University Business - December 2012 - (Page 68)

Education Innovators Daniel Rasmus on... By Tim Goral The Science of Scenarios UBTech 2012 and 2013 presenter Daniel Rasmus is a strategist who helps clients put their future in context. Rasmus uses scenarios to analyze trends in society, technology, economics, the environment, and politics to discover implications used to develop and refine products, services and experiences. Previously, Rasmus was the director of business insights at Microsoft, where he helped the company envision how people will work in the future. He managed the Center for Information Work, an immersive experience that helped Microsoft’s customers experience the future of work first-hand. He is the author of over 200 trade journal articles and four books, including Listening to the Future: Why It’s Everybody’s Business (Wiley, 2008). In this essay, he discusses how higher education can benefit from scenario planning. nstitutions of higher education tend to plan in a very linear way, driven by accreditation processes better prepared to test an organization’s historical ability to deliver value, than by their future ability to compete and remain relevant. Organizations that want to remain relevant need not only encourage strategic thinking that positions them in a competitive framework, but they need to apply scenario planning to grapple with the multiple uncertainties that often force them to adapt rapidly to the changing world around them. What Are Scenarios? Scenario planning augments strategic planning by creating multiple stories about the future that allow organizations to more fully explore uncertainty, discover emergent opportunities, and recognize threats more effectively. Because scenarios compel people to confront uncertainty in a very visceral way, it helps them plan and act more strategically. Scenario stories start with the most important and critical uncertainties fac68 | December 2012 I ing an organization or industry, eventually converging on a matrix or set of storylines that use different values for those uncertainties that drive the plots. Funding, for instance, in some futures, may be significantly worse than it is today, with near disconnection of public schools from public funding. In other futures, funding may come from other sources, as large companies or not-for-profits step in to shore up a lagging public-sector education system they rely on for a well-trained workforce. Just those two extremes suggest implications, large and small, for public institutions. For the grey areas in between, there are even more possibilities. Only plausible futures need apply. Scenarios have no room for magic or miracles. Scenarios extrapolate the future using narrative logic, stretching the narrative through the interplay of the uncertainties. This may generate plausible actions, concepts, or inventions that don’t yet exist, but these remain grounded in physics, economics and other systems that create the world’s operational rules. These rules, however, only go so far. Any time an existing system can be construed as wholly man-made, it can be reengineered within the scenario narrative. Education at the Crossroads: Existential Threats and Uncertainty Scenarios start with uncertainty. Education is facing a wide range of uncertainties, far too many to explore here. The following list provides an overview of a few of the most critical and uncertain forces at play. Funding. For private institutions, funding is a matter of allocation. For public institutions, however, education has seemingly become the balancing account for state and local budgets. Funding models and sources of revenue remain highly uncertain for public institutions. Apply trust in combination, and for-profit institutions also face uncertainty about their funding models as the U.S. Congress seeks to hold them more accountable. The Student Loan Bubble. As the U.S. government sought to shore up a deteriorating economy, it bolstered loans to students and parents, with little more scrutiny than sub-prime lenders. No one knows how far this bubble will extend, or how a future collection of elected officials will deal with the potential for increased defaults and social security garnishments. Perhaps the economy will recover with a new wave of innovation and the student loan bubble will slowly wheeze to collapse rather than burst. Trust issues arise from two different directions. The first is the trust of educational institutions clouded by the scandals of for-profit institution recruiting practices, unaccredited institutions publishing degrees and student safety issues. The loss of trust in educational institutions also comes from the inability of many institutions to offer a compelling return-on-investment— to justify rising costs and few, lower-paying job opportunities for the average student. Some speculate that another trust vector comes from loans made to unqualified students who force cash-strapped colleges

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - December 2012

University Business - December 2012
Editor’s Note
College Index
Ad Index
Behind the News
Money Matters
Independent Outlook
5 Reasons Flipped Classrooms Work
Test Driving Mobile
Open Source Myth Busters
Models of Efficiency
1st Annual Readers’ Choice Awards
Education Innovators
Endowments: New Questions
End Note

University Business - December 2012