Not throwing the baby out with the bathwater: continuity and the art of the future-facing campus

Change, the future and how best to prepare is top of every strategist’s mind, not least the university educationalist, for whom the world of the student experience is fast becoming something of an obsession. And rightfully so, though a word of caution: when recently asked by a UK-based university as to what we thought the key change drivers would be, and how best to plan for them, I was reminded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ championing not of change, but rather of what is going to stay the same.

This might sound counter-intuitive, and even a tad disingenuous, given Amazon’s position as grand disruptor of the world of sales and of that of customer service. However, Bezos’ point is not to ignore the importance of imagining the great change drivers of the future, but rather to build the vision of that future on the things that he knows remain ‘stable in time’. For Amazon these things or universal truths are low prices, fast delivery and great choice. For the aforementioned university, they are a magnetic campus, a highly personalised student experience, great choice and flexibility, and meaningful contact with the world beyond.

If none of this surprises, then that’s just the point. Amazon’s not reinventing the wheel, at least not where it doesn’t need to. A masterplan for the student experience of the future is one that caters for need to socialise, that integrates the digital and the physical in the name of the individual as much as it does the student population as whole, that invites students to write their own curricula, and that encourages collaborations between the university and businesses and organisations. Just like the plan that has people prefer Amazon over X, Y or Z, it is a plan built not on speculation, but on a set of universal truths.

So, my two pennies: Don’t throw the baby out of with the bathwater. Know what is true to you, to the wants and needs of students, and know that the real imaginative business is working out how best to get there, now and in the future. Do this and you build a truly future-facing campus, one as primed for change as it is grounded, to borrow once again from Bezos, in the things that remain stable over time.


Image Credit:RAWPIXEL (Main Header Image) /Anders Sune Berg (Featured Image)