Growing up in Iowa, the typical grocery store fruit options included: apples, bananas, pears, peaches, watermelons, and grapes. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, I broadened my taste buds when it came to trying different types of fruit. In St. Lucia, I ate tamarind, mangoes, and coconuts. Trying new foods has always been something that I try to do when I can.
While at the grocery store the other night, I spied a reddish-colored fruit that I had never seen before. A quick check of the item tag informed me that it was called "dragon fruit." I picked it up and gave it a gentle squeeze. It was a little mushy and it had no discernible smell. Intrigued, I looked up dragon fruit on my Droid X. The first entry on Google mentioned that dragon fruit was high in fiber and that it was a type of cactus. The price per pound was a tad bit spendy ($9.99), but I was curious enough that I decided that I had to try this newly discovered fruit.
As the fall term begins for most institutions in the U.S., I think it's important to ask about the critical thinking and strategizing that has taken place over the summer. Tried and true activities are extremely valuable, but what about trying something new? Does your institution engage in strategic programmatic experimentation? What does out-of-the-box mean to you? Are you implementing new types of technologies or rolling out a new communications plan?
In student affairs, it seems like we often stick to the metaphorical equivalent of eating apples and bananas. Innovation is tricky because we are so busy during the school year that summer often feels like a recovery period after running a long race. So, what happens when we try something new? Obviously, the normal flow of implementation and assessment needs to take place. Nevertheless, what would occur if we saw something that intrigued us and we took a chance to see if it worked?
While I wasn't impressed with the flavor or texture of dragon fruit, I was curious enough about its potential that I gave it a chance. Businesses frequently engage in strategic experimentation quite a bit. Innovation is a necessity. Student Affairs as a profession needs more experimentation, more innovation, and a culture that is open to the incorporation of new ideas.
What's your dragon fruit? Where do you go for inspiration? What triggers your out-of-the box thinking? What have you done that is new or innovative? Share your comments and your idea might just be the topic of my next blog post.
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