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New service delivery models such as shared services and outsourcing should generate cost savings and higher service quality. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Why not? Our experience shows that you need an effective design and change management method to successfully implement new service models. Today’s newsletter will begin illustrating an approach that will drive institution-wide innovation, lower costs and deliver higher quality services across the university.

The Challenge

“Many college and faculty leaders bristle at the suggestion that the institutions — and their students — would be better off if only institutions operated more like their counterparts in the private sector.”

The Business of Higher Education (Praeger), edited by John C. Knapp and David J. Siegel.

Does this sound familiar?

That’s why we use an approach to designing shared services and outsourcing models that is palatable to faculty and staff alike: design thinking. For starters, it’s an idea with origins as remote from business as design itself. While their work is hardly nonprofit, designers are rarely found destroying the competition, maximizing profit margins and exploiting their employees. Few of the designers I know personally would fit the negative perception of corporate America held by many academicians. Design thinking is about helping people and organizations to solve their problems for long-term satisfaction, not achieving efficiency for short-run gains.

What IS Design Thinking?

While it is true that more organizations are adopting design thinking as a model for achieving better results, enhanced innovation and improved service to customers, the ideas behind design thinking emerged from the methods that are common to nearly all design fields: industrial, graphic, instructional, etc. These basic operating principles constitute a process that might be expressed most simply as the way that designers approach problems and achieve solutions. Designers think of themselves as problem finders more so than problem solvers because their solutions start with a deep understanding of the problem requiring a solution.

Design Thinking & Higher Ed

What can design thinking offer to higher education? In a word, change. Not just change for the sake of creating change or trying the latest fad, but thoughtful change for the higher education institution that wants to position itself to better withstand the challenges presented by both old and new competitors. Change not just for technology’s sake, but change based on better understanding students and putting into a place a mechanism for institution-wide innovation.

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