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One of the recent defining trends in education is massive open online courses, also referred to as MOOC. The term was first coined in 2008 by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, the developers of the course titled Connectivism and Connectivity Knowledge (Stracke et al., 2019). 25 people attended the course in person at the University of Manitoba, while 2,300 international participants across the globe joined the classes online. Fast forward to 2011, the world’s leading universities, such as Stanford, MIT, and Harvard, introduced online courses that soon became popular due to low costs and increased accessibility. Concurrently, two former Stanford Computer Science professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, started Coursera. Today, Coursera has four million students enrolled in courses ranging from music composition to quantum physics (Stracke et al., 2019). It is hard to ignore MOOCs are swaying the education market. Not only that, but they are transforming the very understanding of education (Van Woensel et al., 2015). Universities lose their monopoly on high-quality, up-to-date knowledge while online courses democratize education for all and attract students with the convenience of studying from any place, at any time.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines drone as “an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers.” The very concept of drones, dates all the way back to 1849 when Austria sent unmanned balloons stuffed with explosives to Venice during a military conflict. Since then the interest in drones rose and ebbed until it reached the pivotal moment during the 1990s-2010s (Custers, 2016). In 2000, the famous Predator was used to launch missiles in Afghanistan and to search for Osama bin Laden. Six years later, the US Federal Aviation Administration issued its first drone permit, making the status of this aircraft official (Custers, 2016). The 2010s were the Golden Age of drones as rapidly developing technologies reduced the prices of the prices of microcontrollers, accelerometers, and camera sensors. Today, drones are popular with both average customers and corporations. When equipped with cameras, they are used by photographers and videographers. Big companies, such as Amazon, are trying to harness the power of drones and realize their potential to the fullest (Palmer, 2020). The retail giant is likely to launch Prime Air, a drone delivery service, in the next few years and disrupt the industry once again.
Virtual Currencies (Bitcoin)
The first ideas about cryptocurrencies date back to the 1980s. The main rationale was to make untraceable transactions without the interference of centralized entities, such as banks, possible. In the next three decades, there had been several attempts to launch cryptocurrencies, but the first successful product, Bitcoin, came out no earlier than in 2008. That year, Satoshi Nakamoto published a white paper under the title of “Bitcoin – A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System,” where he explained the inner workings of the Bitcoin blockchain network (Narayanan et al., 2016). Bitcoins are a reward for the process called “mining,” which requires running complex computer rigs. The goal is to confirm groups of transactions, known as blocks. If the effort is successful, the blocks are added to the network, and miners receive a small amount of bitcoins (Narayanan, 2016). In the beginning of this year, the bitcoin market reached the capitalization of $597 billion, a 90% increase from November 2020. The price of bitcoin this year also broke all records and reached $45,000 (Buckland & Adinarayan, 2021).
Innovation Management and Adaptation
Incorporating innovative business technologies means gaining competitive advantages on the market. However, doing so is not always easy as it requires promoting creativity and managing innovations to turn the new products into something useful and potentially disruptive. As shown by Camisón and Villar-López (2014), organizational innovation is one of the prerequisites for technological innovation. In other words, new technologies cannot be adopted if a company or institution does not make a conscious effort to introduce new organizational methods for business management. As mentioned previously, MOOCs originated from traditional universities, such as Harvard and MIT. Now, many other schools are offering online courses or at least trying to develop such products. According to Holland and Tirthali (2014), they typically seek to extend reach and access, reduce costs, increase brand visibility, and improve educational outcomes. However, they may face challenges, such as high dropout and low completion rate. In this case, organizational innovation may take the form of continued data and feedback collection to engage more students. To embrace this innovation, traditional institutions might have to make learners front and center and let data inform their decisions.
Current innovation models offer a holistic approach to management. Technology is not the end-all be-all of innovation and may fail if not accompanied by business innovation and marketing (Tidd, 2006). Drones have been around for a while, and yet, their degree of penetration in the business world remains low. To harness their potential, any company would have to reimagine many business processes. Amazon’s use of drones is a prime example of how technological innovation can be fostered within a corporation. It is now known that the US-based retail giant is adapting the drone technology to fit its needs. The Prime Air drone model is capable of a vertical takeoff and landing and can sustain forward flight. Since it is important to deliver goods safely, the model is equipped with thermal cameras, depth cameras, and sonar.
Amazon is likely to face the need to retrain some of its staff, should some delivery staff be replaced by drones. Right now, the company has multiple programs for internal career growth and promotion that some workers might need with the introduction of Prime Air. On the marketing side, Amazon capitalizes on two important factors. Firstly, it enjoys the prolonged popularity of Amazon Prime that is used by millions of people around the globe. The second trend is a greater recognition of drones, which may make customers more accepting of the new technology. A lesson one may learn from Amazon’s incorporation of drones is that innovation hinges on collective creativity. As told by Hill, innovation runs deeper than a single person’s genius (TED, n.d.). Prime Air is a work in progress that is supported by people with a wide range of specializations, from manufacturers to top management.
Bitcoin is another technology that may generate many benefits for businesses. The technology is superior to many others in terms of fraud protection since the payments are irreversible with Bitcoin and more secure than traditional transactions. Using Bitcoin may help with controlling fees and charges that may quickly get out of hand. This is especially useful when it comes to international expansion and having to adjust for foreign exchange rates. On the other hand, embracing Bitcoin comes with its own share of disadvantages. Its relative independence from fiscal policy may quickly turn from a great feature to a major flaw. Apart from that, countries vary greatly in their legal recognition of cryptocurrencies, and companies might have to navigate different legal environments at once.
Long-Term Effects and Further Development
The selected technological innovations are likely to have long-term effects on the global business environment, economics, and the daily lives of people. Mass open online courses are changing not only formal education but also formal job training. Hamori (2018) writes that one of the biggest problems with human resources management today is poor internal mobility. However, as much as companies want to grow cadres from within, they often skimp on training and leave employees to their own devices. MOOCs have the potential of helping people who want to improve at what they do by offering tailored, laser-focus programs. They may even impact more rigid fields, such as education. As pointed out by Hamori (2018), the United States spends about $2.5 billion on teacher training annually. Yet, teachers are barely kept up to date on their subjects. Potentially, the mass adoption of MOOCs could change the labor force for the better.
Rapid technological innovation has already made drones more affordable than ever and accessible for personal and commercial use. The global market for drones has already reached a capitalization of $127 billion (Drone Industry Insights, 2020). The world’s leading retail giant is working on Prime Air, a drone delivery service that, if successful, may decrease the delivery time down to 30 minutes (Palmer, 2020). If drone delivery becomes commonplace, customers will likely change their expectations and soon confront other retailers with new demands. Businesses that support online shopping and delivery will have to keep up with Amazon and proceed with the development of similar services. On the macroeconomic level, the drone industry will create 100,000 jobs ranging from manufacturing to developing supporting software (U.S. Congress, 2016). In contrast, drones will continue raising privacy concerns, especially due to the unrestrained personal use. It is likely that some countries will have to regulate their use to ensure their citizens’ rights to confidentiality.
In turn, bitcoins have the potential to disrupt the banking industry that is already facing a crisis. Pollock (2019) explains that right now, traditional banks with a century-old history have to withstand fierce competition from the so-called challenger banks. Challengers are “small, recently-created retail banks” that prioritize user-friendliness and niche wants and needs (Pollock, 2019). One of such niche demands is cross-border crypto transactions that have proven to be faster than conventional methods, as they require little to no fees. Yet, despite the mass appeal of buying and trading cryptocurrencies, traditional banks are still reluctant to offer such services. Pollock (2019) predicts that in the future, older challenger banks will compete with newer challenger banks while traditional banking institutions may be left by the roadside. The writer’s prognosis is pessimist as she is convinced that conventional banks may be too rigid to reinvent themselves and undergo radical restructuring (Pollock, 2019). This trend means further decentralization of financial organizations and more user and customer autonomy.
Summary and Conclusion
The world has never seen more innovations emerge and evolve at once than now. The question arises as to what these new technologies mean for business and how companies can make use of them. The present paper provided an overview of three innovations: cryptocurrencies, mass open online courses (MOOCs), and drones. While these technologies are not related, what they have in common is the long history of trial and error and a sudden spike in popularity and accessibility in the last few years. Previously used for military purposes, drones entered the tech market and became affordable for the average customer. Similarly, once offered by top universities, now MOOCs can be produced by anyone and gather audiences counting thousands of students. Lastly, cryptocurrencies turned from a niche development to something with a mass appeal.
The sudden rise of these innovations means businesses will have to adapt to the new reality. Universities and other educational institutions might have to become more student-centered to develop high-quality online products. Technologies should be accompanied by marketing and business development to meet the needs of the customer, and their use should be tailored to a particular type of business. In the grand scheme of things, the selected innovations have the potential of changing entire industries and transforming the workforce. The three sectors that are now experiencing disruptions are banking, education, and retail. Two of these industries can be characterized as traditional and more rigid. For this reason, their survivability and prospects may be challenged by the mass popularity of online courses and virtual currencies. Retail, on the other hand, has always been a more dynamic environment. The leverage within the sector may start to concentrate around giants, such as Amazon, that will be pioneers of using innovative technologies.
Buckland, K., & Thyagaraju, A. (2021). Bitcoin on record-setting spree, jumps 5% on day. Reuters. Web.
Camisón, C., & Villar-López, A. (2014). Organizational innovation as an enabler of technological innovation capabilities and firm performance. Journal of business research, 67(1), 2891-2902.
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