Title

'Dual Transformation' Will Drive Higher Ed People Crazy

We should read it anyway.

January 21, 2018
 
 

Dual Transformation: How to Reposition Today's Business While Creating the Future by Scott D. Anthony,‎ Clark G. Gilbert,‎ and Mark W. Johnson.

Published in April of 2017.

Here a 3 ways that Dual Transformation will drive you - higher ed person - crazy.

You should read the book anyway.

First, the complaints:

1 - Disruption Theory:  The authors of Dual Transformation come out of the Innovator’s Dilemma / Disruptive Innovation school of thought.  This theoretical framework may or may not make sense in the for-profit corporate world, but it is a poor model to explain higher education change.  Dual Transformation takes as its starting place that incumbent organizations, including colleges and universities, are bound to be disrupted.  Higher education, unlike the corporate world where disruption theory was birthed, is not a zero sum game.  We succeed together.  Our goals are not efficiency, but social benefit.  Besides, the history of higher education is one one continuous transformation.  The dual transformation of the book - with the first one being about big change within the existing model, and the second being about doing something outside of existing models - applies imperfectly to world of higher education.  Our is a history of constant evolution and transformation.

2 - The Limits of Charismatic Leadership:  Note to anyone writing about postsecondary innovation.  We don’t need any more books that hold up ASU’s president Michael Crow as a model for every other higher education leader.  Even Michael Crow doesn’t believe that his methods are appropriate for every institution.  My strong sense is that president Crow would argue for a diversity of leadership styles.  In some cases, the charismatic leader is what is necessary.  In others, a quieter consensus builder makes more sense.  President Crow is great.  An inspiration.  But the next higher ed change book should move beyond the usual charismatic leadership examples.

3 - The Problem of Just-So Stories:  Dual Transformation is buttoned up - tightly argued - neat as a pin.  The book conforms to the algorithm of a premium business book.  Start with a simple and digestible framework (the Dual Transformation), illustrate the ideas through some good stories, and then generalize.  The problem in this approach is not plausibility.  Dual Transformation is nothing if not reasonable.  The problem is falsifiability.  Dual Disruption does not test any hypotheses.  Control groups never make an appearance.  Rather, theories are applied post hoc to narratives.  Higher ed people get sort of cranky about scientific method.

Okay, those are the objections.  I feel somewhat free to lodge these objections as I found reading Dual Transformation to be enjoyable, and in some places inspiring.

The more I work in higher education, the more allergic I find myself to neat explanations.  The world is a complex and messy place, and higher education is no exception.  The Yiddish proverb that “Man plans and God laughs” most likely originated on some campus or another.

Still, the authors of Dual Transformation take higher education seriously.  They care about how colleges and universities can change.  One of the authors, Clark Gilbert, was president of BYU-Idaho.  Another author, Scott D. Anthony, is a graduate of the institution that I call home.

These are scholars who know a great deal about higher education.  Only some of the examples of Dual Transformation come from the academia, but it is a pleasure to have ideas and frameworks applied to our world.

Reading Dual Transformation may drive higher ed people crazy, but a good kind of crazy.  One that ignites critique, discussion, and debate.

The Dual Transformation framework may not be appropriate as a guide for academic strategic planning, but it is a terrific framework for generating a productive campus discussion and debate.

What are you reading?

P.S.  I learned about Dual Transformation from a keynote that Scott D. Anthony did at the EdX Global Forum.  I highly recommend Anthony for any keynote, as his talk was as polished and fascinating as any that I've watched.

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