Systemness (to borrow Nancy Zimpher’s term) is without a doubt central to the sustainable future of 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 how the organ systems of the body work together? Or, from the structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets or the plot and power of Toni Morrison’s Beloved?
Very specifically, what can we learn from studying our comprehensive health care systems?
While we will keep 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? And does all of these things guided by the everlasting motto of 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 🙂
On the one-year anniversary of starting this blog, I wanted to share two videos from OK Go. One is the behind-the-scenes glimpse at a collaborative project with the modern dance troupe Pilobolus, and the second is the result. The videos illustrate maximizing creativity through collaboration, both on an individual and group level.
And what a fun outcome!
Behind the Scenes- Making of All Is Not Lost
The Result – All Is Not Lost
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!
G’day, I came across this Australian organization, Collaboration for Impact, which “helps communities work better together to tackle their toughest problems.” Their website is a great resource for practitioners and scholars interested in collaboration, collective impact, blogs, events, and other relevant and current information on collaborative thinking.
And, if you happen to be in Melbourne this May, check out their annual conference.
Taking a leadership role to find a cure to cancer, Vice President Biden is challenging scientists to collaborate. Biden acknowledged that research silos have stunted progress, and that collaboration among researchers and collaborative research specifically will be essential and the key to accelerating cures to cancer. The organization, Stand Up to Cancer, is leading an effort to promote innovation and collaboration, and is an excellent example of collaborative infrastructure being established to find innovative solutions to address a global health challenge.
Often, I am asked if there are other organizations like SOCHE. The answer is, “Yes, in fact, there are many different types of consortia in higher education with unique missions and goals.” Going a step further, there is the Association for Collaborative Leadership, which serves as a consortium of consortia. ACL is “an educational, research and professional organization dedicated to developing leadership capabilities and advancing higher education collaboration.”
I have attended numerous ACL conferences over the years and discovered great value in the networking with other executives, rich content of the presenters, and the valuable research shared. In addition to the annual professional engagements, ACL provides research, resources, and tools to help advance and evaluate effective collaborations. I recommend you see for yourself their research on Deep Academic and Administrative Collaborations, which is a working document and updated regularly.
The future of higher education will be shaped by deep and sustained inter- and intra-institutional partnerships. This ACL resource will serve campuses as a good guide for best and common practices.
During its ten-year history, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize has selected and honored authors who have improved humanity through their work and words. Every year I go to the DLPP ceremony both the fiction and non-fiction winners inspire me to want to do more. This year, I asked Gloria Steinem, who received the 2015 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, “What else can I do?” Gloria’s lifetime as an author and activist changed the lives of women all over the world. Now, in her 80s, she keeps on going. Her answer to me at first was modest, suggesting I’m already doing so much and just keep it up. But she also talked about small change, and living a conscientious life. Always be aware of the choices you make and how they impact others. Make the choices that contribute to social justice and an improved humanity.
What else can you do?
I’m excited to join the board of the International Leadership Association. Off to Barcelona for their 2015 global conference and my board orientation. The ILA promotes a deeper understanding of leadership knowledge and practices for the greater good of individuals and communities worldwide. The organization’s reach has grown substantially over the years; it has become the premier nonprofit for leaders and leadership across all domains. Becoming part of ILA’s governing body is an honor. I look forward to working collaboratively with my board colleagues and the ILA team. Barcelona, here I come!
I received recommendations for two books that I wanted to pass along. The first book is the Silo Effect: The Perils of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tett, and the second book is Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal. Both books, which I’ve just started to read, appear to challenge systems that do not work collaboratively, and expose how silos and bureaucracy hinder innovation.