One thing you can’t learn from history.

… is technology disruption. Or likely any other kind of disruption.

Jeff Jarvis is looking for disruptive possibilities:

I’m at a session on Newspaper Next, an American Press Institute project to try to bring innovation to newspapers. They’re working with Clay Christensen, change guru, and started projects with various newspapers about such things as getting ads from smaller businesses; creating a one-stop resource for mothers; developing an organizational structure for innovation; increasing readership; getting broader audiences…

But Clay Christensen isn’t really a change guru, he’s a change historian.He has made a career out of helping us understand disruption that has already happened, which is useful, but I’m not sure he’s show an aptitude for predicting it. And while you may be able to recognize a disruptive technology by knowing their history, I don’t think you can learn how to create disruptions by knowing the history.

Jeff gives a graphic example:

I said to Gray that the project seems to be trying to move a big, old barge five degrees when we need to blow up the barge and pick up the pieces and build new boats.

Newspapers are stuck in the model of gathering, editing, and delivering information to a shrinking group of people who want it. And each paper applies their particular cultural bias or viewpoint to that information.

Imagine instead if newspapers aggregated everything about a particular story in one place – news reports, eyewitness reports, blogs, press releases, etc. – and then assigned some sort of weighting to it – confirmed, unconfirmed, opinion, hearsay, government release, etc. – and just kept adding to that archive as long as the story was relevant. You could see all potential views and reports on particular story, and derive your own views based on that information.

That would kill a lot of the value of Google or Yahoo! News. It would also mean that fewer newspapers were necessary. But it would let people have the information needed to make up their own minds, free of the bias that newspapers claim not to have.

And just think of the potential side business of reader polls based on what they are reading (and possibly voting for online). There could even be a television reality show – America’s Top Headline.


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