A university is an epicentre of ideas, a concept factory, the rightful birthplace of innovations and products that make the world a better place in which to live. It is a think-tank for the betterment of society and social enrichment.
Yet universities find themselves in profoundly difficult territory, damaged by turbulent economic landscapes, intense competition and strained funding models. Unless the role of the university is reinvigorated in a proficient way, its ability to achieve its mission will be impaired.
And with its mission impaired, relevance declines.
How can leadership and management teams navigate today’s increasingly dynamic environments to develop a vital and thriving organisation capable of delivering great socio-economic benefits?
Developing an Ecosystem
Utilising The University Imperative framework, each university can create a perfect harmony of concepts that interplay relentlessly in the production and reproduction of organisational direction and organisational character. In developing its own ecosystem, each university can stare down the barrel of unprecedented, apparently insurmountable complexity, and navigate a way forward to deliver even better outcomes that benefit our societies.
Let’s recap a little on concepts briefly introduced in The University Imperative and previous blogs.
First, every university can peer through the white noise of uncertain and dynamic environments, and consistently pare back to basics to establish ‘intent’ through setting direction and generating purpose. The changing natures of workforces, the rise of innovation and entrepreneurship, and addressing societal needs are key 'north stars' for universities when setting direction. Delivering profound socio-economic benefits from academic impact through collaborative impact is the purpose of universities.
Second, with intent firmly established, all universities can maintain 'focus' by consistently combining an understanding of the knowledge-capital value chain with the discernment of an opportunity spectrum. An understanding of the nature of resources, market segments, paths-to-markets and delivery mechanisms helps establish a core strategy. Discerning an opportunity spectrum helps to competitively position offerings, prioritise them and effectively allocate resources to them.
Intent and focus help universities decide what to do and are two concepts at the framework’s conceptual core. They have a predominantly strategic orientation and put universities into position to take pro-active approaches to the identification of ‘priority opportunities’.
Third, based on how socio-economic benefits consistently manifest from universities (the ‘spheres-of-impact’), three other concepts – ‘curate’, ‘shape’ and ‘deliver’ – emerge. These are the critical proficiencies which all universities must master to deliver those benefits. They have a predominantly tactical orientation, shifting priority opportunities to ‘tangible opportunities’ (the process of curation), then to ‘active partnerships’ (the process of shaping), and then, together with their partners, to the delivery of great socio-economic benefits (the process of delivering).
Fourth, the process works in sync with a combination of well structured engagement, operating and implementation models. Engagement must be purposeful, requiring the objective and purpose of engaging to be understood, so that effective internal and external engagement activities operate in tandem. An operating model shaped around critical proficiencies provides alignment of key actions required to deliver great societal impact, with enabling programs to support those actions, and an ability to draw the right resources from the various organisational functions. An implementation model that recognises the impact of the operating landscape (internal and external environments) on strategic and implementation decision-making, that is anchored by intent, critical proficiencies and operating model, and that utilises five key system-based activities (sensing, sourcing, marshalling, serving and harmonising), delivers the desired outcomes.
Fifth, and most importantly, the process of identification of a set of priority opportunities, and moving to tangible opportunities, then to active partnerships then to the delivery of socio-economic benefits is a relentless, but consistent, one. And, over time, complexity, richness and efficiency can be incrementally incorporated in the process, drawing on new and different parts of university expertise, and generating the possibility of multiple, customised and targeted societal benefits.
Crucially, the fundamentals of the framework remain the same at all times, irrespective of the stage of development. Furthermore, the functionality of the framework to derive impact can be applied consistently across the depth and span of organisation, regardless of strategic or tactical orientation. The framework can be applied at an executive level, and within discrete groups, faculties, schools, and research institutes, and across several of those elements. This consistency arises because the framework identifies the fundamental matters that require attention, and which remain constant regardless of the dynamism of environments.
It is the application of the various components of the engagement, operating and implementation models that vary, depending upon the different operating contexts that universities face due to this dynamism. This is why establishing the right organisational character, but with an unflinching eye on the overarching framework, is a major contributor to success.
My book The University Imperative – Delivering Socio-economic Benefits for our World provides this powerful framework, and explains the interplay of organisational character to bring the delivery of tremendous socio-economic benefits to life, as environments ebb and flow, sometimes calmly, sometimes turbulently. There are some really insightful concepts and examples detailed throughout.
I hope the book will help you. A lot!
In the next blog I’ll share something I commenced writing for The University Imperative – Delivering Socio-economic Benefits for our World that didn’t make the final edit. Not because it wasn’t worthy, it just wasn’t meant for this book (but it will be in the next).
The University Imperative can help university leaders and management teams, business leaders, entrepreneurs, government and policy makers, social impact creators and investors, as well as leaders and employees in SME’s, global enterprises and government.
So, I started writing about the multifaceted partnership models on offer to, and being utilised by, universities (and other organisations alike) to deliver great socio-economic benefits. There is a lot to canvass here! So with the first book I decided to predominantly focus on the conceptual framework that all universities (and organsiations) must apply to deliver great socio-economic benefits.
The next book will provide an explanation of the nature of the exchanges that occur between universities and their partners, collaborators and stakeholders. An understanding is crucial to the ability to establish the value propositions required to be successful – there are three. The book will also delve into the partnering process, from all aspects of an exchange. And, will drill down into concrete examples of partnership models which can deliver great socio-economic benefits.
In the meanwhile, make sure you visit the website: www.nicholasmathiou.com. There’s more useful stuff there as well.
I look forward to our continued journey.
Nick & The University Imperative team.