Series by Tom Kennedy, Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search
Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search brings together many individuals with decades of valuable experience that gives them keen insight into the challenges faced by small colleges across the country. Our own Tom Kennedy has been sharing his insights through a series of posts (find them all here). In his latest exploration he considers colleges’ ability to innovate:
“Higher Education is an environment where conformity and replication are accepted, expected, and rewarded. Thinking and, ultimately, acting contrary to these standards of thought and action can be detrimental to one’s professional career and will ultimately “wear down” the contrarian.” Tom Kennedy (2006)
By nature, our colleges tend to be cautious, conservative, traditional, and inwardly focused. We sometimes think of ourselves solely as academics and educators, altruistic thought leaders uncontaminated by the outside messy world. Since our traditions have endured for centuries, we view change and innovation with suspicion to a degree that may be unhealthy for our long-term viability.
With these thoughts in mind, it may be a good idea to establish a “new ventures” think tank that considers alternative programs and different ways of doing business. Make it a diverse “ad hoc” group without any formal recognition outside the leadership team. Charge them with the task of scanning the environment, inside and outside academia, for novel approaches to expand the mission.
Every college has a few non-monolithic thinkers chomping at the bit to express themselves in a safe setting. If it is structured properly, there will be a plethora of ideas that evolve, most of which will be worthless. But there also may be a gem of an idea that emerges.
“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs
Innovators swim against the current.
- Tom Kennedy