Future University – Edge Zones
February 5, 2013 – 6:47 pm | Comments Off on Future University – Edge Zones

I’ve been thinking a bit about the future of the university, and it seems to me that a new model may be emerging, one that has something of the traditional sanctuary of a place of learning, but that innovatively engages communities, both local and international. There will, of course, have to be those preserves where students and teachers can contemplate their experience and learn together, but there must also be what, for the moment, one might think of as an edge zone where interactions of many kinds might take place.

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Defining Work

Submitted by on September 13, 2010 – 7:26 pmNo Comment

How does one get to the nature of the work?

The first key is close observation; how is the work done?  What are the interactions that define the work flow?  Who interacts with whom, and what is the content of the interaction?

How does one individual establish an understanding of what the other is saying and doing?  What are the materials used to communicate ideas?  And which constitute the most authoritative record of the work?  Getting at these issues is critical to imagining how best to enable work in the future and to help it develop productively. [Ethnographic approach]

A second key to understanding work is the cultural matrix within which it functions.  Any group with a shared history can be thought of as a “culture.”  One of these is the larger “macro culture” in which the organization sits; others are the cultures internal to the organization itself:  the different occupational groups, the people who operate the organization, and those who design and lead it; finally, “micro cultures” form around particular tasks and projects.  Especially in organizations that are geographically dispersed, cultural differences will be exacerbated, increasing the need to facilitate effective collaboration and to support a wide range of styles of individual work.  [Edgar Schein]

Methods for getting at these issues, beyond careful observation, include diagnostic games, scenario creation, story telling, simulations, thought experiments, role-playing, and prototyping. In some of these methods, various combinations of physical space, technologies, and organizational support can be combined and coordinated to explore future possibilities.

We have explored these issues and the methods of getting at them in Excellence by Design, Wiley 1999, [Excellence by Design] utilizing a number of case studies, drawing on the personal experience of the authors as well as innovative types of practice including “process architecture.”  We have also explored the issues in subsequent case studies and projects in our professional practice.

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