Surviving Disruptive Technologies

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Course Date: 29 September 2014 to 17 November 2014 (7 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

The purpose of this course is to help participants and the organizations they encounter survive the waves of technological disruptions facing business, government, education and their daily lives.

Estimated Workload: 2-4 hours/week

Course Instructors

Hank Lucas

Henry C. Lucas, Jr. is the Robert H. Smith Professor of Information at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, the University of Maryland. He received a B.S. from Yale University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the Sloan School of Management, M.I.T. Professor Lucas’ research interests include IT-enabled transformations, disruptive technologies, the impact of information technology on organizations, IT in organization design and the value of information technology. He is the author of a dozen books and more than 70 articles in professional periodicals on the impact of technology, information technology in organization design, the return on investments in technology, implementation of information technology, decision-making for technology, and information technology and corporate strategy. Professor Lucas currently is teaching an undergraduate Honors Course on Formulating U.S. Science and Technology Policy and an MBA course on Strategic and Transformational IT.

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to help individuals and organizations survive when confronted with disruptive technologies that threaten their current way of life.  We will look at a general model of survival and use it to analyze companies and industries that have failed or are close to failing.  Examples of companies that have not survived include Kodak, a firm over 100 years old, Blockbuster and Borders.   It is likely that each of us has done business with all of these firms, and today Kodak and Blockbuster are in bankruptcy and Borders has been liquidated.  Disruptions are impacting industries like education; Coursera and others offering these massive open online courses are a challenge for Universities.  In addition to firms that have failed, we will look at some that have survived and are doing well.  What are their strategies for survival?

By highlighting the reasons for the decline of firms and industries, participants can begin to understand how to keep the same thing from happening to them.   Through the study of successful organizations, we will try to tease out approaches to disruptions that actually work.  Our ultimate objective is to develop a strategy for survival in a world confronting one disruptive technology after another.


What resources will I need for this class?

You will gain the most from this class if you are willing to “think the unthinkable,” to envision order of magnitude changes in existing ways of doing things and make fearless predictions about the likely impact of a new technology.

What is the coolest thing I’ll learn if I take this class?

You’ll learn how to respond to the waves of technological disruptions that are impacting business and government organizations and educational institutions.  You will learn how to be a survivor of the massive changes in the way we live and work that are happening now and will continue into the future.

Will I get a certificate after this class

Yes, students who successfully complete the class will get a certificate signed by the instructor.


1. Survival: a simple model of the incumbent’s dilemma of how to respond to a potentially disruptive technology .
Kodak misses its moment: the story of Kodak and how, after inventing the digital camera, it failed to understand how it and the Internet changed the process of capturing and sharing images.
3. Blockbuster vs Netflix.  How could a leading company fail to respond to a clearly defined threat from a new competitor?
Borders:  was the company asleep when Amazon came along and disrupted book sales, publishing and reading?
5. The three amigos: what can we learn from Kodak, Borders and Blockbuster as a group of failed companies?
Can I borrow your paper?   How the Internet has savaged one of our oldest types of media leading to the slow death of newspapers.
7. Books and Publishers:  trying to maintain two business models at once.
Education: the industry that moves at a glacial pace faces radical innovation from non-profits to Coursera.
9. Dictators: probably not a promising occupation given social media-how the Arab spring changed a profession.
Risky business-are innovations in technology encouraging us to engage in too much risky business?
11. Moving things: will the USPS disappear?  How can it compete with UPS and FedEx?
Some survivors:  a few have managed to incorporate disruptive technologies into their lives and to flourish, at least for now.
13.  Danger ahead: what new disruptions are on the horizon and who will be disrupted?
Strategies for survival: suggestions on  how to deal with disruptive technologies and turn them into a successful innovation


The course will consist of short videos each week that deal with the topics in the syllabus above.  You will be asked to complete different readings and answer questions about them.  There will also be questions that you answer by conducting research on the Web.  There will be discussion questions for participants to answer each week, and occasional essays that will be reviewed by peers.  There will also be quizzes where you can demonstrate your understanding of the material in the course.

Suggested Reading

Lucas, H. C., Jr. The Search for Survival: Lessons from Disruptive Technologies. Santa Barbara, CA., Praeger, 2012

Christensen, C. M. The Innovator's Dilemma. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997

Course Workload

2-4 hours/week

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