Monday, October 26, 2015

Anticipating the Future

The world is changing fast, and change in the world of community colleges (and higher education as a whole) seems only to be accelerating in pace and complexity. One question that might give many community college presidents pause is, “What mechanism do you have in place to anticipate the future and build capacity to position the college accordingly?” I’m proud to say that the Strategic Horizon Network is the primary mechanism for MVCC, and more recently, Hawk Vision is the newest piece to our future-anticipating puzzle.

Since 2008, MVCC has been a member of the Strategic Horizon Network (SHN), a small group of community colleges from the Eastern and Midwestern parts of the country that twice a year bring teams of faculty and staff together in fascinating colloquia. I like to call it common learning through uncommon experiences, because the premise of the network design is that in order to more effectively anticipate the future, we must go beyond the boundaries of higher education to get exposed to new ideas and concepts necessary to help us do so.

For example, about six years ago, SHN took us to California to spend time with IDEO – a design firm in the Silicon Valley that helped create Apple’s first mouse and several other products that have helped to change society. We learned about their use of design thinking. On the surface, one could say design thinking is a modern form of brainstorming, but it’s so much more: It’s a process to understand the root cause of an issue that needs to be addressed; it changes the problem-solving process by continually asking “how might we?” and adds the value of accelerated prototypes. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlighted design thinking as a necessary tool for creatively building organizational capacity for the complexities of the future – six years after our first contact with the topic. 

About five years ago, SHN spent time hearing from researchers on abundance and positive psychology work with the Gallup Strengthsfinder. The colloquium experience gave us a view of how it all applied in a food company in Ann Arbor where they operate eight different businesses (deli, creamery, bakery, restaurant, etc.) and explored similar application in the culture of Quicken Loans. Simultaneously, we began to more intentionally prototype our use of the Gallup Strengthsfinder with our employees and students. As a result, we launched the use of the Gallup Strengthsfinder with all degree-seeking students in our ED 100 College Success Seminar class, and “Strengths” is part of MVCC. This past summer, a Time magazine article focused on these topics and espoused that 457 of the Fortune 500 companies use the Gallup Strengthsfinder in some manner. In a world of growing similarities among colleges, MVCC students have a distinctive experience when they discover their “strengths” and learn how to apply them for personal and academic success.

Now we have Hawk Vision.  Similar to the InnovationWorks group at fellow SHN member, Montgomery College in Maryland, Hawk Vision is a small group of faculty and staff with a significant role at MVCC – to continually scan and explore trends that will shape the future of community colleges; identify where innovation is occurring at MVCC and find ways to amplify it and help bring it to scale. As the first community college in New York State, MVCC takes great pride in anticipating the future, and with the Strategic Horizon Network and Hawk Vision in place, we’re increasing our odds to continue that tradition. 

If you have any questions or comments on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.