Morriss-Olson, M. (2017) Why is it so difficult to nurture innovation and academic entrepreneurship at a college or university? Academic Impressions, March 9
Barriers to innovation and change
In the context of my series on innovation and change in post-secondary education/higher education, I found Morriss-Olson’s article interesting. It lists the following barriers to change:
- Risk avoidance
- Zero-sum thinking
- Tradition and culture
- Internal systems
- Recruitment processes
- Faculty (self-)governance
- Organizational silos
- Success (thus preserving the status quo).
This is a pretty formidable list and may well leave you wondering whether our post-secondary institutions have the capacity to change.
Removing the barriers
Above all, I think the many barriers Morriss-Olson lists are well understood. What is lacking is agreement on what needs to be done to remove these barriers.
Morriss-Olson makes the interesting point that ‘institutional resiliency may depend more on mindset than skill set.’ I agree that mindset is important to bring about innovation and change, but I think a lot more is needed, such as:
- an understanding of how the post-secondary education market/demographics will change over the coming years (e.g. more lifelong learning)
- a clear vision for teaching and learning in the future (including online/blended learning and a focused approach to ’21st century’ skills development),
- new financial strategies (e.g. new business models), and, unfortunately,
- a fear of real threat to the existence of an institution if it doesn’t change.
I suspect if institutions can confront the four issues above, the 10 barriers listed by Morriss-Olson will be weakened or undermined, making change not only possible but inevitable.
In other words, build a compelling vision for what is needed in the future, then deal with the barriers, otherwise any attempt to change will go nowhere. For an example, see my blog post: https://www.tonybates.ca/2019/07/28/some-thoughts-on-the-future-of-public-higher-education/