Now that the first annual Innovation Forum is behind us, I sat down one morning after the dust had settled and tried to boil down what I had taken away from the whole experience. The first feeling I have is appreciation for the amazing work done by the planning committee: Dinah Aldrich, Melissa Arias, Peggy Brown, Ann Cox, Lauren Dun, Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Mat Lam, and Linda Taylor. They were a dream team and a joy to work with. The credit for such a marvelous event belongs to them. The second feeling is gratitude for the community of staff, faculty, and students that together make up this wonderful campus, many of whom contributed their expertise and energy to exploring innovation in all its manifestations. Thank you!
Then I thought of a stunningly un-innovative way of condensing my own take-aways from this past year of reading and listening into a short frame: a top-ten list of what organizations might do to foster innovation. So here it is:
Watch it here!
Closing Summit: Reinventing the University
Written by Laura Mansfield
The finale of the 2012 Innovation Forum included a distinguished panel representing thought leaders from academia and industry.
UW President Michael Young.
Dr. Fariba Alamdari, Vice President of Marketing and Value Analysis for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Dr. Anoop Gupta, Distinguished Scientist for Microsoft Research. Gupta also serves on the UW Bothell Advisory Board.
Dr. J Rogers Hollingsworth, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and History at the University of Wisconsin.
UW Bothell Chancellor Kenyon Chan opened the evening by recognizing the success of UW Bothell’s inaugural Innovation Forum. “This event demonstrates that the University of Washington Bothell is a hotbed of innovation and creativity,” he said.
In his opening remarks, President Young remarked that it had been an “extraordinary” week at UW Bothell. “This week has been a reflection of what I have sensed about this campus. There is a spirit of imagination and innovation that is healthy and thriving. That spirit has never been more important than now. It is imperative that we reimagine higher education.”
Young reflected on the role of the University of Washington to society. “We do extraordinary things at this university. We receive the second-most intramural funding in the United States. We constantly strive to translate our work into things into what will make people’s lives better.”
“We have a capacity to organize ourselves around a simple but profound concept: the notion that a great university thinks about ideas and moving those ideas into the world in a way they have impact.”
Young called for an auditing of higher education. “We examine everything but ourselves,” he observed. “Technology has transformed everything that makes this kind of transformation needed. Students are different, but we haven’t transformed our thinking in instruction to respond.”
“We have a “Bismarckian” notion of what a university should like look like,” he said. “Knowledge is created on the edge of disciplines. There is a tremendous need for people who work across boundaries and look at the grand challenges.”
“We currently think of the modern university in terms of local and global. We need more longitudinal thinking,” he said. “Where did we come from and where are we going?”
The pace of change in the university is accelerating, Hollingsworth noted. “Fifty years from now, universities will be very different than they are today.” By 2050, Hollingsworth envisions a global university, in which faculty will be recruited from all over the globe and engaged in a narrow range of research.
“My fantasy university is relatively small and engaged in rich interaction,” he said. “It has relatively few faculty, but they are teaching tens of thousands of students. In my model university, the faculty changes every five to 10 years. This ensures a constant change of ideas.” Hollingsworth noted that such models are already in place, citing the Howard Hughes Research Institute and the European University Institute.
Hollingsworth says UW Bothell is at a turning point. “I think this campus has enormous potential,” he says. “This is a wonderful environment in which to live. I walked around the campus today and found some land … the global university could be located right here.”
Alamdari noted the strong relationship between the university and the economy, calling for greater investment in research and development. “The U.S. is not at the top of list in terms of quality in math and engineering,” she said. “This is so important for global economic growth. We have to help universities achieve high education and research. How can we do that?”
Alamdari, who worked for more than 25 years in academia, says her dream is to “go back to the basics.” Universities have moved towards processes and layers at the expense of basic skills, she said. “People cannot write, cannot communicate, and they worry when you show them math. We have to make sure no one leaves the university without these basic skills.”
Turning to the notion of innovation, Alamdari said real innovation comes about through diversity of thought. “We all talk about diversity, but we have to concentrate on diversity of thought. We need people who think differently. We like like-minded people, but that doesn’t aid innovation,” she said. “If everybody thinks the same, no one is thinking”
Technology has transformed all aspects of education, but the university has not changed in fundamental ways, he said. He speculates great change on the horizon with the growing adaptation of online education. “Scale changes everything,” he says. “Now we have institutions offering courses with tens of thousands of students,” he said, noting Berkeley, Stanford, MITx and the Khan Academy as examples.
“There is lots of evidence that the traditional lecture model is not a great model of learning, he says. “Today we have embedded quizzes, electronic textbooks, and social tools that permit us to scale large but allow us to assemble in small communities. “ Gupta said technology provides a great opportunity to meet the needs of many people who cannot access education through traditional methods.
Ari Roy and Heath Davis discussed their experience using zines as an alternative and supplement to traditional written papers in an academic setting. In addition, they also talked about their zine work and its links to possibilities for civic engagement outside of the academy. Nora Mukaihata, archives and library manager with Zine Archives and Publishing Project (ZAPP) in Seattle, provided a community organization perspective and talked about ZAPP as a cultural site and highlighted some of the work they have done.
Fostering Scientific Innovation in the Age of Globalization
Written by Stacy Schultz
On this last day of UW Bothell’s Innovation Forum, current and former UW provosts, along with university professors and a local business leader came together to discuss the future of scientific innovation in the age of globalization. In his presentation, J. Rogers Hollingsworth, a Professor Emeritus of Sociology and History at the University of Wisconsin, discussed the value of researchers working together across disciplines.
Often scientists in different fields do not recognize they are addressing similar problems, he said. For example, researchers across disciplines are exploring the structure of complex networks. This is the case in work on neural networks, genes, transportation hubs, and international banking. It is also the case in research focused on properties of binding, which have implications from chemistry to nation building.
“There are these central problems,” he said. “We can use these common models and methods and really work together across different fields to generate new knowledge.”
To better facilitate communication across disciplines, Hollingsworth favors small research institutions that work alongside larger universities. “We need a new kind of research institution that is truly global,” he said.
UW Provost Ana Mari Cauce said she thought UW Bothell has an opportunity to be innovative in ways that more long-term established university campuses may not. “To me what is exciting about UW Bothell is that it is able to develop without an infrastructure that has been inherited,” she said.
She said one exciting area is the interdisciplinary use of campus buildings. “The crossroads are where innovations happen,” she said. “We are thinking about buildings in terms of function, not discipline.”
UW Bothell Interdisciplinary arts and sciences professor Alan Wood noted that when organizations get bigger, they develop less tolerance for risk. Thomas Clement, CEO of both Cardiac Insight Inc., and Aqueduct, agreed that with growth comes a reluctance to fail. “As organizations grow, they do get risk averse,” he said. “When you get bigger, big mistakes can be fatal.”
Former UW President Lee Huntsman offered some benefits of large universities. “We go to a lot of trouble to hire individuals who are brilliant, highly motivated, and hard to manage,” he said. “We give them the keys to the institution and then we get out of the way. In the macro sense, that works well.”
He also said there are advantages to the “greater menu of disciplines” within a large university. “I think of a university as a collection of small organizations,” he said. “It is like a holding company.”
Hollingsworth cautioned that future research programs should invest in basic science as well as applied research. “Many of the major innovations that we have today didn’t exist 40 – 50 years ago,” he said. “There were fundamental discoveries in science done decades ago that no one anticipated their impact.”
One audience member asked about the challenge of involving students in innovative research when many come to the classroom unprepared for high level science and math.
Cauce said that students are crucial to trans-disciplinary work. “They are like the bees that cross-pollinate,” she said. At the same time, she acknowledged that introductory science classes are often not engaging enough to students who are required to take the courses, but may not see why they need to know the material. This is an area where the university could do more, she said.
Clement suggested allowing people to learn in different ways. “It can’t be a cookie cutter approach,” he said. “You have to figure out how to get people curious.”
Hollingsworth said new technologies are going to revolutionize education. In the future, he cannot imagine that instruction will be like it is today, especially with the use of video. “Courses can be shared across the globe,” he said. “I can imagine a professor teaching hundreds of thousands of students.”