Future University – Edge Zones
February 5, 2013 – 6:47 pm | No Comment

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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Translational Diagnosis: Leveraging Innovation

Submitted by on October 25, 2010 – 10:59 pmNo Comment

In order to support continuous improvement and deliver the highest quality science, new research laboratory spaces are needed. These spaces must be flexible and agile in order to quickly adapt as research methods and techniques change over time. Adaptable labs spaces may be smaller and more readily modified to support shifts in research work and type. Research work may expand outside the traditional laboratory as collaborative teams engage in the creative exchange of ideas and need to quickly communicate and experiment. Improvements in mobile equipment, computational and communications technologies provide greater variety of research locations, immediately situated, distributed or remote. Typically organizations ‘silo’ decision making into separate facilities development, management, and provisioning units, from the research group. This presents a clear challenge to innovation and makes ongoing improvements and adjustments difficult at best. A multi-disciplinary approach is required for complex and challenging projects. Coordinated efforts are necessary in order to leverage capabilities and enable change and ongoing improvement processes in a new Life Space model.
New diagnostic methods are needed by which to evaluate the innovation potential within research spaces and practices and identify significant opportunities as well as obstacles to progress. These findings need to be molded into specific challenges and formulated into a comprehensive plan for improvement. One important feature of this new diagnostic method is that it should simultaneously assess the work (the scientific research) and the effective behaviors of the individuals and teams doing the work, alongside the spaces that support them. What we call a translational diagnosis should be differentiated from general area calculations and occupancy evaluations which present an over-simplified picture of work flow and space utilization. The first steps of this new approach are to identify and assess the presented challenges and prioritize these according to their overall organizational value. The outcome is not only an action plan but a commitment to ongoing and continuous improvement.
In order to engage with potential improvements across disciplines, a core team with a Matrix Organization is required. A core team organized in this way is populated with key leaders from each specialist discipline; each having decision-making capacity, being responsible for information, and managing work flow with their backup team. The core team works together from early diagnosis to project implementation, commissioning and re-evaluation. Each key leader works simultaneously on the project and moves forward together in iterative steps. In this Concurrent Thinking approach the key team leaders are charged with reviewing and refining their work in light of the high level input of other disciplines until a consensus is reached as to the best possible solution. This work proceeds in subsequent stages until the diagnosis is complete and an actionable purpose has been identified for subsequent improvement.
These diagnostic methods and collaborative approaches are effective methods by which to successfully advance, manage and implement change. Innovation much like scientific research sometimes has surprising and unanticipated results. Innovation may result in at least a revised work challenge. In other cases a change in work practices may take the form of re-engineering the research process and physical spaces. While at a larger scale these adaptations could engage a re-thinking and modification of business practices and organizational structures. Regardless of the scale, innovation unlocks the potential to change. Anderson Porter Design uses translational diagnosis and team building strategies to co-align scientific research work with real estate, facilities and human resource supports.