Two Major Shifts: Dematerialization and On-demand

Last year I led a sessionyoungspock on the Future of Education for the Orlando extension of Asbury Seminary. We discussed two major cultural/technological shifts- Dematerialization and On-Demand- and their implications for education over the next few decades. What are the implications of these same shifts for the mission of your business, organization, or church?

DEMATERIALIZATION

Dematerialization has been a major shift in the entertainment industry.

Think Blockbuster and Netflix. (This was spotted for you almost two years ago in our “How Life Changed in the Last Decade” series). The material, brick-and-mortar business is gone. The digital business thrives.

It’s a major shift for readers. Think Borders (now gone) and Amazon (now ubiquitous). Think paperbacks and Kindle.

What are the implications of this shift for brick-and-mortar business, shopping malls, universities and seminaries, and churches? An example of the implications of Dematerialization comes from the world education in the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). Through Udacity a student can earn a Master’s degree from Georgia Tech for about $7,000.00. And you don’t have all those expenses related to relocation. And now, as MOOCs team up with Educational Institutions AND employers, this is a game changer.

Here’s the fun part: Imagine a university or seminary campus 25 – 50 years deeper into this century. What do you see? Any university or seminary that is investing in brick-and-mortar facilities needs to consider the “dematerialized” future.

ON-DEMAND

How many of you have needed to learn how to do something and immediately turned to Youtube for the answers? My wife, Niza, came home from a college class a while back confused from a lecture. She searched it on Youtube and found the videos that helped her understand what she was supposed to be learning in college.

The three “Rs” of learning used to be reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Add “R”search. Today, we can discover what we want/need to know on-demand by searching for it online. But the key here is not that we can find what we want, as cool as that is, but that we can find it when we want it.

On-demand.

This means ultimately customized and personal. What might the implications be for your organization? Not in 2050, but today?

THE DEMATERIALIZED AND ON-DEMAND FUTURE

Ok, so let’s paint a picture.

You’re a young person in India or Kenya born in 2015. futurecityWhen you’re in your early 20s, you feel a calling to study X — engineering, theology, etc.

Unlike the first billion people on Earth who came online during the bulky desktop era, the last billion people to come online, of whom you are one, all did so in a completely mobile digital world.

High quality content comes to you, wherever you are whenever you want it. The quality of your learning corresponds to the level of your interest. You are in charge of how much, how deep, how fast, and how far you go.

And the goal isn’t even a degree.  The immediate goal is a skill, a practice, a competency. The long term objective is to be deeply connected to opportunities for life long learning.

Ok, back to the present.

Leaders, you’re probably already responding to these shifts whether you know it or not. And, an important skill for leadership in the 21st century is the ability to fearlessly describe the present. But, just in case, here are some processing questions for you and your team.

  • Are we seeing these shifts in our field and relationships?
  • How are these shifts changing behavior?
  • What are ways that we’ve already begun to shift our practices and strategies?
  • What are some strategically intentional shifts we can make to pre-position ourselves for these shifts?

Alex McManus
Author of Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

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