The Business like University Meme: An Explanation

I think often on the meme of businesses becoming more like universities with universities (researchers too) more like businesses.  It can be disparaged as a crass idea by academia, but I think a deeper understanding can inform potential reforms on either side of the equation.  I came back to this meme by following the thread from Tony Karrer who asks us to weight in on the future of learning as a business.

The future of business itself is knowledge and technology centric.  Managing that future is different when:

  • you’re managing people with more expertise than you and
  • when the knowledge that you have and want to impart is dense and complex and
  • when a major goal is to uncover or develop new knowledge and when
  • a major goal is the ongoing development of a shared knowledge base and communication structure within the organization.

If the goal of your organization is to develop world class service, managing it may share many activities with running a university department and research center, except that there are no diplomas and your always in beta.

On the university side of the equation, I’ll first differ to Ellen Wagner’s post Psst…for researchers only.

This is a tip for those of you who conduct quantitative research . . . you can influence the technology product roadmaps . . . if you have data that shows that particular kinds of features in products can help students retain more, remember better, perform at peak levels of efficiency for longer periods of time then you need to figure out a way to get that information to the education marketing team at your technology company of your choice. Because those are the kinds of facts and figures that help sales teams connect with their educational customers. Education customers don’t just want to hear about features and benefits. They also want to know about best practices for using products to solve real problems.  . . . What (technology companies) can do is to help promote your findings, showcase your success.

I may be jaded, but I believe that academics writing is often intended to be instrumental toward tenure, not to have an impact on society and the peer review journal processes inhibit innovation and risk taking by researchers.  Research should be consequentially valid and disseminated for that purpose, and at its heart, dissemination shares many similarities with marketing.  Academics and journals must also travel beyond their disciplinary boundaries in ways that are in line with new forms of networked knowledge.

Summary: A manager / leader of world class services and a teacher leading students and research projects share potentially similar skill sets and futures.