Thinking Beyond the Pandemic to Disruptive Innovation

By Andrea Garrels

I am currently in a Master’s Degree program in K-12 education. It has been 35 years since I took a college course, and much in the realm of higher education has shifted tremendously in that time frame. I am reminded of those changes all around campus, from washing machine apps that tell your phone when your clothes are ready for the dryer to the absolute non-existence of typewriters (a staple on my dorm room desk) in any of the buildings I enter.

One of my first papers assigned for the Master’s program covered textbooks. As I researched, a phrase familiar to my 25+ years with PGS kept popping up: DISRUPTIVE. Whether termed disruptive technology or disruptive innovation, the advent of electronic textbooks has indeed been disruptive to textbook giants. Big publishers like McGraw Hill have been scrambling for a decade or so to remain competitive, while quick moving new entrants to the market are producing exceptional digital materials.

Prior to the digital era, the publishing companies had a captive audience, teachers who had little access to the information for their students beyond the textbooks their schools or districts purchased. The industry also had barriers to entry, particularly in terms of cost, that prevented an influx of competitors. At times, whenever sales decreased on a textbook, the publishers simply raised the price of the book to keep profits high and their companies solidly solvent.

But the big publishers slow recognition of the digital wave left the door open for smaller, more agile companies with strong tech skills to enter the market and begin to inch out traditional textbooks. These new textbooks, at least at the University level, are in fact quite remarkable, particularly for an old-school printed textbook veteran like myself.  I am particularly smitten with pictures in the text that are clickable and turn into short videos that demonstrate the topic of the text.

So why share all this? We are in the midst of an era ripe for disruptive technologies and innovations.  Huge numbers of the workforce are working from home, educators are scrambling to establish valuable platforms for their students to learn, restaurants and bars are shifting their traditional style of serving, airplanes are empty while motor home manufactures can’t keep up, etc., etc., etc.  Rare is the industry or business that has not been impacted, whether positively or negatively by the pandemic.

At PGS, we are encouraging our clients to think beyond “just getting by” until we are back to normal, and instead to look for opportunities to create, innovate, solve a customer problem in a new and better way. Don’t make the conversation about whether or  not we have to change or shift, but rather how to make ourselves better than we were before. Think in terms of the Products and the Competitors conversations that are part of PGS Vision Navigation.  Define your product by the customer needs it satisfies, then look around your environment for creative substitutes or inventive ways to meet those needs better than you did pre-pandemic.

Don’t get caught holding the $200 printed textbook, when the sleek, $50 digital version sweeps your customers off their feet. Start the hard, exciting work of innovation now. Want to have a conversation about potential disruption in your industry?  We would love to help you brainstorm.  Contact us to start a conversation.