LRMG Performance Agency

Learning and Disruption Innovation

Posted in Article on February 29, 2016 by: Pamela Barletta

The idea of disruption innovation has been around in business since 1995.

Its application in the education space has not fully been tapped, though, as Terry Heick argues in ‘The Learning Innovation Cycle’ on


‘Disruption innovation’, as coined by Clayton Christensen, describes the process “by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.” 


Heick describes disruption as “any change that forces itself substantially on existing power sets. This force causes transfer – a redistribution of something – market share, money, credibility, knowledge, or something we collectively value. Here, in this literal re-vision (seeing again) and neo-vision (seeing new), is where enduring learning innovation can be born.”


While the emphasis of dialogue around disruptive innovation in education has been in the field of technology, Heick argues for disruptors that can lead to innovation in other elements of education. Heick argues that education should be inherently disruptive in the way that thinking critically about education and teaching learners to think critically changes the systems and processes of teaching itself. For example, disruptive innovations could begin in the process of teaching itself, and, when in the classroom, disruption innovation “should, ideally, obliterate the classroom”.


Pamela Barletta, Managing Executive of LRMG Performance Agency’s eLearning RSA business unit, emphasises the incredible potential this has for companies in the business of learning to reimagine the classroom: “The classroom could thus become something else entirely. The use of online platforms for learning is an integral aspect of this reimagining of the learning space, and something that is always in the foreground of everything we as thought leaders in the eLearning space do.”

“There is also great value and insight in the disruptive blend – the combination of both sustainable disruption (traditional classroom) and online learning,” says Barletta. It, therefore, “starts to become more about the educational experience, which is heavily dependent on the extent to which institutions are enabled to support this technological experience.”


What does disruption look like? What is the point of disruption? Heick, in another article on, ‘Teaching Disruptively’, argues that the point of disruption is “to bring about lasting change by empowering future disruptors”. Teaching disruptively is less about espousing radical thought than it is about reaching students in new ways – digital platforms, for example.


In ‘How Digital Platforms are Disrupting Learning’ (also on, Heick posits that digital learning platforms disrupt formal learning processes through:


  • Access: digital platforms provide access to knowledge.
  • Play: in concepts like gamification, play “returns power to the learner, destroys passivity, and encourages macro design and function principles. It encourages students to play with ideas through experimentation, iteration, and collaboration, but puts them in control, and subsequently lights up a part of their consciousness that is dormant as long as they are operating under conditions of compliance.” Says Barletta: “The design of the learning is also more student-/learner-centric as opposed to a classroom-centric design.”
  • Equity: digital platforms are more accessible by a larger selection of the demographics of a population and are thus more democratic. “In the South African context, this is a critical factor to ensure that the strategy to disrupt through education reaches far and wide and ensures that we create capability and skills on a global platform,” says Barletta.
  • Power shift: digital platforms create “a kind of entrepreneurship for learning, both financially and philosophically”. Digital platforms cater to more people and are less expensive than formal learning institutions. 


Disruptive transformation is always painful and challenging, says Barletta, however as Ron Ashkenas, Managing Partner of Schaffer Consulting, points out, “When you know what’s coming, it’s better to be a few steps ahead than a few gigabytes behind.”


Most important of all, digital learning platforms create self-directed learners who ask the right questions at the best time, within the most influential community, affecting lasting change “through a memorable experience”, says Barletta.


To learn more about our memorable experiences and what Pamela Barletta’s eLearning RSA team can do for you, visit our page on the LRMG website.

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