Systemness (to borrow Nancy Zimpher’s term) is without a doubt central to the sustainable future for higher education. While many states have higher ed systems and many universities have multiple campus locations that comprise a system, they are struggling with systems thinking. It is not a common mindset; in fact, quite the opposite mindset of the silo-based evolution of higher ed.
Recently, I’ve been wondering: what can higher education learn from other perspectives when it comes to system integration? What can we learn from the engineer’s mind on process and design?
What can we learn from biology and the organ systems of the body? Or, from the structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets or Toni Morrison’s Beloved?
Very specifically, what can we learn from studying our comprehensive health care systems?
Keeping vision, mission, and values as higher ed’s central operating system, the goal of deepening our understanding of other systems is to find transference: what functions and services work best when centralized and which are best left decentralized? Ultimately, how do we strike a collaborative balance in higher ed that enables mission assurance, creates cost efficiencies, adds value to multi-campus operations, and yields positive outcomes for the student experience? Students first!
No matter where I go, collaboration is on my mind. Recently, I attended the ILA Board Retreat in Atlanta (site for the 2016 ILA Global Conference), and had the privilege of participating in the Global Mindset Inventory thanks to Dr. Mansour Javidan (a colleague on the ILA board). Developed by the Global Mindset Institute, this assessment tool helps “determine a global leader’s ability to better influence individuals, groups and organizations unlike themselves.”
I left Atlanta wondering how cool it would be to develop the Collaboration Mindset Inventory, which would help “determine a leader’s ability to better influence individuals and groups and organizations through collaboration.”
Like the GMI, the CMI would measure collaborative thinking in the areas of intellectual, psychological, and social capital. The assessment would result in a map of a leader’s current thinking, as well as suggestions for personal and professional development.
What next? I’m going to continue to bug Mansour about the GMI and what we can learn from it that would transfer to the CMI. As well, we will find out what else is already out there in terms of collaboration assessment (SOCHE is neighbors with the Chally Group 🙂
Robert Reich described a leader as …someone who steps back from the entire system and tries to build a more collaborative, more innovative system that will work over the long term. Recently, I’ve seen this sentence cited in a few books, signature lines of colleagues, an online game about redistricting, and websites that collect cool and/or brainy quotes. The sentiment seems timely as collaboration and innovation, from my vantage point, are two of the most commonly used words by leaders nowadays. Last week, I attended an annual meeting in which the main theme was “collaboration + innovation for the future.”
Okay, if we’re on the same page about desired qualities in our leaders, now what?
As an academic, I’m thinking higher ed needs to expand its scholarship and curriculum on collaborative and innovative leadership. As a practitioner, I’d add there’s a desperate need to elevate (and teach) proven processes and practices that get leaders to a place of collaboration and innovation within and between organizations and between and within leaders and followers. As a global citizen, I sit here wishing for a future shaped by collaborative leaders that step back and engage/challenge citizens to work together to find innovative systemic solutions to society’s most long-standing and disruptive challenges.
Clearly, Reich is right!