a year… talk about inefficient)

      • rational2

        I had no idea what Horace did before or where he went to school; I started reading the blog and it was very analytical and informative. That’s all that mattered, not his alma mater.

    • Mark

      I wonder if the practice of “practice” like internships, engineers in training, apprenticeships, and other development (includes education) overcome your concerns in specific situations?

      • Martin

        I work in Engineering, so I’m very familiar with that. Professional licensure does provide some benefit by providing an external measure of learning, but I think a big part of the problem is that the labor market requires continuous learning. Ultimately I imagine some sort of continuous learning/assessment where the assessment is external to the institution would emerge. That would really lift the lid on the higher education system.

  • stefnagel

    I hear Horace reflecting on a view of orthodox education what a prof at the U of Minnesota wrote up back in the seventies. And we continue to design education in this way: to graduate clerks and secretaries, workers who can spend long hours every day sitting silently without initiating personal contact or conversation, instead working on personally meaningless tasks. Update: Today we pay them less.

  • Bruce_Mc

    I liked the part where both of you were reflecting on the difference between what people think they are buying a product for and what job it is actually doing in their lives. You mentioned purchasing a car in this regard.

    I suggest that the Casino business in Nevada would be an interesting study in jobs to be done. Over the years the Casino owners have become very much focused on the total user experience, not just the actual gambling. I just read an article about a new entrant in the Casino business, focusing on the low end. I couldn’t help but think about “Dotty’s” in terms of disruption theory.