‘Disruptive Adaptation’

We’ve been hearing a lot about the many “disruptive” forces buffeting our world in higher education. We’ve heard about disruptive technology and how online education can radically change delivery of our coursework. Then there’s disruptive innovation, disruptive thinking — even disruptive demographics, all terms that describe the tectonic-shifting forces of change.

Now there’s a new phrase to add to your list: disruptive adaptation, which describes the way higher ed must deal with these forces.

In a recent white paper (pdf) published by The Lawlor Group, Jon McGee, the vice president for planning and public affairs at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in
Minnesota, describes disruptive adaptation as the need for colleges and universities to sustain a sort of equilibrium in the face of disruptive forces. McGee describes five key forces of disruption — changing demographics, lingering high unemployment, stagnant family income levels, home values, and changes in family debt and savings — and suggests a new framework for moving forward during these turbulent times. His “decision cube” provides a tool for looking at disruptive adaptation and developing an approach for the future.

Jon McGee’s “decision cube,” a contextual tool for adapting to the disruptive forces buffeting higher education. (Image courtesy of The Lawlor Group, http://www.thelawlorgroup.com.)


If you haven’t yet done so, I suggest you read McGee’s paper, “Disruptive Adaptation: The New Market for Higher Education,” available for download from this post on The Lawlor Group’s blog.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

4 thoughts on “‘Disruptive Adaptation’”

  1. Thanks for the post Andrew and sharing our white paper. This particular student recruitment cycle seems to be the dose of reality for higher education leaders that many chief enrollment officers knew was coming, but too many colleges and universities naively ignored. Marketplace disruption is here and as Jon McGee has noted, the key is to recognize that higher education must ADAPT with multiple actions. There is no silver bullet. While these are challenging times, these are also great times for opportunity and entrepreneurial behavior. It will be interesting to see how colleges and universities adapt in the near future because their future is going to depend on it.

  2. Decision making is a process that has interested me lately. Sometimes any decision is better than inactivity caused by a person wondering what yo do.

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