Will residential liberal arts colleges follow the path of the wristwatch? I sure hope so. With all of the talk about MOOCs, online instruction, and game-based learning models, many of us working at residential liberal arts colleges are uncertain about our future. The reports are scaring us into conversations about fundamentally restructuring—perhaps even abandoning what we do and how we do it.
While it’s critical for us to think about our future, I can’t help wondering about the corporate boardrooms of watchmakers worldwide. I can think of few other “makers of things” who have more carefully considered the future of what they make.
Why? It has been widely predicted that the cellphone and our many other electronic devices would mean the end of the wristwatch. Who would wear a watch when the ubiquitous cellphone can tell you the time?
But, increasingly, it seems the catastrophic predictions of the end of the wristwatch have not come true. According to LGI Network, watch sales jumped in 2011 by nearly 10 percent with about $5 billion in sales. Sales of less expensive watches (under $150) rose by 13 percent, and luxury watches priced at more that $10,000 rose by more than 20 percent. This growth is coming on the heels of decline in revenues earlier in the decade.