The Innovative University

The Innovative University

Universities thrive on tradition of excellence. But when the world is changing faster than everything that traditions rest on, then something has to give. Professor Clayton Christen argues that there are two forms of innovation. 'Sustaining' innovation subscribes to the Greek Olympiad creed of citius, altius and forties, meaning, better, stronger, and higher. A stronger, better and more powerful Intel chip, or, IPhone, for example, represents the hallmarks of 'sustaining innovation.' In, and of themselves, they are not necessarily useful-----especially if they exceed what the normal customers want. The normal customers, invariably, just want the phone to be marginally better, not better in every detail and scale. So, the 'sustaining revolution,' tends to over perform and over-reach, in turn, subjecting itself to potential over-shoot in price and cost; which can be its own down-fall. 'Sustaining revolution,' therefore is not a sure fire way to prevent internal collapse ala accordion style.

'Perpetual' innovation involves making things marginally better but not in the scale and speed of 'sustaining revolution.' It is a form of piecemeal improvisation, but done in all the right places to keep the cost proportionate to the disposal income of the consumers.

Universities are expected to reform themselves continuously. But adopting the first form of reforms would be fatal, as bigger and better campuses suggest huge out lay of fixed cost, which the universities may not be able to pay back or recover; which invariably leads to cut backs in the universities that affect research and teaching.

Universities should focus on perpetual innovation; the likes of which marked by constant tinkering, short of short-circuiting the entire faculty hire; academic culture and student services. This is a powerful book that often draws on the strengths and weaknesses of Harvard University since Professor Clayton Christensen is a tenured professor at Harvard Business School.