Tag Archives: beacon

Radio: Landmark or Beacon

albert-einstein-2Even though it was 110-years ago that Albert Einstein would disrupt the world with how we saw the universe and how we saw time, space, mass, energy and light, we still invoke his name when a person does something brilliant. We say they’re an “Einstein.”

Unfortunately for Einstein, his groundbreaking 1905 theory that would be the foundation for a new way of thinking in physics – quantum mechanics (which gave us things like lasers, microprocessors and iPhones) – wasn’t embraced by this genius. It would be his undoing for the rest of his life.

In the world of higher education, the importance of publishing in an academic journal is more revered than publishing on LinkedIn (where other forwarding thinking professionals hangout) or on a personal blog that’s available to the world. What once was – really isn’t anymore, except to those who cannot accept that today we live in a world made up of platforms, not products.

Radio suffers from a similar dilemma. To traditional broadcasters, radio is something that needs an FCC license, radio tower, antenna and transmitter that sends a signal out over the AM or FM radio bands. I always smile when I look at my old Radio Telephone Third Class Operator Permit that I earned taking a test administered by the Federal Communications Commission at the Customs House in Boston back in 1968. Notice it had the world “telephone” in the name.

Kentucky melon farmer Nathan Stubblefield was an early experimenter in radio broadcasting. Only Nathan wanted his wife to be able to talk to him while he was driving his car from their farmhouse. For you see, in those early days no one was quite sure what this new technology would or could be used for.

“The next big thing always starts out looking like a toy,” says Chris Dixon.

So when people started streaming over the Internet and calling it “radio,” traditional broadcasters looked down their noses at it in much the same way that journalists looked down their noses at the new media platforms like Buzzfeed and Vice Media invading their world.

Einstein teaches us something more than E=mc2, it’s that we need to learn to accept the new platforms that disrupt the world as we knew it and are creating the world that will be. Radio, higher education – most likely your business too – cannot afford to be Einstein-like in our future thinking. The world is moving faster and faster. 50% of today’s jobs won’t exist in ten years.

The iPhone, the Connected Car, Buzzfeed, Bitcoin etc are all platforms.  Radio, colleges, newspapers etc. are all products. Understanding this dichotomy is critical.

In Abraham Pais’s book “J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life” he writes that Einstein’s inability to adapt to new platforms failed him and that he became a “landmark, but not a beacon.”

And so the choice in our world today is to adapt or die.

Welcome to the age of disruption created by the Internet.

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