At the 11th annual EDUCAUSE conference in Denver Nov. 4, more than 1,000 attendees listened to the advice of best-selling author and business expert Jim Collins, who used his decades of business-world research to show how colleges and their information technology departments can improve from mediocre to world leaders.

Collins, author of "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t," said campus officials and IT administrators should avoid corporate approaches to success. He also said they should focus on hiring the right people and anticipating future challenges.

In higher education, "money is only the means, but not the definition of success," said Collins, contrasting colleges to corporations, which tend to define themselves by profit margin.

"Money is only the input [for colleges]. … When we judge a college by the size of its endowment, we’ve got it confused," he said. "We must reject the idea that the primary path … to being a great university is to become more like a business."

Improving campus IT services, Collins said, requires decision makers to hire the right people for critical jobs. Decades of research showed that a business can bolster the value of its leadership positions by five times if the correct people are hired, Collins said.

Collins’ latest book, "How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In," was released in May. It advises IT officials to avoid hubris in their policy making, even if campus computing services are considered top-notch.

Businesses and corporations that became overconfident during heady years or decades of consistent success, he said, kick-started their own downfall by failing to anticipate coming challenges.

Standout IT administrators, Collins said, would tell provosts and deans what kind of technology a university needed "before it knew it needed it."

The EDUCAUSE annual conference continues through Nov. 6.

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Jim Collins

EDUCAUSE


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