7 Ways To Disrupt Your Industry – A Response

I read this article this morning and couldn’t help but share some thoughts.

1) Totally eliminate your industry’s persistent customer pain points.

Seems to me that higher ed’s pain points are; orientation, registration, and graduation. 

     – Orientation: Let’s get every single department on campus to speak with our incoming students and families. They will TOTALLY remember everything we told them which will enable us to use our favorite comeback to a student issue, “Well, this was covered at orientation.”
     – Registration: I’m sorry, only your academic advisor who has 50-200 other students to advise can help you. I’m not trained in the curriculum, process, or authorized to do so anyways.
     – Graduation: You didn’t pay a parking ticket? You get no degree. You can only have 2 tickets. No your families cannot rush up to take a picture. Please keep your applause until the end.


     – Orientation: Cut the fat. Keep it simple. Keep it about the EXPERIENCE and not about info overload. Students want answers to three things: With whom & where am I living?, What classes am I taking?, Where can I find said classes?
     – Registration: Cross train those who are “in the trenches”, this means residence life, public safety, and student activities should be trained on the basics of registration.
     – Graduation: Within reason, stop with the empty threats. Create a PHOTO section for families to stand and take pictures. People want to celebrate their student’s accomplishment. Are you really going to make a student choose between Grandma and her step-sister?

2) Dramatically reduce complexity

     Registration: First you need to clear your bill with the bursar. The bursar needs your forms from Financial Aid. Financial aid needs to make sure you are enrolled. Registrar needs your ID. Your ID info is at public safety. Public safety only does IDs on certain days, on off-days check with residence life. Residence life can help but what building do you live in? You’re a commuter? Oh, check with admissions. Admissions needs proof that you are paying, go to the bursar. Headmeetdesk


This isn’t rocket science. If your campus allows for it, create a one-stop shop. I’ve been on campuses where a student might as well have run a marathon while trying to get an answer to a question that required other boxes to be checked first. If your campus doesn’t allow for it, get creative. If a student is still FAXING forms, you’ve got issues.

3) Cut prices 90 percent (or more)

     Impossible in higher ed. Oh wait, Khan, Stanford, MITx…maybe not so impossible. Of course, it costs $5,000 – $225,000 to have the president of your institution sign a piece of paper that says DEGREE.


If we don’t come up with one, a whole population of students are going to create their own that doesn’t involve us. You’ve been warned.

4) Make stupid objects smart.

     ID cards are first photo IDs, then (sometimes) building and room keys. That’s all? Really?!


ID cards are now not only keys but packed with linkage to your student profile. Need to go the bursar to pay a bill? Swipe your ID and EVERYTHING shows up on their screens so they see the complete picture. No more “oh that record is on this form in DATATEL while this record is on that form in BlackBoard and this one is in JANIS.”

5)  Teach your company to talk.

     New employee orientation is usually – here is a campus tour, here is a schedule of people you will meet in the first two weeks, here is your office. If you have questions, just ask.


Make new employee orientation a two month process with a week spent in each office around campus to learn the processes of each office. This is an investment. The new employee now becomes a mobile one-stop shop of answering questions and has built a repoire with each department.

6) Be utterly transparent

     I don’t know how that works. I can’t help you. I have no idea. (None of these are acceptable responses.)


Teach humility. “I honestly have no idea how that works, let me call them for you so we can both find out.” This may mean, for example,  inviting academic advisors to your RA training, not to train but to be TRAINED by the RAs

7) Make loyalty dramatically easier than disloyalty.

Does your staff have an institution related t-shirt, sweatshirt, tie, pin? Do your students?


A campus champions team is assembled. They are stocked with free giveaways ranging from pins, pennets, buttons, shirts, sweatshirts. See a student wearing swag from another school? Give them some swag from their campus. There should be no reason for students to NOT want to wear your school colors/logo. Same goes for staff, give them a day a month to rock school colors. This means they may get to wear jeans (OH NOES!) all professionalism out the window. Sigh.

Did you read the article? What do you think? What point stuck with you?

Conference 3.0: Joining the Conference Committee

Sometimes, the timing of things just happens to work out. We’ve been discussing this topic for the past week or so and then something happened. This morning we witnessed an exchange in our twitter streams that perfectly sets the stage for the blog post we had just finished editing a day before.

Here is the exchange:

And now for the post:

Student Affairs Pro 1: “I want to join the conference planning committee! It looks like so much fun!”

Student Affairs Pro 2: “Great! Why?”

Student Affairs Pro 1: “Well, look at that team, so much fun. Great vests, too! And a nice line on the resume!”

Student Affairs Pro 2: This look.

You’ve more than likely overheard or have been a part of such an occurrence at a conference. Great enthusiasm, great energy, no direction. This is akin to volunteering to be on the stage with a magician before he/she has told you what you volunteered for. Student Affairs Pro 1 is doing it for the glory, not for the greater good.

So before you, Student Affairs Pro 2, encourage this individual to fill out the application, write the essays, and start using word of mouth to share their interest with others, perhaps you should pass along this list to them.

If you are considering applying for a Conference Planning Team – or know someone who is, read the following and pass it on.

The ideal conference committee member…

– Should not be doing this for popularity, SWAG, or because of the cute conference chair.

– Should not be doing this because they were voluntold without reason

– Should do it if they are asked specifically for a certain skill set that the conference team is lacking (you bring value to team)

– Should do it if they have good ideas and want to provide a quality professional development experience for their colleagues

– Should not do this to pad the resume or for the “glory.”

– Should do this with the intent of improving the conference experience

– Should be willing to ask for help if it will make the conference a better experience for attendees.

– Should not be planning to recruit all of their friends to their committee, team, volunteer,

– Should look to recruit people with a high level of commitment to the ideas expressed above.

– Should have a high level of organization – or know someone that does and recruit them to assist.

Commitment – Time, Energy, Focus
– Should be able to commit the time and energy through the full conference planning process. This likely means a lot of time in advance, but also time after the conference for assessment and wrap up.

– Should not be applying if they know they will be job searching out of the region. *Re-read previous line*

– Should not plan to just re-use materials from last year without making improvements or changes.

-Should be willing to do grunt work in addition to ideas-work – when it comes to conference time, everyone has to pitch in!

– Should be willing to talk to others and be open to new ideas – and willing to see them through.

– Should already have ideas of how to enhance and/or improve the conference experience they just had.

– Should consider talking to people who have raved about recent conferences to see what was so great and how to incorporate it.

– Should be prepared to attend a conference that is outside of higher ed in the year leading up to their conference to cultivate new ideas

– Should explore how to involve student affairs professionals from diverse functional areas and across all stages of their career – grad students, entry level professionals, mid-level managers, SSAOs, etc.

What are your experiences with conferences and professional organizations? What is on your list of dos and don’ts? Feel free to continue this conversation in the comments below, or by following the Conference 3.0 hashtag #Conf30.

Thanks to @StacyLOliver, @CLConzen@CarolynGolz@JeffLail for kick starting the conversation this morning.
Thanks to @WSWCSM for the hilarious GIF image and website.

This is cross-posted on my co-conspirator’s blog as well: http://tech.kristendomblogs.com,  you can follow her at @Kristendom.

Here is the number to ACTION, call them back.

Thanks to Twitter, I have people I consider colleagues from all over the country. These are people I learn from, interact with, bounce ideas off of, and try to connect with outside of Twitter. Many of these colleagues are the innovators, the doers, the box pokers, the instigators, the (dare I say) “radicals” that Eric Stoller is searching for. These are the people that more often than not find themselves in situations where they have to fight harder, longer, and with more tools than others. This is because when you try, you will make mistakes, you will fail, and you will disrupt the status quo.

The most recent example was a colleague who is trying to buck the trend of conferences being a rinse, wash, repeat system. This innovator went so far as to completely sketch out the vision with supporting articles to provide the conference committee a holistic picture of a new program layout.

Sadly enough, when the call for programs for the conference went out it hadn’t changed in the slightest. Actually, the date on the form was still last year’s. This is why things haven’t changed.

We can do better.

We can do so much better, and we need to. We cannot continue to facilitate conferences the way we have in the past. A wise man shared with me this quote when confronted with someone who disregards change as progress. “Funny you say that, you know once upon a time we washed our clothes by hand but I think you’d agree that the washing machine worked out ok.”

We can do better.

I’ll lead the charge. People have already linked arms with me to form the front lines so the voice of the movement is full of a wide range of experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm.  The call to action is here. You can either answer it or let it ring.

The choice is yours.

This is the first of a series of thoughts, plans, and calls to action around planning conferences. The series is organic. Add your voice to the conversation. Comment here or write your own post and link to it from the comments. If you don’t have a blog, I’d be more than happy to host your thoughts on my blog. Let me know.