Sramana Mitra: That is where the question I am asking stems from. There are a lot of these massive open online courses available from various brand-name universities, or online programs that are now becoming available. From an enterprise learning point of view, the strategy so far has been just to learn content or send employees to learn specific enterprise learning content from specific providers. What happens when you inject vast masses of material that is out there free? Is the model simply going to become that the enterprises simply curate what is out there and create links to these e-learning plans?
Bobby Yazdani: This is my own philosophical view: first of all, I think they are going to augment their learning programs with what we refer to as third-party content. This could come from universities, independents, the web, and so on. It could be free and come from the government. There is no question they have to augment learning content with this massive amount of content you are referring to. My thesis is that the surviving and thriving businesses of the future are knowledge-based businesses. Whether you design a drug, a combustion engine, the next generation combustion engine, or a green engine, the surviving businesses of the future are going to become very knowledge-intensive businesses, where knowledge is intensely embedded in the products they create, innovate, and distribute. Knowledge will be embedded in these complex products.
Take the Boeing 777, for example. It is a knowledge-intensive product. There are so many components in it and so much know-how embedded in that device. That knowledge has to be distributed across the value chain for that business to be successful – from pilots to people who repair and service those devices, to consumers who use them. The nature of the learning process is going to become more complex and more value chain oriented than it is today. That knowledge is proprietary to Boeing. It is what makes the company successful. Knowledge will be the real asset of those businesses, and you won’t be able to buy it at a university. Businesses will become less concerned about horizontal skills and become more concerned with their own vertical product skills. The combination of the two will make a person’s job; people will need to offer both horizontal and vertical knowledge to their value chain. This is how I describe it. It is not like a corporate university; it can’t survive just training people on horizontal knowledge, which is third party. They also have to train their people in their own processes, products, knowledge, innovation, compliance, and best practices.
SM: The example you gave of Boeing is highly specialized. There are other industries that have more need for horizontal material, such as Java programing or Ruby on Rails programing.
BY: No doubt. I have looked at many industries, and I can tell you that in every industry there is the need for horizontal and vertical knowledge – project management skills, communication skills, and so on.
SM: One use case or scenario of a use case I can see in the way you are projecting the future and that takes advantage of the kind of learning enablement system that you are offering is to take a module, for example, from open courseware material. That is the horizontal knowledge. Then there are groups that form around that horizontal knowledge, and that is where the vertical knowledge is captured. Maybe you want the employees to study the horizontal knowledge as the starting point, and then there are three other modules that are vertical knowledge. Then there are recordings of these web conferences, where these vertical and horizontal cases have been discussed. Then there are recordings and transcripts available for them. Would that be a correct example?
BY: Yes. Let me comment on a couple of other beliefs I have. I believe static content is becoming less interesting than streaming content and social content. When I look at my own children playing games and how they learn – their way of learning in this interactive world is very different from mine. I think if you project their future as to the problems we are trying to solve, I am solving problems not for my generation – although we have technology doing that today – but for the next generation. I am talking about three, five, or ten years from now. It is amazing. My kids do their homework on a video chat environment with three other kids. My son would text his tutor, and they have their own arrangement to get online on a video chat to look at problems. They interact and behave very differently. I think that streaming content, real-time collaboration, and social content will replace a lot of the experiences we have today.