Managing Innovation - Ways to Foster Fresh Thinking on Campus

TalkingEDU_Logo-576877-editedManaging Innovation Ways to Foster Fresh Thinking on Campus is a wide-ranging and thoughtful report published by The Chronicle of Higher Education. This new report examines the question of how colleges and universities can meet the challenges of changing student demographics, ongoing technological development and the forces that challenge the higher education business model. “This report examines those factors and focuses on how three leaders from different types of institutions — private and public; large enrollment and small — have been able to develop innovative programs on their campuses.”

Art or Science?

The challenges that stifle real innovation on campus are broken into three sections - Charting a Course, Talent Management, and Cultivating Resilience. Regarding the quest for an innovative breakthrough, Paul J. LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, notes that, “The part of innovation that people like to talk about is the art of it, versus the science of it.”

Because every college and university has its own unique culture, a clear definition of the purpose, opportunities, and constraints facing the institution are needed. Shared themes for best promoting and managing innovation initiatives include:

  • A clear understanding of an institution’s larger purpose, aims, and values.
  • Skillful leaders with a clear understanding “of the type of innovation they wish to accomplish, in order to develop an appropriate strategy.”
  • A fluid strategy that leaves “room for risk and learning, to ensure that institutions continue to best harness resources and adapt to new developments on their campuses and in the world around them.”

The report provides a roadmap of the top concerns facing higher education and the timeframe needed for the transformations required to meet these challenges. As with all campus-wide initiatives, strong support from university presidents and their boards of directors is crucial. Technology should not be the driver. Instead, the needs of end users and stakeholders should help define the goals and purpose of innovation projects.

Higher Education in Flux

First Amazon disrupted the book industry, then retail, then groceries. Netflix disrupted the movie and television industries, Uber taxis, Airbnb hotels and on and on. Nearly every industry has experienced disruption of some sort. We’ve gone from thinking outside the box to eliminating the box completely. Those industries that haven’t been directly disrupted are either headed toward extinction or improving processes for greater efficiencies with the help of recent innovations in robotics and artificial intelligence. Higher education has attempted to harness technology to disrupt traditional practices - think MOOCs. Technology has enhanced student and administration interactions through systems integration and process improvements but, innovation that leads to real transformation requires a change in thinking. 

To download a PDF of the complete report click here.

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