Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bringing Innovation to the Ivory Tower

Here is my blog that appeared today in the Huffington Post:

A college campus should be an exciting interface between the academic and the real world, an institution at the cutting edge of social and technological change, an incubator for new ideas. We’re educating our students for the future…and many of our graduates will have careers that we couldn’t have imagined during our college days. To prepare them for a rapidly-changing world, we have to stay ahead of the curve.

If we expect our graduates to be leaders and innovators, then we need to model that by finding cutting edge real world opportunities to bring back to our campuses. We have to take learning beyond the classroom and give our students the chance to put theory to work.

The bad news? It’s not easy, it means shaking up the old “but that’s the way we’ve always done it.” The good news is that it’s fun, exciting, empowering and satisfying. If you are passionate, dedicated and creative, these opportunities can be found anywhere, even in your hometown!

Lynn University just finished a great student project with a hot tech startup, because the president of our school grew up in Boca Raton, home of the university, and happened to be friends with an entrepreneur with an interesting idea.
Sidebar: What many may not know is that this would not be the first new idea for our town or Lynn for that matter. Boca Raton was birth place of IBMs PC, in fact Lynn is across the street from where it was built and helped test the prototype keyboards. And Boca continues to be a fertile place for new ideas.

The idea our president heard about was a new venture called Voispot, and he was intrigued with the potential for a link to the university. Did he have an instant plan? No, but he saw possibilities…and he acted. There was no committee—just a quick email inviting the company’s founders, local business people, and campus leadership to a brainstorming session.
From that first meeting, we made the development and launch of Voispot a get-your-hands-dirty project for an MBA class, and our students worked with the founders to learn first-hand what it means to start a real-world business on the forefront of technology. Voispot is a brand new social talk platform that allows people to have group conversations about common interests. Voispot is a free, cloud-based, mobile app where users can speak, listen, ask questions, and engage in discussions using voice (no typing or texting needed) in real-time. The technology allows organized conversations with a virtually limitless number of people—think of the digital version of an audience participation panel event, except your audience is not limited by the number of seats.

Too often we’re accused of sitting in our ivory towers, out-of-touch and out-of-date. And, yeah, sometimes it’s true. But it doesn’t have to be. The “ivory tower” gives us access to the best and brightest, and can give us a vantage point that allows us scan the horizon, always searching for the newest and best educational experiences for our students. It’s about fostering a culture of innovation on our campuses, and it can begin in small ways but can make a big difference!

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