Thursday, October 29, 2020

Reimagining Higher Education with Professor Jack Shannon and Futurist Frank Diana

In this compelling episode we take a deep dive with futurist Frank Diana and Professor Jack Shannon into the future of children, the future of work and the future of higher education.  We then discuss how the pandemic and emerging technologies have impacted all of them and explore what possible future scenarios may look like.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Digital Transformation, Caring for Students and Meeting Expectations during a Pandemic at Tuskegee University with Dr. Jack Crumbly

This year has been like no other.  Join me as I interview Professor Jack Crumbly from the historically black Tuskegee University.  In addition to the rapid digital transformation already taking place in higher education, 2020 introduced the Covid-19 pandemic and social unrest.  Learn what it is like to chair a department in this vortex of change while working to provide the best student experience possible.



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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Rethinking the Future of Higher Education with Futurist Alexandra Whittington

Join me as futurist Alexandra Whittington helps us rethink and expand our perceptions of what the future of higher education might look like.  The notion of a "traditional university experience” may no longer apply to the students of tomorrow who have different requirements, dreams and aspirations.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Higher Education and Pandemic Inspired Digital Transformation with Professor Bill Griffiths

In this episode, Professor Bill Griffiths of St. John’s University, who has over fifty-two years of teaching experience, shares how the pandemic has made the year 2020 different from all others.  We explore the impact of the pandemic on higher education in general, professors, and students.  We discuss the digital transformation journey of universities over the past decade, and how this pandemic experience has accelerated change and may have a long-lasting impact.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Higher Education and Pandemic Inspired Digital Transformation with Dr. Marek Kowalkiewicz, Part 2

In Part 2 (watch part 1 here) of my interview with digital transformation and higher education expert Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz, we dig deep into the technologies that support universities, digital transformation and the long-term effects of the pandemic on higher education.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Twitching Professors, Outsourced Parenting, Digital Transformation and the University Experience

“Even our custodians have a role to play in transforming our students,” explained Dr. Jack Crumbly of Tuskegee University, when describing the value of the “university experience.” The future is about “universities without borders,” predicted Dr. Marek Kowalkiewicz, a professor who studies Twitch gamers to improve his digital classroom teaching experience.  “It’s really about what the students want, and what those business models look like,” added Dr. Bill Griffiths, a professor with 52-years of educational experience.  These are just a few of the comments I recorded over the past few weeks while interviewing professors in higher education.

I noted four particular findings from my interviews and research:

1. It’s about the experience of learning and growing in a community focused on higher education
2. Universities must deliver for both students and parents
3. The importance of mentors, professors and engagement 
4. New players and business models are impacting the future of higher education

What does a “university experience” mean to an eighteen-year-old? Independence?  Relationships?  Parties?  Personal growth?  New friends?  New beginnings?  Escape?  YES!  To parents it may mean something completely different like - HELP!  Help me transform this obstinate teenager into an employable, self-sufficient, and responsible adult. No matter what the student’s or parent’s goals are, it will be difficult for these to be accomplished alone on a laptop in the family basement.  

Repeatedly in my interviews and discussions with professors the value and importance of an immersive learning and growing experience within a university community was emphasized.  It was my impression as a result of these discussions, that many of us underestimate the personal growth that takes place as part of the “university experience,” and focus too much on the acquired skills and degrees aspect.  Degrees can be achieved through multiple channels, but personal growth takes a purposeful village.

Online education has been around long enough that the basics are well understood.  The difficulties remain the ability to provide engagement and social connections for students in a digital environment.  Helping students feel a part of a supportive university community and a member of something important and meaningful is critical, and not easily done in digital only environments.  More work and focus are needed in this area.

If a student is just interested in acquiring skills and getting employed, companies like Google are now offering online classes that are treated as equal to university classes.  If a person successfully passes these Google courses, Google is willing to hire them without a university education.  The student, although potentially employable, will miss out on the personal growth and “university experience.”  It seems to me our communities will be less for it.

All three professors I interviewed last week mentioned the value of mentorship, guidance and advise that professors can provide when there are opportunities to form close relationships on a physical campus.  “Not all students come to us with backgrounds that enable them to easily understand a subject’s context,” Dr. Crumbly shared.  A professor working closely with a student can quickly recognize this context challenge and can help them remediate it.

Professors and instructors of all kinds are powerful professional contacts as well.  When resumes are thin, a good referral from a trusted professor can be just what a student needs to gain a foot in the door of a career opportunity.

It seems to me that the Covid-19 pandemic is helping to spotlight and clarify the required technical deliverables now and in the future for higher education.  Digital technologies should be used to enhance the “university experience” for students, parents and university staff, while providing opportunities for social engagement.  Digital platforms are valuable as a way of protecting students and staff during times of danger, they can remove geographic barriers, eliminate scheduling conflicts, reduce travel and parking issues and provide additional and alternative learning channels.

Watch "Higher Education and Pandemic Induced Digital Transformation" with Dr. Marek Kowalkiewicz, Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube now.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Higher Education and Pandemic Inspired Digital Transformation with Dr. Marek Kowalkiewicz, Part 1

In Part 1 of this episode, we take a deep dive into pandemic inspired digital transformation within higher education with Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz of the Queensland University of Technology.  We discuss how universities are rapidly adapting to educating students during a pandemic and how many of the technologies adopted and lessons learned will permanently impact the way education is delivered.  Also covered is how the pandemic may change the global higher education market, competition for students, and university business models.

 

Watch Part 2 of my interview with Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz here.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Pandemic-Induced Digital Transformation in Higher Education

Both students and universities have been deeply involved in digital transformation since the beginning.  In fact, the origins of the internet can be found in the labs of great research institutes and universities, and Facebook was first conceived by students at Harvard University. 

As students and university staff (and the rest of the connected world) rapidly adopted these internet-based, wireless, mobile and cloud-based applications in their personal lives, they also recognized the value these innovations could offer all aspects of operating a university.  Software solutions for enterprise resource planning systems, facilities management, course management and enrollment systems were all rapidly implemented, and classroom and teaching technologies followed slowly behind.  

Many universities and professors have moved slowly to implement and employ teaching and learning technologies.  This slow adoption, however, is rapidly changing as a result of both competition and the global Covid-19 pandemic.  The pandemic has reprioritized just about everything.  Every university today is now upgrading and rethinking operations and classroom strategies.

While one might guess that universities and staff are the source of reluctance to move into the digital era, often it is students and parents that are hesitant to embrace online learning environments.  They want more and expect more from an expensive investment in a university education.  Dr. Jack Crumbly, Associate Professor and Management Department Chair at Tuskegee University explained to me that parents are often looking for universities to do more than just educate their children.  They want help transforming them into responsible and self-sufficient adults.  Students, on the other hand, are looking to leave the house and to develop an active social life where lifelong personal and professional networks of friends and relationships can be established.  All of these motivations point to a need and desire for a continuing if not enhanced physical presence.  

The key theme I keep hearing from all of my interactions with university staff is the desire for great "experiences."  Parents want to invest in a university experience that will help transform their children. Students also want a transformational experience, although their motivations, and the types of desired experiences are likely different.  Let's not forget that educators themselves want a better teaching experience and all of this still needs to be operated on a budget.

The big want for many institutions of higher learning today is for better physical experiences enhanced by digital technologies, rather than replaced by them.  This guidance should give focus to entrepreneurs and innovators.

Once the massive pandemic-induced learning curve becomes manageable for educators, then serious optimization and improvement will become their focus.  Look for a great deal of accelerated innovation in the near future from higher education, and a complete rethinking effort around operating models and budgets.  

Watch for my new interview series on Higher Education and Pandemic Inspired Digital Transformation later this week.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Mindset of a Digital Winner


I recently presented my views on how to succeed as a digital leader to over one hundred retail executives in Asia.  They seemed to find it useful, so now I am sharing them here in an article format in the hopes that others might benefit.  The content is my synthesis of findings that are derived from many different research projects and hundreds of interviews I have conducted with executives.

Digital winners think differently about digital innovations.  They quickly recognize how new innovations can offer benefits. They expect and look forward to finding and capturing competitive advantages in new trends and technologies.  They expect, at a higher level, to receive positive ROIs from their investments in new innovations.  They are both more optimistic and enthusiastic about emerging technologies and possibilities.  They are honest about their digital maturity, and where they are failing to keep up with change.

Digital laggards, on the other hand, are slower to understand how new digital innovations might be useful.  They often suffer from normalcy bias.  They often underestimate the amount of change that is occurring in their industry and with their customers.  As a result, they underestimate the amount of work and resources they need to invest in order to keep up with the cadence of change. They are reluctant to invest in new technologies, fearful of making the wrong moves, and they believe they can delay action today and catch up with digital leaders in the future.

It is fascinating how much the mindset of leaders determine whether a company will be successful or not.  More than products, services, technology platforms, funding, talent, ambition and creativity - it's mindset that often has the biggest impact.

Digital winners in retail watch for emerging and moving customer interaction points where they can meet with and address the needs of their customers.  These interaction points are constantly on the move.  In recent years we have watched them move from brick and mortar stores to websites, mobile  apps and then on to social media sites, podcasts, YouTube, TikTok and other digital influencer-oriented sites.  Digital winners will be where their customers are moving.

The future is too complex to predict accurately, so digital winners invest in understanding and anticipating a range of possible future scenarios.  Digital leaders will then develop playbooks for how best to win in each of the scenarios and create sense and respond strategies that help identify when and which future scenarios morph into today’s reality.

Middle managers often share how difficult it is to interpret an executives’ words, intent and guidance related to digital transformation.  When an executive says we must “innovate and transform,” it is critical to follow up with a clarifying doctrinal statement shared with everyone.  If the focus is digital transformation, then let's call it a “Digital Transformation Doctrine” that clearly and concisely defines “what, why and how” an organization should understand and respond to it.  The agreed upon doctrine will then influence the development of specific business strategies and tactics. 

Increasingly digital winners win because of information dominance.  When a competitor invests in seemingly unassociated programs and services, ask yourself what data will those programs and services provide today and how can it be an advantage?  Amazon Prime and Walmart+ are good examples.  Investing in understanding your customers better is a good investment.  Look for adjacent market data, or combinations of different data sets that help you see new and different patterns.  Winners thrive in taking action on data patterns only they see.

Speed is an important physics concept and an important business concept as well.  It just keeps popping up in my research.  Is your transformation speed aligned with the speed of changing consumer preferences?  Misalignment equates to lost business for you and more business for competitors.  Capture the speed of change and use it as an advantage.

Simplify to achieve speed and control.  Complexity is the enemy of agility, and acts as poison from the past.  Simplify to achieve speed and let leaders focus on customers, employees, high level doctrines and strategies rather than tactics. 

How fast can you take meaningful action on new data?  What is your speed to action (STA)?  What is your speed to action relative to your competition? How fast are you expanding into adjacent markets and industries, or how fast are they expanding into yours?

How much change can your organization manage in a given time frame?  How do you even measure an organization’s capacity for change?  I propose a need for a unit of measurement called “Transformative Energy Units (TEUs).” All activities either increase or decrease TEUs and knowing how much is available to work with is essential.  Leaders must understand how much change their organization has the energy to make.  They must recognize how to refresh and resupply TEUs in their organization to ensure they don’t exhaust their people and lose their talent.

How digitally friendly is your business model?  I have seen many legacy companies struggle with digital transformation because of friction related to traditional ways of conducting business, compensating sales teams and working with channels.  Of all the things that can negatively impact your business - don’t let it be your model.

Reconnaissance scouts have been used in military organizations for centuries as a way to gain greater insight and make better decisions.  Innovations and proof of concept projects provide businesses with similar benefits.  They allow leaders to make better decisions and investments on insights ahead of competitors.  Advantages in insight lead directly to advantages in business.

Today it is very difficult to build a successful business in isolation.  Investors want start-ups to invest in their unique differentiators, not on aspects of the business that can be shared across ecosystem partners.  Think about the thousands of businesses partnering with Amazon and using their logistics infrastructure and marketing engines.  Smart leaders identify and participate in winning ecosystems that provide shared business value, platforms, systems, functionality and data. As ecosystems expand, they can in themselves become a competitive differentiator. 

Digital winners do not expect or wait for a return to status quo.  Digital winners expect perpetual change and accept they will never return to a past state.  Digital winners learn to manage in ambiguity?  They create an environment that is future focused, where tomorrow’s opportunities are being anticipated and prepared for today.

Digital winners automate and execute change faster than their competition.  Winners have both the agility and the ability to quickly change course and align with fast evolving customer behaviors and preferences faster than their competition.  Avoid partners, suppliers, channels and ecosystems that may limit your ability to be agile.  The future is different, so never lock yourself into today.

Digital winners really understand what their customers want.  Based on this insight they employ the right philosophies, designs, systems, technologies and business processes to provide it.  They look for and find competitive advantages in their user experiences, personalization and recommendation engines, business operational tempos, process automations, omnichannel interactions and experiences, analytics and information logistics.

Rapidly evolving and expanding privacy laws reinforce the importance of keeping existing customers enthusiastic and loyal.  Customers are willing to share a great deal of personal information about their preferences and buying habits in exchange for fair value.  Digital winners honor loyal customers by continually increasing the value they provide.

Digital winners consider the lifetime value of their customers.  They create individual profit and loss statements (P&Ls) for each customer.  This provides them a long-term view and understanding of past, present and future value.  A loyal customer is more than a one-time transaction of a $5 product.  With today’s predictive analytics, a $5 purchase today can be considered one installment of a $200,000 lifetime transaction value.  Given this recognition, what incentives can you customize and personalize today to help capture the full lifetime value?

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.