Taking note of disruption

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When I was working for Hewlett Packard, I was largely involved in artificial intelligence research. I had little time for management theory, except when it affected me. That happened 3 times. The first was Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, the second Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, and last was Chesbrough’s Open Innovation. Thus, it was natural when I came to Bath that I should choose these theories to explore in the Innovation and Technology Management MSc programme.

Imagine my delight then when a graduate of the programme, Tom Swales, told me that the Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen had been invited to the Said Business school at the University of Oxford, and would give 3 public lectures in June 2013. I went along to hear the great man (at 6 foot 8 inches this is at least literally true). I was curious to see new developments in the disruption theory; to hear Clay’s thoughts on MOOCS and higher education, and, in truth, to see what he is like as a presenter and person. I am glad to say I achieved all my goals.

So what is Clay like ? Despite having suffered a stroke, he is still a great speaker. He has the knack of making complex things simple, even obvious. He is clearly a deep thinker and came across as a respectful and collegiate researcher despite(?) being a self confessed right wing republican (the question mark challenges the stereotype that exists in the UK at least). I managed to grab a moment with him and talked briefly about disruptive innovation in higher education. He seemed genuinely interested and willing to help/collaborate though clearly it would be physically impossible for him to get deeply involved with all the projects that folks were pushing at him. Still I appreciated the expression of support.

The first day was so good that I went back for the second (and the third) despite being a PITA to travel to Oxford (and get back home late to cold dinner and an undeservedly patient wife). I will post a separate blog about each day, but for now, a digression about note taking.

I talk to students a lot about note taking. They will doubtless be eager to verify that I follow my own advice:

Write notes! Don’t just listen and assume you will remember it

write a lot of notes – keep writing (you may wish to pause during anecdotes and case stories just to gather your thoughts – however I typically cover about 10 sides of A4, though I do leave a lot of space).

don’t just write what is said, write what you are thinking, your reaction. Summarise, précis, draw mind maps, make comments, use your own words (and possibly language if you are not a native English speaker).

As a visual thinker, I use colours (circle key concepts in green for example) and mind mapNumber your pages (with 3 lectures, I used a simple x.y numbering e.g. 3.4 means the 4th page of the notes from the 3rd lecture)

go over your notes THE SAME DAY. Fill in any gaps (while they are in your memory) and make a brief bullet point summary (about 6-12 bullets) for reference at a later date

Reflecting on this, I am reassured that this technique, which I recommend to my students, is very effective indeed in ‘deep learning’. It doesn’t take any extra time (well apart from the going over your notes, which should take about 10-15 minutes per lecture) but it does require organisation and discipline.

In my view, far too many students (and staff!) use their time in talks ineffectively.

anyway, that aside over, I will spend the next 3 posts describing what Christensen actually said and my reaction.

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