Reading the tea Leaves in my tabs: Our ecosystem is Commodified
I read my browser tabs like tea leaves I think. I look across the top row there and I try to discern what the tabs are telling me. Is there something bubbling up? What's gaining heat or buzz? I'm not saying my tabs are richer than others or more aromatic, its just one way I try to make sense of some of this stuff (I would also read actual tea leaves but they're so hard to find these days).
commodify; specifically : to render (a good or service) widely available and interchangeable with one provided by another company
The latest group of tabs to catch my eye include the following:
Now this list isn't mean to be exhaustive, there are other tech triggers that I have listed in my little Watch List. The list above is just what's open in my tabs right now and it has me thinking.
The first five sites commoditize training on a range of technical topics. Why in the world do I need to buy a library of training from SkillSoft (just an example) when I can just cherry pick the training I want to pay for (for me or my people) right from here?
Open Sesame provides a commodity marketplace for training courses.
Now Bloomfire and Udutu are emblematic of a class of offerings that commoditize services that used to be huge enterprise purchases...I can literally turn on an LMS or a production platform like I turn on any other utility.
The higher ed stuff is also really interesting. I can take a Game Theory course from Yale (actually took it - really good), download the course materials and join a live study group on Visualizing Cultures from MIT (note to self: do this), and even get a certificate for completing Circuits and Electronics from MITx.
The last group of sites are all tools that are designed to allow users to easily create mobile apps, including one which lets you do that on a mobile device itself. So now even these tools, representing a class of functionality that even 2 years ago you'd have to go out and hire a firm to provide, are commodities - widely available, economically and functionally similar and eay to use.
So we can move from education to training to means of production for either free or something that is so low cost as compared to what the cost would've been 5 or 10 years ago that the price appears at least to be trending to the free.
So where does that leave us? Where does that leave you big training content company? Where does that leave you institution of higher education? Where does that leave you vendors with traditional (and by that I mean old) business models? Where does that leave the learning and training industry? Do you pray that you VP never finds out about the ability to buy compliance training like they buy coffee for the break room? Or do you do everything you can to make them understand why they should do that and use you and your talents for more meaningful work?
I'd argue that DESIGN in this environment becomes critical differentiator. No, not just instructional design although that has its place. UX. Game design. Organizational design and change management. Designing for the social or the mobile. The content is here people. The tools are here. What will make the GRAND difference is our knowledge of how to use all these commodities. I'll just ASSUME that everyone has seen a 1st season episode of Star Trek (the original) known as "the Arena." What made the difference in that epsiode (even moreso than Kirk's rugged good looks) was the fact that he knew how to build something useful out of the elements that he found (they were actually placed there by the other aliens) laying around. Look around you....there are all these elements laying about...do have the relevenat design skills to make use of them? Are we teaching the generation behind us the right design skills to make use of them? Are our professional conferences focused on these issues? Do our publications and sites echo with design discussions?
"The hallmark of revolution is that the goals of the revolutionaries cannot be contained by the institutional structure of the society they live in. As a result, either the revolutionaries are put down, or some of those institutions are transmogrified, replaced, or simply destroyed. We are plainly witnessing a restructuring of the music and newspaper businesses, but their suffering isn’t unique, it’s prophetic."