I’m in Sedona for the 2004 ECAR Summer Symposium.
Mark Hamilton, the President of the University of Alaska, talked this morning about a Presidential perspective on higher education and the changes higher ed is undergoing.
Mark is a retired Army general, obviously incredibly intelligent, and a very engaging speaker.
One of the remarks he made is that the best organizational structure follows by one generation the most popular children’s toy. He talked about when he was young he played with wooden blocks, and organizations when he entered the work force resembled pyramidal piles of blocks. When he had kids they started playing with Legos, which enabled building flatter structures, and even inverted pyramids – and the organizational structures began to follow suit. The next trend he noticed was Transformers, where you use all and only the same pieces to create a new thing – and he notes that this is where we are with our current organizations, trying to be nimble and respond to changing circumstances while not having new resources added to do so.
Mark then noted that the current major trend in children’s toys are interactive experiences that encourage independent learners to interact with the environment – whether that’s a card game like Pokemon or immersive computer games. He challenged us to think of how the organizational structures will respond to that kind of experience.
Another quote of his that struck home with me is that “excellence in an organizaiton is done on the margin.”