Make a Calculated Pivot

Everyone associated with colleges and universities today is facing a marketplace situation that is a catalyst for creating innovative and relevant solutions that are wanted and needed despite so many uncomfortable circumstances. Change is the new reality, and it is time for all colleges and universities to pivot—and take calculated risks.

Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College and a past presenter at our Summer Seminar, recently shared his thoughts in the Chronicle: “In this instance, as in most others, it is better to anticipate and plan for change than merely to hope that it will not arrive.” And as Arizona State University president Michael Crow shared in a recent “Weekly Wisdom” interview hosted by Bridget Burns and Jeff Selingo, colleges and universities must always adjust to realities by constantly planning, operating, modifying, and staying focused on outcomes, not the chaos of the moment.

One of the most authentic “edupreneurs” in higher education, Concordia University’s Eric LaMott, recently shared with us a metaphorical description of today’s marketplace when he noted that the situation is like a 100-yard sprint. The 100-yard sprint creates a perception that the winning runner is simply running faster than all the others. But the reality is that the others are slowing down, giving the illusion that the winner is running faster. Due to mental focus and training, the winner is at an advantage by staying focused on the outcome. In higher education, the slowing down frequently occurs as peer institutions allow distractions and mission drifting, which then draws precious resources away from the mission/student centric outcomes. Meanwhile, the winner succeeds by focusing on what is necessary to finish.

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In the spirit of today’s higher education marketplace, a pivot mindset is necessary to succeed, but not at a “haste makes waste” pace. Calculated pivoting that is informed by authentic market intelligence will lead to intelligent solutions. Instead of resorting to an “I have to sprint from the start to win” mindset, colleges and universities must focus on what is necessary to succeed now and in the future for all—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of their respective communities—and plan accordingly with a sense of urgency and commitment. And as we always note, then get to doing it. Walk the talk, and you and your institution will have a much better chance of finishing in a winning manner.


Post-Pandemic Prediction

Brian Rosenberg suspects distance learning will be “good enough” for many families in a world of sharply diminished resources. (Source: Chronicle)

Leadership Lessons

ASU President Michael Crow shares what is giving him hope and how to think about the work ahead. (Source: Weekly Wisdom)

Planning Amid Uncertainty

After dramatic first steps to keep people safe and keep learning alive, here’s what to do in the weeks and months to come. (Source: McKinsey)