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The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out

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The Innovative University illustrates how higher education canrespond to the forces of disruptive innovation, and offers a nuanced and hopeful analysis of where the traditional university and its traditions have come from and how it needs to change for the future. Through an examination of Harvard and BYU-Idaho as well as other stories of innovation in higher education, Cl The Innovative University illustrates how higher education canrespond to the forces of disruptive innovation, and offers a nuanced and hopeful analysis of where the traditional university and its traditions have come from and how it needs to change for the future. Through an examination of Harvard and BYU-Idaho as well as other stories of innovation in higher education, Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring decipher how universities can find innovative, less costly ways of performing their uniquely valuable functions. Offers new ways forward to deal with curriculum, faculty issues, enrollment, retention, graduation rates, campus facility usage, and a host of other urgent issues in higher education Discusses a strategic model to ensure economic vitality at the traditional university Contains novel insights into the kind of change that is necessary to move institutions of higher education forward in innovative ways This book uncovers how the traditional university survives by breaking with tradition, but thrives by building on what it's done best.


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The Innovative University illustrates how higher education canrespond to the forces of disruptive innovation, and offers a nuanced and hopeful analysis of where the traditional university and its traditions have come from and how it needs to change for the future. Through an examination of Harvard and BYU-Idaho as well as other stories of innovation in higher education, Cl The Innovative University illustrates how higher education canrespond to the forces of disruptive innovation, and offers a nuanced and hopeful analysis of where the traditional university and its traditions have come from and how it needs to change for the future. Through an examination of Harvard and BYU-Idaho as well as other stories of innovation in higher education, Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring decipher how universities can find innovative, less costly ways of performing their uniquely valuable functions. Offers new ways forward to deal with curriculum, faculty issues, enrollment, retention, graduation rates, campus facility usage, and a host of other urgent issues in higher education Discusses a strategic model to ensure economic vitality at the traditional university Contains novel insights into the kind of change that is necessary to move institutions of higher education forward in innovative ways This book uncovers how the traditional university survives by breaking with tradition, but thrives by building on what it's done best.

30 review for The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gideon Burton

    The book is an excellent overview of standard features of higher education that came to us by way of the Harvard model. Those features were innovative in their day, but ironically, now impede the forward evolution of higher education because those aspects are not sustainable. This is pretty bold stuff, frankly, and will be upsetting to many traditionalists. But it incoroporates Christensen's thinking on disruptive innovation and was, for me, very convincing. While heavily weighted toward the inno The book is an excellent overview of standard features of higher education that came to us by way of the Harvard model. Those features were innovative in their day, but ironically, now impede the forward evolution of higher education because those aspects are not sustainable. This is pretty bold stuff, frankly, and will be upsetting to many traditionalists. But it incoroporates Christensen's thinking on disruptive innovation and was, for me, very convincing. While heavily weighted toward the innovations being conducted at BYU-Idaho, the book also highlights many different efforts going on right now (distance education, hybrid programs, etc.) in which the limits of traditional higher education institutions are being transcended. I think this is must reading for anyone seriously looking at the problems of higher ed today and wanting to see where people have made serious experiments in alternatives. I was so impressed by the kinds of innovation being talked about here that I contacted one of the authors (Henry J. Eyring) and was invited to meet with him and other administrators at BYU-Idaho. I traveled to Rexburg and did so and was amazed at how a small school with a big vision can make things happen.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    I do believe that anyone who is planning on going into higher education (to be a professor or administrator) should read this book. It helped me understand the DNA of our current Harvard-driven university system in the U.S. (somewhat of a mystery to me earlier), which the authors claim is probably unsustainable for many others institutions trying to parrot the elite universities. It was also interesting to see a wildly different approach at the new BYU-Idaho. There is an interesting section towar I do believe that anyone who is planning on going into higher education (to be a professor or administrator) should read this book. It helped me understand the DNA of our current Harvard-driven university system in the U.S. (somewhat of a mystery to me earlier), which the authors claim is probably unsustainable for many others institutions trying to parrot the elite universities. It was also interesting to see a wildly different approach at the new BYU-Idaho. There is an interesting section toward the end about scholarship, publish and perish, faculty tenure, and other traditions. The reason for the three stars instead of the five is because it does seem to be inflicted with an academic language that doesn't make compelling reading. Sensing that "academese," I put on my editor's hat (since I am an editor by trade) on just one page and found that the prose could have been tightened significantly. It also needed do be more inspiring, like Wendell Berry's essay on the university in his book Home Economics—or deeper philosophically about on-line learning, like Hubert L. Dreyfus's book On the Internet All that said, I'm glad I read it for the perspective and knowledge it gave me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Roberts

    What a magnificent book! Anyone who cares about the future (and the history) of higher education in the United States should read it. By examining the progress of Harvard and a small Mormon institution, Ricks College, that later became BYU-Idaho, they examine the forces, including online technology, that are changing higher education. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the freedom to make major changes to Ricks and BYU-Idaho as they were required, and thus provided excellent str What a magnificent book! Anyone who cares about the future (and the history) of higher education in the United States should read it. By examining the progress of Harvard and a small Mormon institution, Ricks College, that later became BYU-Idaho, they examine the forces, including online technology, that are changing higher education. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the freedom to make major changes to Ricks and BYU-Idaho as they were required, and thus provided excellent strategic templates for responding to the dire competitive situations now facing many non-elite research universities and liberal arts colleges. Fascinating, clear, and engaging, the book is readable in two or three days.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Reid Mccormick

    “I am not aware that any one single thing is well taught to the undergraduates of Harvard College” – A Massachusetts senator from 1839 Criticizing American higher education is as old as American higher education. Harvard University, America’s first and most prestigious university, is not immune to such criticism. The Innovative University is a different critique on higher education. Most critics of higher education focus their condemnation on administrative bloating, faculty tenure, grade inflatio “I am not aware that any one single thing is well taught to the undergraduates of Harvard College” – A Massachusetts senator from 1839 Criticizing American higher education is as old as American higher education. Harvard University, America’s first and most prestigious university, is not immune to such criticism. The Innovative University is a different critique on higher education. Most critics of higher education focus their condemnation on administrative bloating, faculty tenure, grade inflation, alcohol, etc., however, the authors here focus on the system’s ability to adapt to rapid changes in technology. As the internet becomes more available to the masses, how do universities properly implement the technology? Are traditional college campuses following the footsteps of newspapers and the postal service? The authors tell the tale of two schools: Harvard and BYU-Idaho. Harvard is considered the standard in higher education that all schools strive for, however it has definitely struggled throughout the years finding its core educational values. BYU-Idaho is a new and innovative university. A few years ago it was just a small two-year junior college, but through a combination of focused growth and intensive use of technology, the authors see BYU-Idaho as the future standard of higher education. The book provides a very interesting view on the future of higher education. Going through the history of Harvard was a little boring to read; it seems like it is impossible to talk about the future of higher education without discussing Harvard. I liked their presentation of BYU-Idaho, but I don’t think it is a model of the future. The integration of traditional classes with technology is nothing novel at this time. There didn’t seem to be much emphasis on the value of education, instead I felt like they were looking in a way to boost profits so they can lower tuition – which isn’t a bad idea. I think this is a good book and a great addition to the conversation of higher education opportunities.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark Nichols

    An excellent book; the loss of the fifth star is only because it is too long, and provides too much detail in terms of historical context of Harvard and BYU-Idaho. It could be argued that the depth demonstrates how institutions change over time, but much of it seems tangential to the book's main thesis: that universities must continually change their DNA to remain relevant and competitive. The last few chapters were well worth wading through the rest for; a highly recommended read for anyone see An excellent book; the loss of the fifth star is only because it is too long, and provides too much detail in terms of historical context of Harvard and BYU-Idaho. It could be argued that the depth demonstrates how institutions change over time, but much of it seems tangential to the book's main thesis: that universities must continually change their DNA to remain relevant and competitive. The last few chapters were well worth wading through the rest for; a highly recommended read for anyone seeking answers for the questions many universities face around viability and effectiveness in an online age.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chrisanne

    May I respectfully suggest that it be a requirement for ALL people working (or tenured) at an institution of higher learning to read this book by the end of the summer? The world is changing and Christensen and Eyring have put their finger on some of the ways that change will effect the traditional university. And, respectfully, I disagree with their view of UVU as an example -- it is too early in the game to prove their methods worthwhile (indeed, they seem to be struggling with specific goals, May I respectfully suggest that it be a requirement for ALL people working (or tenured) at an institution of higher learning to read this book by the end of the summer? The world is changing and Christensen and Eyring have put their finger on some of the ways that change will effect the traditional university. And, respectfully, I disagree with their view of UVU as an example -- it is too early in the game to prove their methods worthwhile (indeed, they seem to be struggling with specific goals, especially in regards to graduation rates). Revisit that campus in 10 years. "You get what you measure."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    The book makes some notable recommendations in the last few chapters, and has proven to be somewhat prescient in ways. That being said, it was a bit of a slog to get through in parts, and a bit long-winded for my taste. It was still a decent read, and has a number of wonderful quotes and insights. I wish I could give it a 3.5.

  8. 5 out of 5

    coolwind

    If you are like me, think this book is about innovation on university, you will be disappointed, or very disappointed. It is more a narrative of history of two universities plus what generally university does. There are good contents if you want to know how university is structured and why their policies are like as they are. The rating of 2 is mainly because the title of the book is misleading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Fadl

    The beginning of this book is strong and good. It discusses the history of Harvard University with lots to learn. Yet in the second half of the book, the authors fall into the Trapp of repetition, then pick back towards the end. All is all good book with important ideas , yet it could have been downsized to 300 pages

  10. 5 out of 5

    Noel

    Loved the history of Harvard and the higher ed system in the US. Wish there were more details on the operations and financial aspects of BYU - Idaho.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bailey L.

    This was a long book, but so thought provoking. If there is one thing this book did, it is shape my life's vocation to a more strategic purpose. I am committed to creating programs/initiatives to support student development, but now this book has made me realize that to do that really involves some policy shaping at a macro-level to make universities get why students' moral and mental development is so crucial to the university experience. To do that, mentoring students HAS to become a fundament This was a long book, but so thought provoking. If there is one thing this book did, it is shape my life's vocation to a more strategic purpose. I am committed to creating programs/initiatives to support student development, but now this book has made me realize that to do that really involves some policy shaping at a macro-level to make universities get why students' moral and mental development is so crucial to the university experience. To do that, mentoring students HAS to become a fundamental part of the job of professors (not just student affairs professionals). I enjoyed learning a lot about the history of higher education, which startled me on two fronts: that it is all based on what Harvard started doing even though almost all institutions don't have nearly the amount of funds Harvard does, and that we are still basing everything in higher ed on what we did two centuries ago. My views on online education and for-profit institutions shifted slightly through reading this book as well. This book definitely made me a big believer in hybrid classrooms and their ability to work. I also now understand how graduate programs got to be in the high place they are today and why that is not a sustainable strategy for some universities. I also now see that it is not smart for smaller, lesser known institutions to fund athletics programs. There were many other small realizations like this from this book, which has really instilled in me a desire to know more on these topics. Yes, what this book is promoting will take a great deal of support from the top level of any university who sees the truth for what it is - that higher ed must innovate, that we cannot keep on the same trajectory, being slaves of rankings and accreditation agencies. No, we must give our true constituent/customer, the STUDENTS, what they need and want: the skills to get the job they want and the support to figure out what that job is.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This book provided interesting insights into the problems facing higher education and detailed possible solutions in the last few chapters. It provides a lengthy description of Harvard's history that felt quite long in the middle. Eventually, it expanded on the results of a study done in 2010 by McKinsey Company quantifying the productivity and effectiveness of universities at producing degrees leading to jobs relative to their costs. I learned a great deal about BYU-Idaho as they hold it as a m This book provided interesting insights into the problems facing higher education and detailed possible solutions in the last few chapters. It provides a lengthy description of Harvard's history that felt quite long in the middle. Eventually, it expanded on the results of a study done in 2010 by McKinsey Company quantifying the productivity and effectiveness of universities at producing degrees leading to jobs relative to their costs. I learned a great deal about BYU-Idaho as they hold it as a model university adapting to online learning. It was interesting to read this at the same time as "The Brainy Bunch" and compare how a homeschooling family used online and community college courses to help their children obtain degrees less expensively and much more efficiently, in ways that the authors describe. One thing that bothered me about the book was how they would talk about the "Landscape" of great, successful universities in Utah and named the U of U, Westminster College, Western Governors University, and UVU, but left out BYU in Provo. Really? Western Governors University may be effective at providing online education, but is it so superior to BYU that BYU does not even make the list of great universities in Utah? It seemed that BYU did not fit their suggested mold, so it is easier to not even address it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emma M.

    What a book! This was a great way to begin my graduate studies in higher education administration because it was so incredibly informative. Christensen exposes the issues in higher education today by tracking the evolution of our education from the very beginnings. He tracks the history of Harvard because many traditional colleges are still trying to be just like them when they really cannot. He also tracks the history of BYU-I because it broke the mold. It chose to be different and embraced its What a book! This was a great way to begin my graduate studies in higher education administration because it was so incredibly informative. Christensen exposes the issues in higher education today by tracking the evolution of our education from the very beginnings. He tracks the history of Harvard because many traditional colleges are still trying to be just like them when they really cannot. He also tracks the history of BYU-I because it broke the mold. It chose to be different and embraced its’ strengths. That risk has paid off for them and Christensen explores why. True, this method can, at times, seem overwhelming. However, overall this read gives the reader some much needed context to understand what needs to be fixed and some ideas of how to fix it. I would be very interested to see many of these changes being put into place at more universities. The only issue I have is the lack of student voices. Why wasn’t there some input from BYU-I students? I want to know how they feel about the learning communities and what their experience has been. I really believe that would have enriched the read. I would highly recommend that anyone interested in higher education pick up this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    This book is outstanding. If you're in higher ed at all, or if you're interested in the future of higher ed in particular, I cannot recommend this book enough. If you're sending a student to college in the next few decades, I'd recommend it to you, too. It's really a good read. This book clearly uses the Innovator's Dilemma as a framework, but also draws on other conceptual models including the competency trap, lean manufacturing, the Pareto principle, and others. The main takeaways: the most succe This book is outstanding. If you're in higher ed at all, or if you're interested in the future of higher ed in particular, I cannot recommend this book enough. If you're sending a student to college in the next few decades, I'd recommend it to you, too. It's really a good read. This book clearly uses the Innovator's Dilemma as a framework, but also draws on other conceptual models including the competency trap, lean manufacturing, the Pareto principle, and others. The main takeaways: the most successful institutions (outside the most elite universities) will be those who identify their strengths and emphasize that while reducing non-core services/programs. Specifically, the book advocates a more agile environment, extreme focus on mentoring and student experience, a recognition that not all of our students will be going to graduate school, a reframing of knowledge generation to include things like scholarship of teaching and learning and more application based knowledge creation, and openly sharing the knowledge that is generated by the institution. Again, if you have any interest in this topic at all: Read This Book!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    This very readable book provides one of the most comprehensive histories of Harvard I have read. It clearly outlines and articulates how most traditional institutions of higher education have attempted to model themselves after Harvard, and not succeeded, mostly due to lack of resources. The authors also present the case study of the rise of BYU-Idaho, and how the founders and current administration have chosen not to emulate Harvard, with great success. The only idea that the authors do not con This very readable book provides one of the most comprehensive histories of Harvard I have read. It clearly outlines and articulates how most traditional institutions of higher education have attempted to model themselves after Harvard, and not succeeded, mostly due to lack of resources. The authors also present the case study of the rise of BYU-Idaho, and how the founders and current administration have chosen not to emulate Harvard, with great success. The only idea that the authors do not consider is how the theology inherent in the Church of Later Day Saints, and it followers/students, make for an educational environment that is not the current norm. While ultimately the agenda and outcome of students studying at BYU and other colleges and universities are similar, I doubt that the underlying culture is the same in regards to the four years spent pursuing an undergraduate degree. Bluntly put, I imagine that BYU students probably spend less time partying and socializing than their counterparts at state and private liberal arts institutions. The authors do not explore this very real variable when considering the success of BYU.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jae

    I found this to be a very strange book. Toward the end it did have a few interesting (and potentially useful) ideas/models for how higher education can remake itself in the current and coming crisis, but they were buried under an enormous history of Harvard University, which took up most of the book. Since I simply don't buy the notion that the entire world's university system as it's been run for the past several hundred years is based on Harvard (I mean, for one thing, many of the great univer I found this to be a very strange book. Toward the end it did have a few interesting (and potentially useful) ideas/models for how higher education can remake itself in the current and coming crisis, but they were buried under an enormous history of Harvard University, which took up most of the book. Since I simply don't buy the notion that the entire world's university system as it's been run for the past several hundred years is based on Harvard (I mean, for one thing, many of the great universities of Europe were around well before Harvard), it seemed like a really unnecessary move to make Harvard the single dominant case study in the whole book. My recommendation: read this, but with a critical eye, and be prepared to skim everything up until the bits at the end.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dolly

    Essential reading for anyone working in academia and for anyone working in K-12 education with the goal of helping kids climb the mountain to and through college. Also, important reading for any parent who hopes for their children to attend college. As a professor at a research university, I learned a ton from this book that will help me be a better contributor to great potential higher education holds for society. I come away better grounded in the historical context of higher education and more Essential reading for anyone working in academia and for anyone working in K-12 education with the goal of helping kids climb the mountain to and through college. Also, important reading for any parent who hopes for their children to attend college. As a professor at a research university, I learned a ton from this book that will help me be a better contributor to great potential higher education holds for society. I come away better grounded in the historical context of higher education and more deeply inspired for the part I might play in its future.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Irwin

    The last 30% or so of this book is excellent; thought-provoking, even if one does not buy into the authors' thesis entirely. The first 50-70%, on the other hand, is of interest only to those readers who might be interested in a detailed history of Harvard, and a relatively detailed history of BYU-Idaho. 300 pages could have been covered in 50, and the last 100 pages would still be meaningful. The gist of the book, that higher ed must seriously change its DNA or wither away, has several grains of The last 30% or so of this book is excellent; thought-provoking, even if one does not buy into the authors' thesis entirely. The first 50-70%, on the other hand, is of interest only to those readers who might be interested in a detailed history of Harvard, and a relatively detailed history of BYU-Idaho. 300 pages could have been covered in 50, and the last 100 pages would still be meaningful. The gist of the book, that higher ed must seriously change its DNA or wither away, has several grains of truth in it. Is the answer predominantly in the online environment? That remains to be seen.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A great primer for anyone who wishes to understand the issues higher ed faces today. If you work at a higher ed institution, this book wont alleviate the frustrations you most likely feel, but it will give you some context to understand the nature of those frustrations (they're systemic and not easily solved without major effort from senior management and buy in from employees). A great primer for anyone who wishes to understand the issues higher ed faces today. If you work at a higher ed institution, this book wont alleviate the frustrations you most likely feel, but it will give you some context to understand the nature of those frustrations (they're systemic and not easily solved without major effort from senior management and buy in from employees).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Clinton King

    Fascinating history of higher education in the United States (focused primarily on Harvard). When they start talking about what's currently happening, it gets alternately scary, intimidating, and hopeful, speaking as someone currently employed in higher education. I liked it. It's not light reading, though. Fascinating history of higher education in the United States (focused primarily on Harvard). When they start talking about what's currently happening, it gets alternately scary, intimidating, and hopeful, speaking as someone currently employed in higher education. I liked it. It's not light reading, though.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    My main complaint with this book is that many of the most likable parts sound like they are plagiarized from a dystopian novel. That was the uncomfortable feeling I kept getting. Yet the authors have serious proposals and some good ideas. Those involved in the university would benefit from reading this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    I love reading Clayton Christensen books. This book details the history of Harvard and of BYU-Idaho. I attended Rick College during my freshman year, which became BYU-Idaho. It was interesting to see how innovation and a university's acceptance or willingness to embrace innovation can make a real difference in the success of a university. This book made me think and I found it quite interesting. I love reading Clayton Christensen books. This book details the history of Harvard and of BYU-Idaho. I attended Rick College during my freshman year, which became BYU-Idaho. It was interesting to see how innovation and a university's acceptance or willingness to embrace innovation can make a real difference in the success of a university. This book made me think and I found it quite interesting.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Drtaxsacto

    I felt I had to read this book. Christensen is quoted a lot. And it actually is decent. It has some good history, especially about the history of Harvard's presidents but also about the transformation of BYU Idaho. It is a quick read. But I am not sure that many of the examples offer anything but transitory understandings of the kinds of change facing higher education. I felt I had to read this book. Christensen is quoted a lot. And it actually is decent. It has some good history, especially about the history of Harvard's presidents but also about the transformation of BYU Idaho. It is a quick read. But I am not sure that many of the examples offer anything but transitory understandings of the kinds of change facing higher education.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    This is a very detailed and thoughtful analysis. Not only is it's argument more nuanced and sympathetic than any other other book that I have read about higher education, it is also the most applicable and practical. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the current situation and the future of higher education. This is a very detailed and thoughtful analysis. Not only is it's argument more nuanced and sympathetic than any other other book that I have read about higher education, it is also the most applicable and practical. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the current situation and the future of higher education.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hom Sack

    Verbose and not very useful. The 15 tables in the book are all you need to read. And even then, the information is marginal. However, there are some interesting history about Harvard. But on the whole, don't waste your time on this 512 page book. I'm sure there are better ones out there. Verbose and not very useful. The 15 tables in the book are all you need to read. And even then, the information is marginal. However, there are some interesting history about Harvard. But on the whole, don't waste your time on this 512 page book. I'm sure there are better ones out there.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    I loved this book! I thought it was a great comparison to show what the differences were between different schools. Because it was a case study between two institutions, it seemed a little limiting, but the references cited and referred to will be helpful for further study. I enjoyed it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    I joined a book discussion group to read this -- and I had trouble making it through the "must read" chapters. It's not because the book is not well written, clear or provocative (for academics). It's just because it's too much like homework, and the thesis can be gleaned from the first chapters. I joined a book discussion group to read this -- and I had trouble making it through the "must read" chapters. It's not because the book is not well written, clear or provocative (for academics). It's just because it's too much like homework, and the thesis can be gleaned from the first chapters.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Cheeseman

    This book is very long and meticulously researched, and it's actually quite exciting to read. You have to be a higher education nerd to really appreciate it, but I would say that this book is the best of all the books I've read about the future of higher education. This book is very long and meticulously researched, and it's actually quite exciting to read. You have to be a higher education nerd to really appreciate it, but I would say that this book is the best of all the books I've read about the future of higher education.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason Golomb

    Terrific in-depth look at The Innovators' Dilema and how higher ed needs to evolve. Focus is on the historic development of Harvard and the little-known BYU-Idaho. Informative, historical, and thought-provoking. Especially for a dad whose first of three just started college. :-) Terrific in-depth look at The Innovators' Dilema and how higher ed needs to evolve. Focus is on the historic development of Harvard and the little-known BYU-Idaho. Informative, historical, and thought-provoking. Especially for a dad whose first of three just started college. :-)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Should have been a journal article, not a book. More than I wanted to know about both college histories.

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