Innovation Extracts provides a quick look at current thought regarding leadership and management of planning and improvement initiatives.

If you have any questions or comments about what you read here, or if you would like to suggest items for future Innovation Extracts, please contact Barbara Sherlock, Senior Planning and Improvement Associate in the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment, at 814-863-8721 or psupia@psu.edu.

Quality Endeavors Issue No. 123 October 2009

Innovation Extracts:
Higher Education and the New Society, George Keller

In his last book, Higher Education and the New Society (Johns Hopkins Press, 2008) noted author George Keller examines the history and current situation of higher education, and presents some options for major change.

Keller points out four key changes in society over the past 50 years that have had an impact on higher education:

  • Demographics
  • Technology
  • Economics
  • Socio-cultural

As a result of these changes, there are greater economic divisions, and more students have part-time jobs and need financial aid. Technology has led to a communications revolution, with impacts on teaching, research, and libraries. There is an increasing need for skills for jobs, and greater demand for higher education. Society emphasizes equal opportunity for all and more individuality.

To this point in time, higher education has responded to these changes with only incremental adjustments to a 100 year old structure. There are improved admissions processes, discounts to tuition, handicap access, and remedial and online courses. There is no change to the research and scholarship based structure that evolved from 1870 to 1910 to prepare students for work and provide both well-rounded and deep learning through a four-year degree. Institutions have not adapted to adult and part-time learners, have not figured out how to strategically address both the costs and benefits of information technology, and have not addressed increasing costs.

Additionally, higher education needs to be able to deal with:

  • Competition – from alternative organizations and alternative media
  • Increased demand – from both traditional and adult students
  • Collaboration with business – while maintaining independence
  • A global environment – while having a historically Western perspective

While Keller offers no clear solutions, he does present options for higher education to deal with these challenges through more than incremental initiatives:

  • Re-segment the current groupings of higher education institutions, from research, small liberal arts, large public, and two-year schools into some other category structure
  • Focus on accommodating the diverse expectations of adult learners
  • Rethink departments and disciplines
  • Revise cost structures by
    • Offering three-year degrees
    • Scheduling courses four semesters a year
    • Changing Division I sports

Quality Endeavors Issue No. 122 September 2009

Innovation Extracts:
Peter Drucker on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Public Service Organizations

Innovation and an entrepreneurial approach are key concepts in organizational performance and sustainability. As stakeholder needs and the environment change, organizations need to keep up with the changes, and, when possible, get ahead of them. Peter Drucker notes in his classic management publication, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (Harper and Row, 1974), and later in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HarperBusiness, 1993), that this may be more difficult for not-for-profit, public service organizations than it is for conventional profit driven organizations, but that it is possible and necessary.

For-profit businesses see performance results in close to real-time, based on customer purchases. Those results determines income, profits, and future budgets. Businesses may be considered successful if they capture 25% of their market, even though that indicates 75% of the population prefers the products of other organizations.

Service organizations differ from profit organizations in three ways.

  • First, they focus on ‘doing good’ in areas such as education, health, and community service, and have less tangible products.
  • Second, their budgets may be based on what they do, not on longer term results. While their activities are apparent – students taught, patients treated, clients counseled – the impact of their activities, such as a healthier or better educated population, may be harder to measure. Also, their funds are often provided by some source other than the immediate consumer of their product or service.
  • Third, service organizations need to maintain the support of most, if not all, of their stakeholders or constituents.

The effectiveness of the public service organization may thus be measured by its increasing budget and increasing services or activities, or by its efficiency, providing more services at a lesser cost. With no clear measure of impact, it can be difficult to end or change programs without losing stakeholder support.

Drucker provides the following guidelines to public service organizations to be ready and able to innovate and adapt to changing needs.

  1. Have a clear definition of the mission or purpose of the organization.
  2. Develop goals and objectives to fulfill the purpose of the organization. Goals should be realistic and achievable. Each goal should also have a quantitative measure, and an indication of when it has been achieved or completed. There should be no goals that can never be completed (for example ‘ending world hunger’).
  3. Recognize that specific programs are a means to an end or goal. Programs should be temporary and it should be clear what goal or end each program is supporting.
  4. Identify measures of performance for goals, objectives, and programs.
  5. Set priorities to accomplish results and hold those responsible accountable.
  6. Build feedback from results into the system.
  7. Have a systematic audit of objectives and results. Be ready to identify nonproductive or obsolete activities and unsatisfactory results and have a means to stop or eliminate those activities. Be willing to reassess objectives if they are not met. Consider that the objective could be wrong, or not measured correctly, or not attainable. Be ready to stop trying to meet it and ready to end related activities and programs. If old programs cannot be eliminated, it will be difficult to start new programs.
  8. Build into the organization the search for and support of innovative and entrepreneurial opportunities, and new objectives and programs to replace those that are eliminated.

While innovation and entrepreneurship may be more of a challenge in institutions of higher education and other public service organizations, it can be done. If opportunities are not addressed internally, someone else will address them externally, and the organization will eventually become obsolete.

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