Last week I was cleaning up my bookcase and I found an old book, called the piranha economy. It is written by three Dutch guys (John Caspers, Guido Hosman and Stefan Verkerk) in 1999. I don’t think it was translated in English and there is no website to link to, so it is really old stuff.
The key idea of the book is that small agile companies working together can create innovative solutions in a pace big corporations only can dream of. Like piranhas they can choose a target and quickly form a school; with their combined force they can be more powerful than very big animals. There is a story that Theodore Roosevelt witnessed a group of piranhas stripping a cow to the bone in two minutes. It doesn’t matter if this is true or not, I just like the metaphor.
At the time the book came out I was CEO of Locatienet, an early Dutch version of Google maps. Locatienet was mentioned in the book as an example of a Piranha. I don’t remember what they said about us. I couldn’t find it (books don’t have a Ctrl+F key!), but it is true that we cooperated a lot with other companies and by combining our forces we were able to make greater progress. We used for example all kinds of information regarding mapping, traffic, speed controls and weather from other companies.
Now I’m CEO of a relative small company again. When I started in December we had three products: an authoring tool (easygenerator), a LCMS specifically tuned at making paper publications and a LMS. I don’t think that you can do three things at the same time, so we quickly decided to focus on easygenerator. We handed these two products over to our sister company ISM learning. Now we are focussed and all geared op for speed and innovation. At the same time we only deliver a part of the of the complete e-learning solution our customers want. Whenever we come up with something new it’s likely to have an effect on the next step in the chain (the learning environment). You can use standards like SCORM to make sure that your new ideas will be working in that environment, but I want more. I want to have somebody who is specialized in learning environments to respond to our ideas, challenge them and make them better. The only way we can achieve that is to work closely together with other companies, even when they are (potential) competitors.
If you have great ideas about improving and innovating e-Learning I challenge you to share them. Get them out in the open, improve them together, make them happen sooner and spread them wider. I’m looking for people and companies who have great ideas about metadata, dynamic publications, adaptive learning or any subject that is relevant for online learning. I have created a Linkedin group (e-Learning piranhas) so everybody can contribute and can see all other contributions. The goal is not only to come up with great innovative solutions but also to create all kinds of partnerships between companies who can make it actually happen. Hopefully great things will come from this.