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MU Moves Toward Understanding and Managing Disruptive Technology

Mizzou Advantage studies impact of new transformational technologies

July 28th, 2010

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,
Carsten Strathausen, the facilitator for the Disruptive Technology initiative and a faculty member in the College of Arts and Science.

Carsten Strathausen, the facilitator for the Disruptive Technology initiative and a faculty member in the College of Arts and Science.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Every day, new technologies are created that completely revolutionize the way things are done. VCRs changed the way movies were viewed; MP3 players altered the entire music industry. The University of Missouri has begun to address the issue of disruptive and transformational technology in a progressive way.

 Identified as an initiative in the Mizzou Advantage, “Understanding and Managing Disruptive and Transformational Technologies” will touch on virtually every part of the university to explore areas in which existing technologies, and everything based on them, are changing rapidly. During a three-year process, MU faculty, students and alumni identified MU’s top competitive assets, or unique strengths, that set MU apart from other universities. These assets underlie five dynamic initiatives that collectively are called the Mizzou Advantage. Carsten Strathausen, the facilitator for the Disruptive Technology initiative and a faculty member in the College of Arts and Science, defines the subject as a new, invasive creation.

“Technology becomes disruptive when it completely encompasses and reconfigures things in a basic, fundamental way,” Strathausen said. “One example is e-mail. When e-mail became prevalent, it completely changed the way people communicate. It disrupted the previous norms regarding slow mail delivery; now people can communicate instantly.”

MU has budgeted $6 million to increase the impact of the Mizzou Advantage by funding various projects driven by networks of collaborators, including faculty members, centers, departments, corporate partners and other universities.

One such project is “Corporate Governance: the Role of the Board of Directors in Understanding and Managing Disruptive and Transformational Technologies”. This project is spearheaded by Elaine Mauldin and Karen Schnatterly, who are faculty members in the Trulaske College of Business. Mauldin and Schnatterly hope to use their grant to fund an international conference hosted by MU. They will to bring together people with a wide variety of cross-disciplinary perspectives to discuss the role of corporate boards in understanding and managing disruptive technologies.

“Disruptive technology is an important topic for corporate governance, because a corporation’s board of directors is all about setting strategy for the organization,” Mauldin, an associate professor of accountancy at the MU Trulaske College of Business, said. “Much of that strategy is going to involve addressing changes when disruptive technology is introduced.”

Another Mizzou Advantage-funded venture is the “Communication Markets” project. Led by Esther Thorson, who is a professor of strategic communication at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, this project aims to create a new area of study analyzing how communication processes develop, operate, and are disrupted throughout the different levels of the communication market. This project will bring together experts in many different fields including journalism, communications, marketing, and economics to take a wide view of the way communications exists within various markets.

“This project is going to study how business changes, communication changes, social relationships change – how everything changes when a new technology is introduced,” Thorson said. “We want to get all aspects of these markets by bringing in economists, businessmen, marketing experts, and journalists. That is how we will be able to truly come to understand how the communication market is affected by these new technologies.”

Strathausen believes Mizzou Advantage is a leap in the right direction for the University of Missouri.

“What makes ‘Understanding and Managing Disruptive and Transformative Technologies’ so exciting is that it shows MU’s willingness to get out there progressively,” Strathausen said. “It’s about the way in which new things get developed; it’s about their impact; it’s about the way the whole world networks together. That’s what this program anticipates and fosters.”

The Mizzou Advantage was created to increase MU’s visibility, impact and stature in higher education, locally, statewide, nationally and around the world. An important first step in initiating the program is a round of grants, totaling more than $900,000, that will fund 26 networking and other projects. MU officials’ goal is that Mizzou Advantage will strengthen existing faculty networks, create new networks and propel Mizzou’s research, instruction and other activities to the next level.