Digital Leading and Learning

That’s too much!

Last night I went to dinner with a few friends. It was a 50 minute drive for me to get there, so when I did I decided to head to the bathroom. The second I walked in I heard a noise from the corner of the room; it was an electric trash can opening because it sensed me as I walked past. I immediately wondered why that is at all necessary. How much more did that cost because it automatically opened and closed when someone stood in front of it? Obviously, if this restaurant purchased one, there is some sort of market for this product, but after watching the videos today it seems to be the perfect example of what NOT to do when working toward disruptive innovation.

Scott Anthony, a blogger for Harvard, explains this concept very simply. Disruptive innovation is creating something that is simple and convenient instead of more complex, whereas sustaining innovation is aimed at the most demanding consumer (Harvard Business Review, 2008). The trashcan previously mentioned is very obviously a product of sustaining innovation, which comes about when a company feels it needs to add enhancements to an already existing product. Disruptive innovation occurs when someone sees a group of consumers that wouldn’t normally be considered part of their target group, but can be accessed by simplifying the product or creating a new, basic substitute. This one shift then opens the door to many other convenient adjustments for that target group or, potentially, groups that had been less likely to buy in to the product from the start.

The example on which Scott Anthony focuses is near and dear to my heart. I was never a “gamer” but always enjoyed Nintendo. I liked it because it was simple, and as the games progressed my love remained with the original games. To this day my husband and I have the original Nintendo and Nintendo 64 systems. We play two games: Super Mario 3 and Mario Kart. I remember in college when the Wii was a huge hit. I had friends who were playing Halo and other complicated games, but Wii brought us all together because it was simple enough for my attention span and skills, and it still met the “needs” of those who were fixated on video games. Another example of disruptive innovation that dates back past video games is the calculator. The original desktop calculator was large and inconvenient, but had more computing capabilities. The pocket calculators, however, were simpler and portable and eventually minimalized the need for desktop calculators (Sandstrom, 2010).  They reached the everyday consumer and created a new market.

Education seems to be driven by data, which is why I believe change happens so slowly. Because most schools refuse to take initiative to change without support, disruptive innovation is a scary idea and is avoided (Harvard Business Review, 2008). The current reformation of schools around the globe “is of no use anymore because that is simply improving a broken model” (TED, 2010). Disruptive innovation is the catalyst we need to begin the necessary adjustments in education that will better prepare students for their futures. It isn’t going to be easy because many of these ideas are new with little to no specific data, but there is data out there insisting on change. I don’t need a $70 (and that’s the cost on Amazon!) trash can that senses my presence when there are $10 ones available that are equally effective and aesthetically pleasing. We don’t need to throw technology at teachers and force them to use it in ways that are unhelpful and overwhelming. We need simple solutions that appeal to teachers and students.


Harvard Business Review. (2008, October 20). How to stop disruptive innovation opportunities [Video   file]. Retrieved from

Sandstrom, C. (2010, February 18). Five examples of disruptive innovation. Retrieved April 10, 2016, from

TED. (2010, May 24). Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! [Video file]. Retrieved from


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