Two great reads today:

Ev William’s, as reported by Wired:

  • “Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar internet company,” he said. “Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”

Clayton Christensen & Michael B. Horn, refining their take on “what job are you hired to do” when it comes to higher education:

  • “The challenge today is that most colleges are seeking—often unknowingly—to do several jobs. Indeed, in their march upmarket to build prestige, many seek to be all things to all people. This has left them quite vulnerable to disruption.”

Christensen and Horn can’t suggest what schools can do; they only describe the problem succinctly and powerfully.

Put both ideas together and you have the next ten to twenty years in higher ed in a nutshell: why do we hire universities and how might technology disrupt the existing solutions provided by universities by eliminating steps and dramatically increasing convenience.

Online learning has obviously done this for adult learners. Why troop to an evening class once or twice a week, for years, to get your degree when you could sneak a few minutes at work or study at home, on your own time?

And that’s big business…but the 18-24 year-old, more traditional student is still doing it the old way. And their families are paying (and borrowing) for the privilege. What are some of the top reasons families hire universities?

  • Prestige
  • Get a decent-paying job and career
  • Nothing better to do with your 18 year old
  • Maturation
  • Just because

These aren’t in any order. There are others, no doubt. In a subsequent post I’ll think through each “reason to be hired” and apply Ev’s simple logic around what will be a successful business.