LH Martin Institute Conference 2016

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This year’s LH Martin Institute ‘Service Improvement and Innovation in Universities Conference’ was held at the Pullman Hotel King George Square, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The conference, which ran over 11 and 12 August 2016, got me thinking about more than service improvement and innovation. It got me thinking about the future, the future of universities obviously, and, on a personal level, just what today’s primary school children will need, and find, when they arrive on site for their first lecture. Assuming of course, there is a need to arrive on site.

The keynote speakers, all of them, were excellent. I’ll mention some that particularly stood out for me.

In getting us underway Ms Jan Owen AM, CEO, Foundation for Young Australians, set the standard with her ‘The New Work Order’. The future will be different. To succeed tomorrow, today’s students will need digital literacy, to be bilingual, and to have critical thinking, creativity, and presentation skills. A key take away for me is to ask my daughters not “What do you want to be?” but rather, “So, what do you want to create in the world?”

Next up was Professor Anthony Arundel, Professor of Innovation at the Australian Innovation Research Centre, University of Tasmania, who spoke of his research: ‘Management and Service Innovations in Australian and New Zealand Universities’. Interestingly, the preliminary report indicates that First Tier universities are less engaged in “best practice” methods for innovating than Second and Third Tier universities, and that this could be a possible explanation for the poorer performance of First Tier universities on several measures of the benefits from innovation. Key for me was that to be innovative you need to be proactive; i.e. do something before the crisis hits, for once the crisis hits, time and money will be hard to find.

Dr Simon Eassom, Strategy and Solutions Leader, IBM Global Education Industry, spoke of the ‘Uber syndrome’, where a competitor with a completely different business model enters your industry and takes over. This woke us all up after morning tea on the Friday. Once awake, Simon kept us in that state with pointers such as, ‘universities can leverage lessons from market leaders to help improve service delivery and transform business and operating models’ and, ‘universities must adapt and keep pace with the emerging ecosystems of industries that could use technology to occupy a core percentage of the space dominated by asset-heavy providers susceptible to disruption by asset-light providers’. It wasn’t all terrifying, however, as Simon also provided advice on: What to do – redesign your operating model; how to do it – innovate your ecosystem; and what you need to do it – boost your digital acumen.

The final keynote was Professor Michael Rosemann, Head of the Information Systems School, Queensland University of Technology, whose address was about ‘… the QUT story of creating entire new, rapid improvement capabilities’. Michael spoke on the Digital Mind and NESTT, QUTs approach to rapid process redesign. This was a very positive presentation on which to end the conference.

All in all, an excellent conference, and, it was great to catch up with friends and colleagues, old and new, from universities in Australia. More information about the LH Martin Institute, and the conference, can be found here.

Finally, for the weather watchers out there, an observation – it was warmer in Brisbane in mid winter than it was in Scotland in mid-summer.

– Mark

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