Albert B. Blixt
Coach and Consultant on Innovation and Change
Part three of a three-part series to help higher education leaders who find their vision for the future held captive by the demands of the present. A step-by-step strategy to ignite real change.
In Parts One and Two, we looked at how to fire up your extended leadership team and how to build commitment for your strategic vision among faculty, staff and students. In this final installment, we deal with how to shift the culture so that it accelerates innovation and change rather than blocking them.
“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”
This famous quote from management guru Peter Drucker warns us that culture is the enemy of strategy and of change. A simple way to define culture is “how we do things around here.” It describes the unique social and psychological environment of an organization created by the values, beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors of the people in it. Culture is manifested in what people say, how they think, and how they interact with each other. These patterns tend to be very durable. Culture can wait you out or wear you out if you try to force it to change. That is why something like 70% of all change efforts fail.
To succeed, your strategic plan must include a strategy to help people shift their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors so they are able to adapt to a changing world while still achieving the organizational vision.
Helping people to adopt new beliefs and behaviors is going to take time. After all, most people would like their lives to be predictable. When the culture favors protecting the status quo, it is not a good idea to tell people they are wrong. Instead, people need to experience a new way of doing things and discover that they like it. Ironically, it may be necessary to command people to participate in order for them to become more autonomous and empowered.
The Campus Innovation Think Tank: Experience the Future
Imagine bringing together a broad cross-section of faculty, students, administrators and professional staff. Seat them in tables where different functions and levels are represented. Give them a set of challenges and give them the assignment of creating possible innovative responses. Ask them to consider one or more of the following areas where innovation is needed.
10 Domains that invite innovation
- Responding to Changing Student Demographics
- New Approaches in Integrated Curricular Design
- Preparing students for the Changing World of Work
- Emerging Methods of Teaching and Learning
- Integrating Technology to Support Education
- Adapting When Education Spans Countries and Cultures
- Creating High-Value Experiences Outside of the Classroom
- Changing Faculty Roles & Responsibilities
- Supporting Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose
- New Outcomes and Assessment Approaches
Make this event highly interactive and energizing. Ask the tables to report out their ideas and vote on what the room thinks are the most promising ideas. The combined wisdom of the group will uncover possibilities that administrators alone cannot.
By hearing from leaders and from each other, participants develop a systemic perspective and thus are able to identify more systemic solutions. A natural bias for action results as people see their ideas shared with the group. Whenever people have voice in proposing solutions, they are willing to participate in making new solutions happen.
Now, Create a Permanent Adaptive Space to Support Innovation and Change
Holding an Innovation Think Tank will produce a lot of excitement and a lot of ideas. People will expect there will be a way to follow up to see their ideas turned into action. This requires creating an infrastructure that supports those processes. Having a game-changing infrastructure can be your institution’s most valuable asset for creating innovation. We call this kind of adaptive space an Innovation Hub
An Innovation Hub is as much an idea as it is a place. It is the forum for convening divergent inquiries that lead to new ways of identifying, understanding, and addressing challenges and opportunities. The Hub must be both science and art, data-driven as well as creative. The Hub requires a core constituency, but also draws in relevant stakeholders throughout the campus, keeping them involved and well-informed about what it is working on and issues surrounding its work. Involvement and communications efforts are its core functions, with continuous documentation of its work and outcomes.
The Key to Success: Professional Design and Facilitation
These are far more than simple meetings or training events; it takes professionally designed experiences to succeed. These events also require professional facilitation. This is best done when meeting designs are crafted jointly by experienced consultants working with an event planning team of actual meeting participants. More information can be found at Workshops on Innovation and Change.
Take the Next Step
Frustrated by slow progress in implementing your strategy? Want to accelerate the good work that is already being done? We can help. Our services are effective and affordable. For the cost of sending a few people to a conference, you can impact your entire campus.
Let’s get the conversation started. Click here to contact us. There is no obligation. There is only opportunity.