Martin’s Weblog

Three Horizons, Steve Jobs and Education

“The three horizons model was first published in The Alchemy of Growth by Merhdad Baghai, Stephen Coley, and David White in 1999. The fundamental idea behind the model is that we need to be thinking about innovation across three time frames”  ~ Time Kastelle

Horizon 1 is about current business – gaining efficiencies and quality – involving analysis and intrepreneurship – its about business operators

Horizon 2 is about extending current business into new and related areas – involving
entrepreneurship and exploration – business builders

Horizon 3 is about radically new types of business – involving imagination and vision.

“Strategy” is often on Horizon 1 and 2 – operational and extension activities.  This is probably why the core of education has changed so little. All the narratives around e-learning, MLEs and such like are on Horizon 1 and Horizon 2 – they are about efficiences and extensions within the current paradigm of education – a reinforcement and extension of the current paradigm and reality.

Horizon 3 is about “creative destruction” in a sector to create radical new opportunities – it is where we find the radical narratives of de-institutionalisation and dis-intermediation.

The problem is that Horizon 3 is beyond the vision of so many and if it can be seen or imagined then it can appear more as an hallucination – a psychotic breakdown in reality. Looking forward horizon 3 is indeed a break from current reality but looking backwards the trends can be rationalised historically. Horizon three is full of uncertainity and the unknown – “sanity” can be maintained by the comforting Kodak moment poses in rituals of operational efficiency and business extension Shirkey principles. “There is no Line on the Horizon”  – horizon 3 creeps up exponentially – it is a paradigm change in the ecosystem –  horizon 1 and horizon 2 strategies of efficiency and extension may not apply in a new paradigm and may be counterprodictive and even toxic.

Steve Jobs is a classic example of someone with the vision to see beyond Horizon three – to see radical new business in the signals all around him.  The really distinguishing feature of Steve Jobs was his ability to match vision and imagination with innovation – to work at horizon 1 and horizon 2 in the world of efficiency and extension to actually build the world he could imagine – to combine things to create platforms, business relationships and ecosystems that gave us iTunes, iPods, iPhones and iPads – the new reality that connected cloud and mobile that we take for granted today.

Mediated by Information technology the world in which our formal and traditional education system exists is chaging more significantly than ever before – can education also change significantly – can education imagine what lies beyond horizon 3 aand adjust or will it face a Kodak moment?

How would you create education today if it didn’t already exist?

As Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying “The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create It”

Related reading
Innovation for Now and for the Future By @Tim Kastelle This was the first article I read that mentioned the three horizon’s idea

How Apple disrupts markets and then goes on to dominate By Greg Satell Extends Tim’s Blog post and uses Steve Jobs and Apple as examples

Exploitation Across Different Innovation Horizons By Paul Hobcraft The 5th in a super series about the three horizon model

“High Anxiety” – Anxiety as a dimension in organisational culture By Martin King  About the comforting rituals performed in organisations

The last Kodak moment? – Economist article about technological change and failing to adapt

The Shirky Principle By Kevin Kelly About how institutions perpetuate the problems to which they are the solution – failure to change radically.

How to Think About the Future  By @Tim Kastelle  On the importance of exploring  the future horizon through experiments.

August 5, 2012 - Posted by | education, future |


  1. Martin, your spot on. It strikes me, as a educational lay-person, that the innovation for education isn’t the technology (you just exploit it) but the learning material itself. Generating excellent learning material to address the need of learners in the 21C, accrediting it and turning it into bite-sized chucks so that it can be marketed and sold globally and not just locally is where the future lies.

    Comment by Emanuel Gatt | August 8, 2012 | Reply

  2. I feel that is one of the so much significant information for me.
    And i’m ssatisfied studying your article. But wanna commentary
    on some general issues, The web site taste is ideal, the articles is actually excellent :
    D. Excellent job, cheers

    Comment by Mobile Development | April 17, 2014 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: