The Patterns of Fragmentation and Integration

Think of a student whose parents are incarcerated and who has bounced around multiple group and foster homes. He gets placed with a family member for awhile who makes sure he has a positive education experience and good physical & mental care. That caregiver falls ill and he has to move back to his hometown. His records— academic and health— do not follow him and he is put in classes that he had already passed and quickly gets disengaged and drops out. He gets into trouble and is sentenced to 18 months in juvie. 

Think of a teacher who is dedicated to creating new experiences for her students. She wants to prioritize outdoor learning but is based in New York City where there are only a few comfortable months to explore outside. Her plans are stifled by constraints and leaders and she doesn’t see a path forward. There is a culture of perfection that doesn’t support an adaptive mindset. However, she persists and shifts her lens from outside learning to outside of the box learning. She took her students to Mars by putting all clocks on Mars time, having projects for students to explore different aspects of the planet, and inviting experts to guide their space adventure.

These stories are the imperative for the Integration Design Consortium(IDC). In the first, the fragmentation of the services led to a young person to fall through the cracks. The second highlights an educator providing great educational experiences despite her environment both weather and school. In both cases, more integrated systems could combat isolation and distrust.

How might we move up the intervention points for young people struggling with their education? How might we create an ecosystem that is resilient, supportive, and brings together the many services that touch young people’s lives?

 

For the past year, BIF has been leading the Learning Agenda for the Integration Design Consortium—  a new approach to integrating our education system that brings together five design team to create new, innovative approaches within education. The teams— 2Revolutions, Bellwether, Education First, FSG, and The Teachers Guild— are working from the classroom to the statehouse to create a more integrated, equitable education system.

The IDC exists to (1) build greater understanding of the approaches and conditions that enable integration in the education sector (2) codify stories, tools, and resources to amplify the impact of the participating design teams and the education field as a whole, and (3) catalyze interest in the issue of fragmentation more broadly. Ultimately, we seek to create compelling models that employ an integrated approach — as opposed to fragmented point-solutions. Greater integration is needed if we are to create transformational, equitable change in the field of education.

But what does fragmentation actually look like? What does integration feel like? And how might we better understand the conditions that must be put in place for us to move towards further integration?

At the second convening of the IDC, we set out to identify the key levers to integration based on the teams’ project experiences. These real-world examples provided a break down of the aspects that are most vital to creating a poor or an excellent state of integration. These dimensions became a foundation for our conversations and a way to observe how systems that project teams are working on are changing over time, ideally towards further integration.

Check out this video representation of our learnings and connect with us on Twitter @TheBIF to let us know what fragmentation looks like in your context. For more on the IDC, visit our site at https://www.integration-design-consortium.org/

The first iteration of these findings can be found in this document: Patterns Of Fragmentation And Integration. 


What’s Business Models Got to Do With It?

At most education events, other attendees will see our nametags and say ‘Business Innovation Factory? What’s up with that?!’ There are examples of new and exciting business models all around us that are bringing us enhanced experiences and increased value—from TV streaming to writing to senators from your phone. However, our education field has not seen as many transformational models or practices at the scale and impact that students desperately need.

There are major issues facing our K-12 education landscape— lack of student engagement, a teaching force that doesn’t reflect the diversity of the students, and fragmented policies and practices that make meaningful change difficult to achieve. On a systemic level, we have a lot of work to do to create a multitude of new approaches needed for a robust 21st-century education ecosystem. We need a new way of addressing education in the US — from cradle to lifelong learning. 

At the Business Innovation Factory, we answer that call to action by creating the conditions for the research and design of next practices and new business models. In education, we help leaders create new business models that tackle complex, systemic issues through human-centered design and rapid prototyping. BIF’s Student Experience Lab starts from the perspective of teachers and students and uses those insights and partnerships to create conceptual designs and prototypes that we can test in the real world.

Last month BIF’s Cheif Market Maker Eli MacLaren and Student Experience Lab Manager Jessica Brown sat down with the team at New Profit’s Reimagine Learning team for their monthly ‘Voices from the Field’ webinar series.

In this webinar we:

  1. Unpacked and explored the imperative for business model innovation
  2. Shared a proven design methodology to create business models capable of scale
  3. Took a deep dive into a case study that shows our methodology in action
  4. Shared the conditions leaders have created to amplify their innovation agendas

Check it out below!

 

Join us in transforming education.


Integration Nation: Insights from the IDC

“We are in a time of great innovation.. and a time of great divides.” It sounds like the beginning of a great hero’s story, and in a way it is.

Our education landscape is at a crossroads. Too many students— often those who are marginalized based on race, ability, class etc.— are being left out or pushed out of the classroom. In response, we have created ambitious goals that seek to redesign our system— but often we aren’t fundamentally changing how we work or collaborate in order to reach these goals. As Eli MacLaren, BIF’s Chief Market Maker, mentioned in her recent blog post, the education system is fragmented by design and if we aren’t intentional it will stay that way.

One cohort working to change that is the Integration Design Consortium (IDC), a group brought together by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and facilitated by the Business Innovation Factory. The IDC exists to enable greater integration within education in order to increase equitable outcomes for students.

(Full panel discussion with the IDC)

This podcast is moderated by Eli and features: Molly McMahon from the Teachers Guild, Hailly Korman from Bellwether Education Partners, Alissa Peltzmann from Education First, Todd Kern from 2Revolutions, and David Garfunkel from FSG. Throughout the discussion, folks hit on important challenges, curiosities, and considerations for the education field. Our calls to action are clear:

  • Innovate and integrate in service of a more equitable education system — [and know that innovation is only valuable as it affects things that matter in the lives of kids]
  • Solve the toughest problems and hold ourselves accountable to results
  • Iterate quickly and intentionally
  • Embody a human-centered approach to problem-solving that prep our students to solve the complex problems of tomorrow

(Insights from Molly McMahon with the Teachers Guild)

(Insights from Todd Kern from 2Revolutions)

This story is full of complex challenges, a willingness to do things differently, and shared responsibility and urgency. We look forward to sharing the progress and ongoing learnings from this work. Let us know what resonates with your work!

Join Us in Transforming Education Together


BIF Welcomes Global Legal Services Provider Epiq as New Member

PROVIDENCE – April 24, 2018 –  The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is pleased to announce its newest member Epiq, a global leader in the legal services, to enable transformational next practices and new business models to reimagine the customer experience.

As members, Epiq will have access to the BIF network of institutional business model innovators and unique approach to developing next practices and new business models, utilizing BIF’s Design Methodology and over 14 years of experience in the innovation space.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Epiq as a Corporate Member in BIF’s innovation community and to begin working together to integrate customer-centered business model innovation into Epiq’s product innovation roadmap. Epiq shares BIF’s passion for transforming customer experience by continually exploring new ways to create, deliver, and capture value. Epiq’s commitment to innovation will enable it to strengthen its market leadership position in providing differentiated technology and data-enabled legal services” said BIF Founder and Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan.

“Our approach to innovation includes product innovation, process innovation, and business model innovation,” said Cliff Dutton, chief innovation officer. “We are working with BIF to bring best and next practices in client-centric business model innovation to our product innovation roadmap.”

Utilizing BIF’s innovation expertise, Epiq will be focused on building a client-centric business model innovation into their product innovation roadmap, connecting leaders with a proven methodological approach to becoming market makers, unleashing new customer and commercial value by imagining, designing, prototyping, and commercializing transformational data products, services, and new business models.

 

About Epiq

Epiq, a global leader in the legal services industry, takes on large-scale, increasingly complex tasks for corporate counsel, law firms, and business professionals with efficiency, clarity, and confidence. Clients rely on Epiq to streamline the administration of business operations, class action and mass tort, court reporting, eDiscovery, regulatory, compliance, restructuring, and bankruptcy matters. Epiq subject-matter experts and technologies create efficiency through expertise and deliver confidence to high-performing clients around the world. Learn more at www.epiqglobal.com.

 

Start Your BIF Membership Today


BIF Welcomes the Alliance for Innovation & Transformation as its Newest Member

Providence, RI (April 23, 2018) —  The Business Innovation Factory (BIF) is pleased to welcome our newest Member, the Alliance for Innovation & Transformation (AFIT), a learning network of 50 community colleges and higher ed organizations committed to transforming student experience and outcomes.

AFIT’s mission is to lead systemic change in higher education by providing learning, development, and networking opportunities focused on customer-driven value. AFIT and its members recognize the imperative to not just improve incrementally but to transform the higher education experience.  

“AFIT is a great addition to our innovation community,” said BIF Founder and Chief Catalyst, Saul Kaplan. “Community college is a lynchpin for needed transformational change in our national higher education system. It is the perfect bridge for so many between K-12, higher ed, and the workplace. We’re excited for this opportunity to engage AFIT members to help make transforming higher ed safer and easier to manage.”  

This year’s AFIT strategic theme is business model innovation and BIF has been selected as the Lead Learning Partner for the Annual AFIT Summer Institute planned for this August in Kansas City. AFIT members attending the Summer Institute will embark on an innovation journey to imagine, design, prototype and test entirely new business models and next practices to transform student experience and outcomes and to create sustainable futures for their higher ed institutions.

At the AFIT Summer Institute, BIF will guide over 250 participants through our Business Model Design Process giving them tangible tools and skills to take back home on their campuses to explore and test next practices and transformational new business models. The teams will also explore the conditions necessary for their innovation strategies to be successful at scale. In AFIT’s own words, no longer will “‘take no action’ or ‘move forward with incremental change’ mindsets sustain operations; innovation and organizational transformation must become a priority.”

We have already started working on a project with six AFIT community colleges that signed up and dedicated the time and expertise of their presidents and leadership teams to become “early adopters” of BIF’s Business Model Design Process. These community colleges are being guided by BIF’s Methodology to prototype and test next practices and new business models relevant to their own context. Each team is adopting a student experience lens as a foundation for design to help them reimagine how their community college might transform how they create, deliver, and capture value.

Here at BIF, our Student Experience Lab (SXL), is focused on the imperative for business model innovation in education, from pre-K to higher ed to workforce development. Our national higher ed system was designed for a different era and hasn’t innovated its business model fast enough, leaving a growing number of students behind.

As BIF Members, AFIT will access our network of institutional business model innovators in education, health care, and public services to take advantage of opportunities to connect to a steady flow of business model design ideas, practices, and tools.

We’re honored to welcome AFIT as a BIF Member and to catalyze transformational change for higher ed institutions in its learning network. We look forward to sharing what we learn with the broader BIF community.  

Make sure to follow along on Twitter (@BIFsxl) for updates on our collaboration! And if becoming a BIF Member sounds intriguing, find more information here. We’d love to talk.

Start Your BIF Membership Today


We’re Hiring: Experience Designer

BIF makes business model transformation safer and easier to manage for institutional leaders. We do this for businesses and in complex social systems in healthcare, education, and public sectors.

As an Experience Designer at BIF, you will work as part of a multi-disciplinary team that focuses on understanding real user problems & business opportunities, designing, building, prototyping, testing, and iterating to create scalable solutions that address our clients’ most pressing problems. Members of the BIF Experience Design team will be focused on driving impact and creating genuine value for clients and internal users.

As an Experience Designer you will:

  • Work in multi-disciplinary teams to create user-centered experiences and solutions, while balancing business goals and technical implications
  • Use design-led thinking to communicate how a solution can satisfy user needs, business goals, technical constraints, and other project requirements
  • Lead secondary research efforts to build foundational knowledge in lab domain areas
  • Contribute to and/or lead ethnographic fieldwork efforts (start to finish) which generate powerful observations and insights
  • Help synthesize data and translate observations and insights into transformational ideas for new solutions and approaches
  • Create interactive prototypes at various levels of fidelity to showcase user experience and solutions
  • Craft and articulate a compelling story that helps people connect with the work
  • Have exposure to a broad array of client needs and industries

As an Experience Designer you will be expected to:

  • Activate user insights and opportunities through a lens of business strategy
  • Combine fluency in qualitative research methods and data analysis with an ability to move beyond research as outcome, to research as input to real-world solutions
  • Explore new and novel approaches to research and its application in BIF’s lab work
  • Have experience with or be open to working within the human-centered design process
  • Be prepared to lead conversations having to do with “what to do and why” as well as the “how” of implementation
  • Possess an entrepreneurial mindset and work comfortably with ambiguous problems in a dynamic environment
  • Work collaboratively or independently as needed
  • Have excellent writing and communication skills
  • Be willing to travel

This is a full-time position in Providence, R.I., salary range starts at $40,000 for Experience Designer, $55,000 for Senior Experience Designer, based on your skill and experience. If this sounds like you, please send a resume, cover letter, and writing sample. All materials should be sent to stephanie@bif.is

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability status.

We are a lean team, which will provide you opportunities to present directly to our senior leaders. Your impact will be felt immediately!

 

 


Congrats to #BIF2017 Storyteller Alan Webber!

BIF is overjoyed to share in the news of longtime supporter and BIF storyteller Alan Webber’s election as Mayor of Santa Fe!

Since the start of the BIF summit, we’ve heard from over 500 innovators across every sector and discipline who have inspired both audience and fellow storytellers alike to shift their lens, to think differently, and to take action in order to transform the world. Alan Webber’s story is no exception.

Taking to the #BIF2017 stage, Webber shared his journey from the co-founder of Fast Company magazine, to the rise of entrepreneurship, to where we are now in a  politically driven climate – and a hint of where he might be heading.

Encouraging the audience to create meaningful change through civic engagement, his ask of the audience? To run for office. To step up and make a show of support and show of voice to make a difference. The answer-back? “Run Alan, Run!”

At BIF, we believe in the power of storytelling. The power to create change. To connect, inspire, and transform. We’re thrilled to share a part in Alan’s story and be witnessing the next chapter in his, truly exemplifying what it means to inspire us all and be a changemaker.

“Once in a while you encounter a gathering that says it’s about ideas, and, well, it’s about ideas and more. It’s about a way of sharing ideas that are friendly. Honest. Comfortable. Unassuming. It’s about a way of bringing people together so they actually get to engage with each other. It’s about a mindset that is genuine. Which only happens because the people who stand behind the conference are genuine. And honestly interested in the right stuff, the real stuff, the stuff that matters. And that’s what makes BIF matter for me.”

Alan Webber, Founding Editor at Fast Company and Mayor-Elect of Santa Fe


Teachers 4 Equity

The Student Experience Lab partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to engage teachers in creating and leading local communities of practice focused on issues of equity and closing opportunity and achievement gaps.

Discourse on race and student success has largely revolved around measures of academic performance; however, the achievement gaps noted across racial and cultural lines are indicators of deeper problems: a lack of racial consciousness and the presence of systemic racism.

The current U.S. public school system is built on the beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes valued by white culture. With schools becoming increasingly racially diverse, it is imperative to eliminate the practices and cultural messages that are detrimental to the well-being of students of color and their ability to thrive academically.

Problems stemming from systemic racism often manifest on the classroom level. Racial and cultural disconnects between teachers and administrators and students often lead to miscommunication, disengagement, and disproportionate penalization.

This led us to ask:

How might we transform the values, norms, and practice of the classroom?

How might we activate teachers to change not only what is taught, but how it is taught, how teachers and students engage, and how school communities learn and grow together?

 

BIF is proud to present the work of this year-long endeavor to help education leaders explore, test, and scale next practices and new models, tackling complex, systemic issues through human-centered design and rapid prototyping.

Read More

 


Is Your CEO Serious About Innovation?

I used to think that if I just yakked long and loud enough, I could convince CEOs to embrace transformational innovation.

It took me 25 years as a road warrior consultant, author, and accidental government bureaucrat to realize that proselytizing doesn’t work. If leaders don’t want to change, all the consulting jargon and fancy PowerPoints in the world won’t convince them to.

In those situations, no matter what lofty rhetoric the CEO uses in public or at company retreats about “creating an innovation culture” and encouraging everyone to think outside of the box, the best result you can hope for are incremental innovations to improve the performance of today’s business model. You never get transformational new business models — and you always get frustrated if you were hoping for bolder change. If you want transformational innovation, you have to find leaders who want transformational change and are receptive to organizing differently for tweaks than for transformation. After learning this lesson the hard way over many years, I no longer try to convince CEOs who don’t want to change and instead try to find those CEO’s who do.

Here’s my list of 10 questions you can ask a CEO to tell if they are really serious about transformational innovation:

  1. Do you agree transformational innovation goes beyond breakthrough products to include business model innovation — entirely new ways to create, deliver and capture value?
  2. Will your employees tell me that failure is a career-limiting move, or that the company celebrates experimentation?
  3. How much time do you spend strengthening and protecting the current business model, versus designing the next one?
  4. Do you have clear and discrete objectives for both incremental and transformational innovation? Do you organize differently for each?
  5. Does your organization invest in R&D for new business models as it does for new products, services, and technologies?
  6. Are you prepared to have your organization disrupt itself? How do you see that playing out?
  7. Do internal ideas and projects that threaten to cannibalize the current business model get squashed — or nurtured?
  8. Do you have a process for allocating resources for transformational innovation projects that lie outside of the control of business units?
  9. Do executives with responsibility for exploring transformational business models report to you, or to another line executive responsible for today’s business?
  10. Are you willing to create a sandbox to explore transformational business models? Would you carve out a part of your current business/market to serve as an ongoing real-world innovation lab?

A few words of advice about using these questions in the real world: tread lightly, since no CEO likes to be put on the spot and drilled with a laundry list of questions. Pick a few of the ten to put into your own words to help you discern whether the company you work for or are thinking about working for (or with), has a leader who shares your appetite for transformational innovation. Better to know what kind of environment you’re going into in advance than to learn painful lessons later.

BIF M

 

My friend and Boston Globe innovation columnist, Scott Kirsner, has an interesting online platform for corporate innovation executives. You will want to check out and subscribe to Innovation Leader where you will find lots of food for innovation thought and where this post originally appeared.


Pulling the Lever — How Teachers are Deepening Student Learning

Let’s be honest, there are plenty of education buzzwords flying around: deeper learning might just be one you’ve heard. Regardless of whether you use the term “deeper learning” or not, skills like critical thinking, being a good communicator and being able to work effectively on a team are all concepts that you consider important for students to have.

If you’re an educator, you know that group projects, and student exhibitions can be amazing ways to engage students not just recipients of knowledge, but as active participants in their learning. That being said, the intention of this article is to get beyond the buzz; to explore what deeper learning is, it’s importance, and to provide some insight as to how teachers are preparing their students for a world outside of school.

 

Deeper Learning, as defined by the Hewlett Foundation, is a set of six competencies that focus on academic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal skills that we believe students need to have to prepare them as life-long learnings, and good citizens.

These competencies are:

  • Mastery of academic content
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Having a perseverance mindset
  • Self-directed learning

Even if a teacher hasn’t heard the term deeper learning, they are at the least familiar with these skills, or rather competencies.

 

If you were curious as to what deeper learning looked like in practice, you might find all these competencies at play at one of the official deeper learning schools, such as High Tech High in San Diego California, or the Big Picture Learning school Network. Many deeper learning advocates have pointed to these schools as exemplary models for what happens when educators collectively drive to deepen student learning. It comes as little surprise that when a school is given the opportunity to establish a mission around deeper learning, space for experimentation, and financial support, you will see deeper learning happening at multiple levels.

However, there has been less of an understanding as to what is going on in our nation’s public schools, many of which are more traditional in their approach to education. More problematically, an “us vs them” mentality has developed in terms of who is doing deeper learning, and who isn’t — creating more challenges in helping schools do more deeper learning. Our time spent in public high schools had revealed that most, if not all teachers, we’re doing some deeper learning work. It might not be happening every day with all 6 competencies, but we know teachers were looking to build out these skills (often times in between test prep, and coursework they just “needed to get through”). So to shine some light on the experience of public school educators with deeper learning, we went out and spoke to educators.

We interviewed educators from public schools in urban, suburban, and rural districts. We spoke with over 20 teachers, school leaders, and administrators. Our questions focused on pulling out teachers experiences as they implemented deeper learning competencies. We had educators speak to the enabling elements in their school or practice that allowed them to deepen student learning, as well as the barriers that restricted them from doing more or implementing all competencies more consistently. The interviews provided us with a plethora of stories that we were able to bring back to our Student Experience Lab where we dissected and analyzed our findings. After identifying patterns and trends, we were able to identify a model of the six most common barriers and enabler that would hold our findings together. We called this model LEVERS, which is an acronym for the six most common barriers and enablers educators’ faced when deepening student learning.

 

The LEVERS indicate that realities of school leadership, student equity, teacher versatility and experience, and school or education structure, could act as both barriers or enablers. For example, a school with a high turnover of school leadership often inhibits deeper learning in a school, whereas a school leader who supports her teachers and advocates for experimentation will have a profound impact the frequency and effectiveness of deeper learning. We published our findings and high-quality videos of our educator interviews on a web report. You can find it all at levers2learn.com. We encourage you to visit the report, and watch the videos, and share them.

From our initial research, we went back to the educators we had initially interviewed to present the LEVERS to see what resonated, and what could be improved. We also brainstormed what we might do, moving forward, to help push a school to do more deeper learning, more often. We established the Deeper Learning Academy, a cohort of teacher teams from 4 different high schools that would use a design-thinking methodology to help spread deeper learning in their school. Teams met up and came up with some compelling solutions. Some of these projects addressed teachers’ personal commitment to do more deeper learning in their practice, and others would be implemented across the school. Staying true to our methodology, we encouraged teachers to start small, prototype quickly, and build upon their learnings.


So what can you do with the LEVERS? As educators, we know that there is power in knowledge. The LEVERS model can be used and a school-wide self-assessment tool.

Deeper Learning occurs in various settings, though it may take different forms depending on the context of a given school. Understanding this context is half the battle. When teachers and school leaders have a grasp of their school’s Deeper Learning landscape, they have the power to act with intentionality. They can focus their energy on classroom and school-wide initiatives that are feasible within their context, while still having a potential impact on the students. Ultimately, the Levers2Learn framework can help educators and school leaders understand the landscape for potential deeper learning at their schools.

Deeper Learning in a given school is affected by where the school falls along the spectrums of all six Levers. Depending on where schools are, different opportunities and challenges may present themselves. Educators can utilize the LEVERS to form strategies to implement more Deeper Learning that can lead to school-wide change. Likewise, school leaders can use the LEVERS to find opportunities to leverage the ones that are currently helping the school implement Deeper Learning initiatives. In addition, both educators and school leaders can use the LEVERS to create strategies that can address any Levers that may be potential barriers towards Deeper Learning.

 

Although we do not feel like all LEVERS must be turned to the “on” position for a school to do deeper learning, having an understanding of what might presenting challenges to educators provides a great opportunity to work to break down some of the barriers. For example, we found that in one school many educators did not feel comfortable experimenting with new techniques and methods (limited versatility). The group of teachers we were working with decided that providing a low-stakes, safe way for teachers to try out deeper learning projects was a great way to help them feel included. Further, encouraging those teachers to look for the deeper learning they were already doing helped alleviate some of the “us vs them” mentality as to who was doing deeper learning and who was not.

So where do we go from here? Having gotten to work with the teacher teams has provided us with some great insight for how the LEVERS can be used, as well as how teachers can take a proactive approach towards the spread of deeper learning in their school. In the coming school year, we will be providing additional videos to the levers2learn website to help ground the conversation in how teachers are taking action. The videos, along with our analysis of the teacher teams’ experiences working towards implementing more deeper learning in their classrooms and schools, can be found at leverstolearn.com.


The Kids’ Table

Do you remember being stuck at the kids’ table for Thanksgiving dinner growing up? I do. There were always too many of us to all sit around one dinner table, so we had a secondary table off to the side, sometimes even in a separate room, to which the younger generation was relegated. I remember asking every year if I would be able to sit with the grownups. The conversation at their table ranged from sports to politics to family gossip, and whatever the topic it was always more animated and intense. I know why now: it’s because adults love to talk, debate, and argue about the sorry state of the world and how it should get better. But what an irony: those of us with the biggest stake in the future-our youth-were not at the table hearing or contributing to the conversation. Back then, all I understood was that the main table was where the action seemed to be, and I wanted in.

These days, I do get to sit at some main tables, but I try to stay mindful of whose voices aren’t being heard there-particularly when they are young and presumed not to have anything to add. I feel this most acutely in the debates around education reform. We keep kids off to the side while the adults talk and talk and talk about how to improve student experience and outcomes. And there’s another similarity to Thanksgiving meals: a lot of loud conversation and not much action! The talk at the grownup table never stops, yet year after year the education system in the US continues to atrophy and our students fall further behind the global curve. Every 29 seconds in America another student gives up on school, adding up to nearly a million high school dropouts a year.

What if we put students at the center of the education transformation conversation? Could we get past our suspicion that they would make ignorant or irresponsible suggestions, and tap into what they know better than any of us: what works for them as learners? If we engaged kids in the problems facing schools, and gave them access to design tools, they might imagine a learning experience they would be more likely to engage in and commit to. What if we didn’t stick our youth at the kid’s table?

The notion of bringing kids into the conversation about what serves them best is beginning to take hold in various quarters. Ellen Galinsky did it in the midst of a cultural debate on whether children were better or worse off when their mothers entered the workforce. The audacious approach of her study became the title of her book Ask The Children. Architects who design the places where kids spend their time are doing more asking, too. Check out, for instance, these photos of the Erika-Mann Grundschule II in Amsterdam. “The school’s recently revamped environment is amazing, perhaps not surprisingly as it was designed by the kids themselves”

Here at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF), our Student Experience Lab has a growing portfolio of projects guided by a simple and powerful question, What if we trusted and enabled students to design their own education future? A future that learners were personally excited about and committed to. The big ‘aha’ from over twelve years of facilitating education design studios at BIF is the imperative to enable student agency. We must put students in the driver’s seat and view our role, the role of adults, as catalysts.

In a representative education design studio at BIF we invited 40 students aged 12–22 who traveled to BIF in Providence from all corners of Rhode Island’s public education system to explore and demonstrate the power of student agency. Right at the start of the day, it was announced that there would be a kids’ table, but guess who was relegated to it? The adults in the room-leaving the students at the main tables to drive the conversation while we listened.

Sure enough, just like at the Thanksgivings of my childhood, all the action was at the main table. As a room full of engaged youth began filling flip charts and flip cameras with idea after idea for improving their student experience, we adults were blown away by their purpose and passion. First of all, note that this design studio took place on a Saturday: these forty students were giving up half of a precious weekend to think and talk about school and how to improve it. And their energy level remained high for the entire day.

The first insight that hit us like a two-by-four between the eyes is that students don’t hate school. These students made it clear right away that they see the value of school, and given the opportunity to design their dream student experience, not one of the student groups in the room argued for throwing out the traditional school model completely. They embraced the importance of a strong core curriculum, but their ideas suggested how hungry they are for the freedom to follow their unique curiosities, and learn skills in the context of subjects that already fascinate them. They also had things to tell us about the importance of learning relationships, and how schools could provide more mentors and role models.

They also told us a few things about how it felt to be at the kids’ table. They were aware that no one had ever asked them before what they thought, and that when they did speak up in their various ways, they were not heard. One student remarked, “I come to school to be heard, so shouldn’t you listen?”

I’m certain we only scratched the surface of what young people can contribute to the education reform conversation that day. More broadly, think of all the areas where adults are monopolizing a conversation in which youth have the largest stake. We should recognize that young people seek purpose and want to impact their surroundings, including school but not limited to it.

For me, that means I should listen to and involve youth more in designing any future I have a hand in, but they will inherit. At my family’s Thanksgiving this week, there won’t be a kids’ table. Happy Thanksgiving


Escape Boring Learning

You are trapped in a room and you have only two ways to get free: solve a series of problems or wait until the bell rings signaling your freedom leave. Am I talking about a traditional classroom or an escape room?

Many students feel trapped in classrooms where boredom persists — they are being lectured at, asked to memorize information, and to regurgitate it on standardized assessments. Sixty percent of students who consider dropping out report that it is because they don’t see the value in the work they are doing. Student motivation has been a topic of studies and school reform efforts for decades, yet there have been little disruptive system-wide changes in instruction or assessment to increase student engagement.

According to a study done in 2003 by the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, students are more motivated when one to all of these conditions are met:

  • They feel competent and able to complete an assignment or challenge
  • They understand the relevance of their work
  • They are rewarded for completing the task either socially or academically
  • They understand the cause and effect nature of the work — their actions contribute to an outcome that is predictable.

Here in the Student Experience Lab, we have been on a mission to escape from standard curriculum and assessments and escape into Deeper Learning (DL). Deeper Learning can be a solution for student and educator disengagement. It is defined by the Hewlett Foundation as a set of six interrelated competencies: mastering rigorous academic content, learning how to think critically and solve problems, working collaboratively, communicating effectively, directing one’s own learning, and developing an academic mindset — a belief in one’s ability to grow. Walk into any school committed to deeper learning and you will likely see students excitedly working together on projects, collaborating with their communities, igniting their passions, and guiding their own learning.

Why Escape Rooms?

Escape rooms are an immersive entertainment phenomenon that has sparked a booming new industry all across the country. Escape rooms are live-action adventure games where players solve a set of puzzles, problems, and tasks in order to find a way out. Players have to race against the clock to find hidden clues and uncover the story of the room. Good escape rooms:

  • have a compelling narrative — like searching for a gold prospector’s stash.
  • engage multiple senses — like smelling different ‘wines’ to know which bottle has the right clue or listening to different notes to create a musical masterpiece.
  • are filled with delightful surprises — like trap doors that lead to extra rooms, or secret messages revealed under a blacklight.
  • tap into individual abilities and group collaboration — such as having one person call out instructions and that others execute, or having a puzzle that taps into math, science, or music skills.

Since we are always looking to find exciting, relevant connections from ‘non-school experiences’ we have been exploring how escape rooms offer an opportunity to dive into Deeper Learning and explore its competencies. In the classroom, engaging escape room experiences have everything listed above plus content specific elements that bring learning to life.

Our team went to Austin to challenge SXSWedu participants to escape boring learning with us. In a jam-packed day, we took a trip to an escape room with 25 teachers who all had to escape by solving puzzles within 60 minutes. We then took a trip to a collaborative working space to debrief the experience and assess our learning. After debriefing what made the escape room so engaging, and analyzing how we might hack it for educational purposes. Then it was time to try those ideas out and create puzzle rooms for the rest of the SXSWedu attendees in hopes that it would inspire them to recreate similar experiences in their classrooms. At the end of the day, more than 100 teachers went through the three escape rooms that participants created and debriefed their experiences using a Deeper Learning rubric that helps assess which Deeper Learning competencies participants were using while in the escape room.

So how can you continue to escape boring learning?

  • Take advantage of our open source Deeper Learning Escape Room toolkit — co-created with teachers and students this document contains analysis, insights, and ideas for the creation and implementation of an escape room at your school.
  • Get a window into our experience at SXSWedu by watching the video below
  • If you like what you see, vote for the next stage of our work — DeeperLearning Escape Pods — to be showcased at SXSWedu.

Let us know how you plan to escape boring learning at your school, email me at jbrown@bif.is!


The Business Model Imperative in Education

(Antioch College; BIF Student Experience Lab(SXL) project partner)

One of the most difficult experiences for those in education is to understand challenges within our system but have no method for creating meaningful, transformative change. Issues persist and frustrate individuals at every level — from classroom to district to national. We have circled around the same issues for decades, at times designing useful innovations to incrementally improve them. However, on a systemic level, we have a lot of work to do to create a multitude of new approaches needed for a robust 21st-century education ecosystem.

At present we have a few major problems. First, we have engagement issues — over 40% of students are chronically bored or disengaged from school. A Gallup poll found that from kindergarten to 12th-grade engagement drops every year bottoming out in the 11th grade. The stories for teachers look eerily similar, 57% report feeling disengaged and these feelings increase the longer educators have been in the field. A large predictor of student success is engagement in the student experience and teacher effectiveness. However, both students and teachers do not see the value in what they are doing, making it almost impossible for deep, meaningful learning to happen.

Second, we have an equity problem — students are receiving different educational experiences based on their region, economic status, and race. Data from Stanford’s Center for Educational Policy Analysis point to massive achievement gaps: test scores for Black students are on average two grade levels lower than white students and Latino students are one and a half grade levels lower. In addition to academics, there are wide disparities in suspension rates, a lack of culturally responsive teaching and pedagogy, decreasing levels of funding going to K-12, and diminishing numbers of teachers of color — who leave the field 24% more often than their white counterparts. We need a system that looks beyond equality(giving everyone the same thing) and moves toward giving every student and teacher what they need for growth, agency, and success.

Lastly (at least for this post) we have a sustainability problem. Teacher credentials aren’t correlating to the capabilities we are expecting from them in the classroom. The cost of higher education is outweighing its benefits and students are forced to pay while in school or take on massive amounts of debt which many can’t sustain with their income — about 3,000 borrowers default daily. For this reason, and because real-world experience has become increasingly more valuable, many students are opting out of college. Some business executives suggest that college degrees are worthless, while others like Peter Thiel even offered to pay students not to go at all. Similar to K-12, many colleges are not offering experiences that are engaging and relevant for students or that are preparing them for their next stage of life. Innovation leader Clay Christensen has predicted that by 2020 half of higher education institutions in the US will go bankrupt.

We have a system that isn’t relevant or meaningful to students. There is an experience gap that goes deeper than academic instruction — most students don’t leave high school or college prepared for life, future education, career, or civic engagement. This is unacceptable.

Looking at all of these issues without solutions has driven many to seek point solutions or tweak what already exists. However, these issues point to a greater need — business model innovation within education. We need a new way of addressing education in the US — from early learning to higher learning. Amidst the sea of issues and frustration, leaders often don’t know how to explore and test new models.

Business model exploration is the new way. To make this easier BIF has introduced a proven methodology to help leaders explore and test next practices and new business models.

Methodology DL

Our methodology makes transformation attainable, actionable, and most importantly user-centered. It serves as a guide that allows us to:

 

SHIFT our perspective using human-centered research and design to identify the problems to solve.

How might we bring the experiences of young men of color to life in a way that makes their voice central to our conversation about transforming the education system to improve their college experience and completion rates?

(Students at SXL Design Studio)

Create an innovative CONCEPTUAL DESIGN. We co-design with leaders, educators, & students to create something that is relevant & to teach them the process of iterative design.

How might we reinvent a 165-year-old college to be as agile as a startup?

 

 

PROTOTYPE & TEST minimally viable business models. Before we launch entirely new programs we create prototypes that mirror aspects of the final design to make sure they are valuable to end users.

How might we co-design a design thinking platform that allows teachers to creatively solve problems that arise in their classroom or school?

 

 


COMMERCIALIZE & SCALE to spread the impact of the model and crowdsource critiques. We take (or create a plan to take) the final design into the world and strategize plans for scale.

How might we highlight, spread, and create ongoing conversation around educator-created hacks within the classroom?

 

 

(Student at SXL Design Studio)

 

Our methodology is a tool to move from frustration and tweaks to creation of next practices and new business models. Next practices answer the question ‘How might we deliver value to students and educators in a new, more powerful, and purpose-driven way?’ We ask a similar question in our Teachers for Equity fellowship which positions communities of practice as a catalyst for more equitable outcomes for students. Next practices improve the way that current business models work or lead to new business models.

Our work with Southern New Hampshire University highlights the formation of a new business model in which students are credentialed according to how they demonstrate the knowledge and capabilities required to meet an established skill set, rather than traditional course completion. New business models combine next practices together to create, deliver, and capture value for everyone involved in an institution — from students to administrators. In this case, SNHU was able to stand up the first competency-based Associate’s degree program to be approved by the US Dept. of Education.

(SXL Teachers For Equity Fellows)

By following this methodology, we break the cycle of committees whose ideas don’t make it off the whiteboard, policies that are out of touch with practitioner needs, and frustrations of institutional leaders, students, and educators. With it, we plan to transform business models and fundamentally shift how the education system works. Most importantly, as the Student Experience Lab, we are dedicated to using it to dramatically change student outcomes and create opportunities for students to thrive.

Part of this effort is creating a community of people who will drive towards transformation with us. If this excites you, let’s figure out how we can use our methodology and team of designers to create a next practice or new model that will take your work to new heights. Email  jbrown@bif.is  to connect.

Methodology DL

 


Our Health Imperative: A Methodology to Get From ‘Now’ to ‘Next’

Our health system has the ability to accelerate society’s path to what’s ‘next’ — a next that holds the promise of focusing on health rather than health care or, better yet, sick care.

What’s getting in the way?

The system is locked in its ‘mental valley’ of the now chasing incremental change in hopes that it will ‘fix’ what has been broken for decades.

Transformation itself needs to be embraced and practiced as a core leadership skill because we are all frustrated in the now, and transformation is the constant that will move institutions and organizations to the ‘next’.

Which is why I am excited to share BIF’s methodology for making the transformation journey safer and easier for health leaders.

We know it’s a natural tendency for institutions and organizations in the health space to focus on existing practices and models that have had past success rather than investing in responding to changes in the market with new capabilities. That’s understandable because it feels safe and manageable; the truth is, that yields only small ‘tweaks’ of change.

But a growing number of health leaders have told us that their current approach to change isn’t working; incremental inertia and mindset are keeping them stuck on a ‘healthcare-hamster wheel’.

This is why it is our priority in the BIF Patient Experience Lab (PXL) to provide a methodology that makes transformational work less risky, more manageable, and, well, safer.

BIF’s PXL is a platform where health leaders define and test vital next practices and new business that offer different health models to our population that extend beyond clinical walls to where we live, work, play and all of the virtual spaces in between.

Our BIF methodology offers a clear path for how an organization can make transformational change by starting with the essential first step of shifting its lens to reframe opportunities through the experience of individuals and families.

How? 

BIF's Design Methodology

Seeing Beyond the Boundaries of “What Is” to “What Could Be”

The process begins by helping leaders shift their current lens to understand the gaps that their customers currently face, or, in other words, the job that they need to be done. By engaging patients, families and organizational leaders in thoughtful and provocative conversations, an empathetic reframe of the customer experience happens and new opportunities for adding value emerge.

Some new value propositions we have been exploring with leaders in our PXL include ‘how might we’…

…get back to extraordinary basics of health and wellness.Download Your Copy Now!

…recognize that most of what impacts our health happens outside clinical walls.

…extend health beyond clinical walls to where we live, work, play, and all virtual spaces in between.

…acknowledge the medical model as only one piece of the health journey

…respond to the effects of social, economic and environmental factors on health

…take advantage of intersections across medical, social and economic aspects of a person’s health so, new solutions emerge by thinking about them together instead of each in their own “lane”.

…act as a health ecosystem.

…secure real capital– financial, political, and social to be invested in ways that explore and nurture new ways of working; it’s bigger than funded programs, pilots, or studies.

…invest time and money to establish and foster authentic relationships across health driven sectors

…establish mutually accountable partnerships in and out of healthcare industry that goes ‘beyond handshakes’

…implement new ways to understand, measure and communicate the value of ‘health’ beyond biological measures

…include evidence for agency; how it can underpin health and why it matters of its own accord.

…show that organizations with transformation as a key driver of their strategy will succeed and lead.

…stop ‘thinking and talking’ and start ‘designing and trying’ next practices and new models

Once new value propositions are defined, we work with leaders to combine, recombine or reimagine new capabilities to prototype and test. Prototyping capabilities enable organizations to learn quickly if they have added value for individuals, families and key stakeholders and creates the conditions to capture both successes and failures or make real-time adjustments in the moment.

When a minimally viable set of new capabilities has been prototyped and tested for value, with real people in their real world, we help organizations create a path to commercialize them.

At its core, BIF’s methodology embeds ongoing risk mitigation to decrease time spent on undesirable and ineffective new capabilities and increase time spent on developing sustainable new organizational capabilities to serve as next practices for new business models; getting us on a path to what’s ‘next’ for health.

What Next Looks Like

Creating the ‘next’ in health has never been easy, in fact, it has only gotten harder over time.

With highly regulated environments, increasing system and operational complexity, disruptive competing stakeholders, and a hefty responsibility to do no harm, transforming next practices and new business models that can cure, heal or help is hard.

But it’s happening- with institutional leaders in our Patient Experience Lab and across the globe.

Notable points of lights are emerging from the United States, Netherlands and Canada, moving from the now to the next by enlisting a full gamut of cross-sector, cross-industry ‘unusual suspects’ to change the game.

Above all, it is dynamic and what is ‘next’ today will change in one, three and five years from now.

‘Next’ will continue to evolve and be undefined, yet ready to be shaped by institutional and organizational leaders who know how vital it is to stay nimble with heightened awareness aware of what ‘next’ will be.

The goal is to ensure that transformation is a skill and muscle flexed regularly by leaders — in order to stay relevant to our changing health needs.

What ‘Next’ Now?

Because the low hanging fruit is gone we have incrementally changed or are in the process of incrementally changing all of existing technical problems in our health system — leaving us with complex, human-centered challenges that require new mindsets and capabilities beyond the status quo.

These challenges are rooted in the need to meet our population at the complex intersections of their medical, economic and social needs — which as a direct result, render most of the existing practices and models no longer viable, valuable, or sustainable for institutions, consumers or the bottom line, no matter how much we keep ‘tweaking’ them.

We’ve run out of band-aids and the Frankenstein monster we built is on the loose and scaring society.

It’s time to help get institutional leaders off of the whiteboard and into the real world, to move from ‘thinking and talking’ to ‘trying and learning’ our way to the ‘next.’

Our Health Imperative: Leading the Transformational Change

The conditions are ripe for transformational change that is intentional, safe and repeatable, adding new value for the health of our population.

It’s going to take cross-sector, cross-industry superpowers coming together to truly transform health and wellness models for our population because the ‘next’ is still out there undefined.

We share our BIF Methodology today to describe how we help institutional leaders explore and test what’s ‘next’. We also share it because, at BIF, we believe that social system transformation becomes possible when we all open source our approaches, platforms, and experience.

That’s how we get better and faster together.

This is not only our internal process for how we work but also what we believe will make the titanic shifts needed to move the entire health industry forward into next practices and new business models that transform society’s future health and wellness models.

We know we are still early in our journey, so at BIF, we will continue to partner with health leaders to move from the now to the next, leading transformational change together as an ecosystem of health, not a silo of healthcare.

BIF's Design Methodology

Whether you have just started your journey to transform the path to health and wellness or have been on it for a while, we want to learn with you:

·       What are you trying as your ‘next’?

·       What advice do you have for others wanting to go from chasing incremental change to leading transformational change?

I’ll pause there and look to you all to fuel this urgent conversation.

​​


Cooking with Heat

I watch a lot of competition cooking shows — to the point where I feel like I have an intimate understanding of knife cuts, reductions, and how to confit duck. Without any formal education and very little dedicated practice, I yell at my computer screen and judge contestants from afar knowing that I would be able to handle the pressure if I were in the kitchen. You see many folks like me appearing on these shows and getting hit with a strong dose of reality when they did not have the skills they needed to create beautiful, thoughtful, and — most importantly — delicious meals in that environment. And those with experience, judges and other contestants, will usually call them out for it or will pointedly glance.

What happens when the stakes are higher than a cooking show? What happens when power and responsibility are put into the hands of those without experience or knowledge of an environment?

New Call-to-action

Teachers and students are at the heart of our education system but are often overlooked when brainstorming how education should be transformed. Most are never asked their opinions on how to improve different environments — from their classroom to district to national oversight. Similar to my yelling at chefs through my screen, decisions and priorities within education are decided by those who are watching, rather than those who are closest to it. Even more disconcerting is that individuals watching often have the power to set standards and judge progress.

You can not create successful, equitable solutions unless you are proximate. You can not cook without heat.

The work to be done is both complex and simple: let educators and students design and lead the future models of education. The Student Experience Lab (SXL) operates from a lens informed by what educators and students care about. We are excited that the folks at Teacher2Teacher have also been researching and mobilizing around similar themes. Recently they hosted a webinar entitled “What Teachers Care About” that explored which narratives matter to teachers (measured through online platforms) and how those of us who design with educators can leverage different topics to foster connection and learning for all.

The presenters talked about both positive narratives that reflect optimism and confidence and negative narratives that reflect concern about future direction. In 2014, teacher narratives were 54% negative, with top concerns being that teachers deserve professional respect, need opportunities to learn, and must focus on teaching the whole child.

Since then, narratives have shifted towards a more positive, hopeful language. Integral to this shift has been the presence of social justice focused narratives — specifically those surrounding racial and socioeconomic equity. Educators have explicitly named poverty, racial biases, structural influences, representative staff, and many more examples, as influential issues that need to be tackled. They have also been telling us that education is a right and that all students deserve both access and success within the education system.

So how do we get the experienced cooks in the kitchen to design thoughtful and lasting solutions? How do we make sure that educators and students close to issues surrounding equity have the power to create change?

Unlike a fancy competition kitchen, we have all had access to education from some angle — student, teacher, parent, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of folks in education are cooking without heat: they are not close to the environment, they aren’t focused on equity, and they are not listening to what students and teachers need.

Right now, and hopefully forever, many educators are hungry for resources that bring equity out of a solely learning space and into their practice. We believe that the work we are doing with our Teachers For Equity (T4E) Fellowship will begin to bridge those worlds in a meaningful way.

On an unseasonably warm weekend in February, BIF hosted 20 teacher leaders, one district leader, and our partner Pacific Educational Group. We took a deep dive into exploring racial equity, ourselves, PEG’s courageous conversations protocol, design thinking, and building communities of practice. The T4E Fellows will lead communities of practice that can include students, teachers, community members, administrators, and anyone else with a stake in creating equitable educational environments in their regions.

“Everything we need is in the room” -Leidene, PEG Equity Transformation Specialist, validating how much knowledge and experience we have to share with one another.

In the first few months of the fellowship, not only have these educators told us what they care about, but they have also shown us. These fellows have the will to engage topics of racial equity, understand their environments, and are prepared to cultivate communities that can create stronger, more supportive educational spaces. They have also shared stories with one another about successes and missteps as they build up equitable practices. The range of experience, both in teaching and life, has created a community where we all are empowered to teach and learn from one another.

Although they are experts in their experiences, the T4E Fellows have started by expanding their understanding of others in their environments. They have initiated conversations with both those who will inform their communities of practice work and those who will be active participants in it. They have already taken what they have learned and found ways to apply it to their leadership. One fellow has proposed that a good way to kick off their community would be by sharing those research conversation findings so that the group is informed by more than just one opinion of what matters. Others have recognized the powerful role students play in the communities, but also in emphasizing why this work is so important. In stepping back, the T4E Fellowship is modeling how to value student agency and strength. In short, the T4E Fellows are cooking with heat and I am excited to see what ideas and inspiration come out of their communities.


10 Reasons Colleges Fail At Business Model Innovation

Higher education has a business model problem. The business model for U.S. colleges and universities — how they create, deliver, and capture value — hasn’t changed since Harvard, our country’s first college, was founded in 1636. Our higher education system is a national treasure that creates enormous societal value, but its 380-year-old business model fails to deliver affordable access and post-secondary credentials to an increasing percentage of our population.

The American social contract was clear throughout the Industrial Era. While many jobs moved out of reach for those without a college degree, there were still ample opportunities for everyone to earn a good living in order to support a family. The U.S. became an economic powerhouse with a robust and thriving middle class.

Then the rug got pulled out from under the economy. The Industrial Era ended, taking with it most of the career opportunities for those without a college degree or relevant post-secondary credential.

The existing social contract broke and was replaced by a new one, with the expectation that everyone gains some form of post-secondary credential in order to be relevant to the new economy and to earn enough to sustain a good living.

Unfortunately, while societal expectations for higher education changed, its business model hasn’t. As a result, far too many citizens have been left without affordable access to a post-secondary credential that will put them on a pathway to a good living.

When I was an accidental bureaucrat leading a state economic development agency, my friends asked me how, after working in the private sector for so long, I could put up with government’s slow pace. I responded that, after 20 years in the private sector, I was convinced that big corporations didn’t move quickly either.

I also teased my friends in academia that colleges and universities move even more slowly than either big business or government! Higher education has the most intransigent business model on the planet.

Here are 10 reasons why colleges fail at business model innovation:

1. College presidents and boards don’t really want a new business model.

Business model exploration doesn’t happen if senior leadership doesn’t want it to. It takes strong leadership at the top to pedal the bicycle of today’s business model while simultaneously creating the conditions to explore and test new ones. The good news is that a growing number of higher education leaders are starting to get it.

2. Our hands are tied. Accreditation is at stake.

Accreditation is the most common excuse to protect the higher education status quo. But existing accreditation rules and guidelines leave far more room for business model exploration than most leaders will admit or explore. Accreditation has been more about protecting industry incumbents from new business model competition than protecting the interests of students or society. This must change.

3. Classroom learning is king and nothing else matters.

You would think colleges would have figured out by now that most learning happens outside the classroom, but sadly, too many haven’t. You would also think that the ability to access the best information, thinking, and practices from anywhere, any time via the Internet would change the role played by faculty in and out of the classroom. But sadly, it hasn’t.

4. Campus is the center of the universe.

Students want experiential learning opportunities and direct connections to the real-world laboratories of local communities with which to apply their ideas and solutions generatively. Campus bubbles are too confining. The value proposition for residence-based colleges, along with escalating costs, will be challenged by students like never before.

5. Cannibalization is off the table.

I love it when college leaders say, innovate all you want as long as it doesn’t affect current operations. Innovation agendas that only include projects that can be done without impacting the way things work today leave colleges vulnerable to being disrupted by innovators without similar constraints.

6. Not enough connecting with unusual suspects.

Colleges and universities are wonderful places full of diverse people, departments, and disciplines. And yet there is surprisingly little interaction across silos. The same is true off-campus. Too much time is spent interacting with the usual suspects, rather than exploring the opportunities and people at the edges.

7. Do innovators get tenure?

Are young faculty members who try to change how their colleges work and how students learn rewarded with tenure? Seems ironic that tenured faculty who have already been awarded ‘academic freedom’ are often the least innovative when it comes to exploring new learning approaches and models.

8. Great idea, what’s the ROI?

Using traditional financial metrics to compare innovation projects works great for incremental improvements to today’s business model, but is useless for early exploration of possible new business models. We won’t know what is repeatable and scalable until we try new approaches. But we will never try new approaches if we hold them accountable for a predictable financial return while they are still in the exploration phase.

9. They shoot business model innovators, don’t they?

Ever notice what happens to people who want to transform their college’s business model? They are humored for a while until far too many of them get frustrated and leave for conditions more conducive to innovation. We have to celebrate and support business model innovators everywhere, including in colleges.

10. You want to experiment in the real world — are you crazy?

You can’t analyze your way to business model innovation. You have to explore your way there. And you don’t explore in a conference room or with a presentation deck — you explore in the real world. New business model concepts must be imagined, prototyped, and tested in the real world.

Subsidizing the costs of today’s higher education business model can take the sting out of college sticker-shock and debt service loads for some, but isn’t scalable to the size of the problem. Tweaks to current business models aren’t enough.

If our society is going to fulfill the promise of affordable access to the post-secondary credentials necessary to thrive in a 21st century economy, we must enable more higher education leaders to explore and test new business models. Nothing short of a proliferation of new higher education business models will allow us to deliver affordable access to post-secondary credentials under the new social contract.

Too many students and citizens are waiting for us to fix higher education’s business model problem. Let’s get going. email us at hello@bif.is


Four Education Storytellers to Watch at the 2015 BIF Summit

A selection of who to watch in and around education during the BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit.

Larry Rosenstock

Few schools have gained as much attention as Larry Rosenstock’s High Tech High, recently featured in the documentary Most Likely to Succeed.  With the support of the Gates Foundation and other organizations, Larry has helped create a school that puts students at the center of their learning with a project-based curriculum.  At High Tech High, students are empowered to play roles as scientists, engineers, and designers.

With 20 years of teaching experience, Larry knows the challenges of innovating inside highly structured environments.  His work in education has set a precedent for experimentation and innovation within our education system.  Larry doesn’t want every school to be like High Tech High, he wants every school to experiment like High Tech High.     

Jaime Casap

As Chief Education Evangelist at Google, Jaime focus is bringing technology into classrooms and using the Internet as a tool educators can use to empower their students to be lifelong learners and problem-solvers.  

Raised in the crime-ridden, poverty-stricken NYC neighborhood Hell’s Kitchen, Jaime finished college,  beating the odds that a first-generation American would be able to do so.  Education is the ‘silver bullet’ for escaping poverty, he asserts, and no matter where students come from, in one generation they can use education to reach their dreams.  

Jaime has shared his passion for education and technology all over the world, including a recent White House speech, which can be found on his blog.

Chris Emdin

Chris Emdin’s art is his ability to create a deep connection with students.  Chris believes the “magic” of teaching —  the ability to perform and engage with students, can be learned by visiting the masters: barbers, hip-hop artists, and preachers.  

Chris brings equity into his classroom by asking students what they need without making assumptions and allowing them to offer feedback to critics of his teaching practices.

Chris is also a pioneer of hip-hop education, which reimagines and transforms education using the principles of hip-hop. You can find Chris on his tweetchat #hiphoped at 9 PM EST every Tuesday night.  

Carlos Moreno

Originally from the Bronx, Carlos has spent his time learning and teaching in Rhode Island.  Currently, Carlos is co-director of Big Picture Learning in New York.  

Carlos doesn’t want equality for all students and insists that we fight inequality in our schools with inequality.  Education systems that try to bring a one-size-fits-all model to education harm students more than they help, especially those already at risk.  Carlos suggests that the best way to prepare students for the future is by creating very different learning opportunities for them.  Carlos is setting an example by having his school assess the talents and interests of students, and create a learning program that is personalized to each student.  

Connect. Inspire. Transform. Register #BIF2018