Monday, November 18, 2013

Dr. Faulkner: What is the Next Big Thing?

One of the challenges we constantly face is to chart a successful course for the future of the college.  New and exciting things are constantly presented to us so there is no shortage of ideas.  The task is to determine which are the wise choices and which are flash-in-the pan.

Which company would you guess invented the digital camera?  Sony?  Canon?  Nikon?  Actually the first patent was issued to Eastman Kodak.  The first digital camera was created in 1975.  It weighed 8 pounds and was about the size of a toaster.  It had a resolution of 0.01 megapixels and produced black and white pictures.  The camera took 23 seconds to record an image to digital tape and another 23 seconds to read it back to view on a TV screen.  It had a capacity of 12 pictures.

The story is that when the camera was presented to the board, it was met with derision and resistance.  After all, Eastman Kodak was a chemical, film, and photographic paper company, not an electronics company. You probably know the end of the story.  In 2009 Eastman Kodak stopped producing their most popular product (Kodachrome) and its processing ended in December, 2010.  The company filed for bankruptcy in 2012.  The digital camera made film based photography obsolete.

So how do we avoid missing significant opportunities and at the same time avoid wasting resources on ineffective or short-lived fads?  I think there are five important answers to this question:

1     Stayed informed.  We must be vigilant in being aware of emerging products, methods, and trends.
    Keep looking forward.   We must not tie ourselves to tradition just for the sake of tradition.  We can’t  afford  to become complacent.
    Be willing to take risks, to experiment, to pilot.  We need to have a safe environment where people are  not  afraid to try something new because of fear of failure.  Even a failure contains a lesson.
    Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.  Evaluate what we are doing now and if it is ineffective, try something new.     Evaluate the results of anything new and make data informed decisions.
5     Listen to the students.  We must be sensitive to the feedback students give us about our college.

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