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squareWhat words of wisdom could Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and the founder and CEO of Square,  possibly have for the academic dean?   In a National Public Radio interview with Kai Ryssdal on May 21, 2015, Dorsey discussed his management style.    In particular, he discussed a management style similar to my own.   One where people and their ideas are highly-valued, one where decision-making is pushed closer to the stakeholder, and one where organizational leadership is key.   Following is a quote from the interview with Jack Dorsey:

I say that if I have to make a decision, we have an organizational failure. (That’s) because I don’t have the same context as someone who is working day to day with the data, with the understanding of the customer. I definitely see the organization and the people in it as the ones to make the decisions, because they have the greatest context for what needs to be done.

How many academic leaders can honestly agree with a management philosophy where “my job is to make sure that decisions get made” and where “there is an organizational failure if I am making the decisions”?  I would like to re-frame Jack Dorsey’s quote to make it applicable in a university setting:

I say that if a provost, dean or department head has to make a decision affecting academic program curriculum, the university has an organizational failure. This is because the provost, dean or department head does not have the same context as someone who is working day to day with an understanding of the students and the expected learning outcomes of the academic program.  The provost, dean or department head should definitely see the university and the faculty in it as the ones to make the curricular decisions, because they have the greatest context for what needs to be done.  (quote: Dr. Percy Trappe)

What do you think?   Does this ring true?  Is this your experience?   I would suggest that department heads, deans and provosts have much to learn from Jack Dorsey.

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe   

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Intellectual CapitalIt has indeed been my privilege to serve on the Dean’s Search Committee for the past several months. During that time I have learned a tremendous amount about the characteristics of an outstanding business school.  Each Dean candidate has provided us with unique perspectives on what it will require for our business school to achieve its strategic vision.

Based upon our face-to-face meetings with eleven different candidates and multiple discussions with colleagues in both the academic and business communities, I make the following observations:

  1. The collective intellectual capital of a business school’s faculty is, for better or worse, the defining factor of an outstanding business school.
  2. Our business school must aggressively recognize and reward scholarship and the development of intellectual capital as a foundation of its success. The currency of the academic marketplace is the development of intellectual capital.
  3. I believe faculty in our business school have a unique opportunity to broaden the traditional definition of ‘outstanding scholarship’ and to find ways to reward faculty for the development of intellectual capital that is highly relevant to members of the business community and that furthers the ideal of ‘service to others’.

In order to take our school to the ‘next level’, the immediate challenge for the new Dean will be to work with vested constituencies (with perhaps an emphasis on our alumni) to create a broad vision that bridges the gap between the research strengths of the faculty and the greater business community.  In my estimation, the entire business school community must build on this new vision to develop our resource base, to build and expand our academic programs, and to energize our classroom teaching (particularly at the graduate level).

The result of not aggressively emphasizing academic scholarship (i.e. not emphasizing the development of intellectual capital, research) is:

  • Inability to effectively attract and retain faculty talent (the marketplace says that the intellectual capital of a faculty member is what most directly determines their value). This will take place in a world with a looming shortage of business PhD’s.
  • MBA Program: forced to compete at the low end of the market. Why? Faculty will continue to be viewed by students merely as instructors (reactive presenters of others’ concepts) rather than being viewed as sages (proactive developers and presenters of original, peer-reviewed concepts).
  • Inability to grow PhD program and attract chaired professors. There is a direct correlation between ‘top flight’ faculty, their PhD students and the academic reputation of the university. This reputation is built largely on academic scholarship.

Please do not take this memo to suggest that teaching and ‘service to others’ should be relegated to a lower status than research. Rather outstanding classroom teaching and service should be the expectation for all faculty members at our university.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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