Higher ed insights on our company’s one-year anniversary
We’ve learned so much.
This year we fulfilled a long-held dream after decades in higher education: We launched our own company. Now we consult with presidents and senior leaders on strategy and communication, and our work has been a joy: fulfilling, exciting, creative and launched at a critical time in higher education. Though our client base is quite broad—public and private, large research universities and small liberal arts colleges, associations and boards—these institutions share many common challenges and opportunities that are affecting higher education in 2017. Here are some of the most prominent themes and trends we have observed over the past year:
Something fascinating happened over a 7-week period this fall: several universities announced enormous gifts, innovative partnerships, or both, aimed at hugely ambitious and strategic goals in health and science. Each of these announcements represented a clear strategic vision on the part of the school, as well as highly effective communications work that helped to leverage media coverage and storytelling content for positive momentum and visibility.
Today is the official start date of our new consulting practice focused on strategic planning, vision and goal setting, communications, leadership and organizational development for higher education and related institutions. This moment is exciting on many levels. We have enormous respect for each other—the intellect, creativity, and ambitious thinking that has characterized our work both together and as individuals will now directly benefit our clients. Our work with colleges and universities is both inspiring and satisfying. In addition to our expertise in higher education, we partner with a range of organizations that advance the world’s knowledge, including research institutes, foundations, nonprofits, start-ups, and other entities with a related mission. Continue reading →
I keep coming back to this 2009 TED talk by Simon Sinek on the power of “why.” I often find the really smart people I work with jump right into the details: what they’re going to do and how it should be done. I also have found that academic leaders, in particular, frequently begin their communication with statements about problems or deficiencies. I think this is because they spend their careers as scholars identifying problems to solve and challenging one another’s research in order to expose the flaws and make sure it holds up.
However, once you move into leadership, the job is different. You need to inspire and motivate the people around you to give their best effort, even when the going gets tough. To do this, it’s important to start with the “why”: Why are we doing this? What will it look like if we are wildly successful? Research shows that a positive and clear articulation of the destination inspires people and makes them work harder. Stating your goals and aspirations in a positive way is much more likely to get your team working enthusiastically, persuade the organization to commit resources, and win support from donors. Continue reading →
“One of the pivotal questions of our times that merits debating is merit itself.”
So begins Nancy Cantor’s recent essay in The Atlantic, described as a “dispatch from the Aspen Ideas Festival” where Cantor was a featured speaker this year.
I have known Nancy for a long time now, where as University of Michigan provost and social psychologist she was deeply involved in the institution’s defense of affirmative action in admissions. We experienced first-hand her passion for the issues of diversity and inclusion, and her articulation that all students benefit deeply from a richly diverse campus environment. Continue reading →