The Innovation Mindset

Encouraging Entrepreneurial Thinking on Campus

90-120 min keynote presentation, half-day workshop or full-day retreat 

The Innovation MindsetCenturies-old traditions of academic culture are in many ways responsible for the resiliency and long-term success of colleges and universities: collegial self-governance and peer review have steered disciplines and institutions away from dangerous and fleeting new ideas. The fundamental characteristics of traditional academics — perfectionist, circumspect, nuanced, meritocratic and risk-averse — have permeated virtually every campus, so that instructors, researchers, support staff and administrators alike tend to be inherently cautious and conservative. A community of sharp-witted independent thinkers can be merciless in their criticism of failed experiments, and many higher ed professionals learn to keep their heads down and avoid rocking the boat. All of these tendencies have been magnified in recent decades by constrained financial resources and increased demands for accountability and risk management.

Feridun Hamdullahpur

“Thank you for your excellent presentation at my annual Board of Governors’ retreat. I wanted the Governors to hear about what’s happening in our higher education world today, what are the external forces and influences that can, and will, disrupt our relatively slow moving sector. You did a great job of very clearly identifying the trends, challenges and issues from various perspectives; students specifically and society in general. I, along with the members of the Board, very much enjoyed it and learned from it. It was educating, insightful and to my personal liking, even provocative.”

Feridun Hamdullahpur, President & Vice-Chancellor, University of Waterloo

Yet higher ed institutions are beset on all sides by rapid and accelerating change. Traditional demographics are in sharp decline. The world’s economy is undergoing a fourth industrial revolution. Innovative approaches to teaching and learning, student supports and campus life are placing new demands on staff and faculty. Now more than ever before, colleges and universities need to become more nimble, entrepreneurial and innovative in order to respond to a changing environment and competitive landscape, and to survive or even thrive in the years ahead.

It is necessary, but not sufficient, for a handful of senior administrators to possess an entrepreneurial, innovation mindset; colleges and universities must unlock the creativity and drive of staff, faculty and students across the entire campus for an innovation culture to be sustainable. Stakeholders at all levels need to be engaged in meaningful dialogue. Bright ideas need to be recognized, defended, and nurtured on the front lines. Diverse perspectives need to be brought to bear on challenges and opportunities, from under-represented and international voices, and external community and industry partners. Everyone on campus needs to contribute to, and learn to trust, an environment of openness, transparency, and entrepreneurial thinking. Financial incentives and resources may need realignment. Hiring and promotion criteria may need to be rethought. To promote an innovation mindset, campus leaders need to reduce the stigma of failure, and promote measured, informed risk-taking instead.

In this workshop, Ken will share some thought-provoking data, trends, insights and examples from the world’s most innovative colleges and universities, and guide participants as they consider the obstacles and opportunities to an innovation mindset on their campus. Participants should leave with some new perspective on their role in a campus-wide innovation culture, and some actionable ways in which they can contribute to a more nimble and entrepreneurial institution.

 

Ken explores the question of how to nurture a culture of innovation with a dozen university presidents at the 2017 OUF:

 

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