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The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out Hardcover – July 26, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Scholars will find this work a good point of departure for asking more pointed questions about how nest to meet the demands of an increasingly disparate population of students (and potential students) who have different needs and expectations from previous generations of college-going individuals." — Journal of College Student Retention Vol. 15 (3)

From the Inside Flap

The language of crisis is nothing new in higher education—for years critics have raised alarms about rising tuition, compromised access, out of control costs, and a host of other issues. Yet, though those issues are still part of the current crisis, it is not the same as past ones. For the first time, disruptive technologies are at work in higher education. For most of their histories, traditional universities and colleges have had no serious competition except from institutions with similar operating models. Now, though, there are disruptive competitors offering online degrees. Many of these institutions operate as for-profit entities, emphasizing marketable degrees for working adults. Traditional colleges and universities have valuable qualities and capacities that can offset those disruptors' advantages—but not for everyone who aspires to higher education, and not without real innovation. How can institutions of higher education think constructively and creatively about their response to impending disruption?

Written by Clayton Christensen, the father of the theory of disruptive innovation, and his colleague, Henry J. Eyring, The Innovative University offers a nuanced and hopeful analysis of the traditional university and its DNA. It explores how and why universities must change to ensure future success.

Throughout the book Christensen and Eyring show what it takes to apply Christensen's acclaimed model of disruptive innovation to a higher education environment. Through a penetrating examination of the histories and current transformations of two very different universities—Harvard and BYU-Idaho—and using other illustrative examples of innovation in higher education, The Innovative University explores how universities can find innovative, less costly ways of performing their uniquely valuable functions and thereby save themselves from decline. The book explores the strategic choices and alternative ways in which traditional universities can change to ensure their ongoing economic vitality. To avoid the pitfalls of disruption and turn the scenario into a positive and productive one, universities must re-engineer their institutional DNA from the inside out.

The Innovative University reveals how the traditional university survives by breaking with tradition, but thrives by building upon what it's done best.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118063481
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118063484
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Peter G. Keen on July 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a strange book that should be five stars, given the distinguished authors, topic and promise to offer recommendations for radical innovation at the DNA level of universities. It doesn't deliver on any of these promises. It's bewilderingly weak and in many areas misleading. I've struggled to come up with strong points in order to give it a fair review and not to let my own views and experiences get in the way of trying to help you decide if this is a book for you. The three stars is largely to acknowledge that there is nothing "bad" about it and it's a responsible effort.

The major strength of the book is the track record and credibility of the authors. Christiansen's concept of disruptive innovation is well-regarded and influential in business circles and he has a stellar reputation as a teacher. As the foreword makes clear, the finished book itself is mainly the product of Henry Eyring, who worked with Kim Clark at Brigham Young; Clark is the well-respected former Dean from the Harvard Business School, where Christiansen has spent his academic career. Christiansen suffered a severe stroke that meant that his contribution to the book was constrained but his name is the primary attraction for readers. It was exactly that for me and much of my disappointment and frustration is that so little of the verve and crystalline clarity of his Creative Disruption comes through; his sad illness accounts for much of that.

The other strength is the shared experience and leadership of Kim Clark who took on the challenge of the presidency of Brigham Young and Feyring's helping turn around BYU-Idaho's low-ranked and ever lower business school as a moral mission experience and commitment as a leader.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A little background:
I have been doing research on the future of education both to find areas where I can improve "in the field" at my current job as a teacher, and also as part of research for a major graduate school (the latter being the primary impetus for this book.) I pre-ordered the book after reading "Disrupting Class," by Clayon Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson and Michael Horn. That book analyzes the future of education on a K-12 level, applying the ideas from Christensen's model of disruptive innovation to provide insight and I assumed this would do the same. It does not.

While Disrupting Class was (in my opinion) a fearless, hard look at what K-12 is, and the advances and changes in technology fit the structure of disruptive innovation, I felt that the authors had a harder time with this book. It may because they both spend their lives within the walls of the universities they discuss, but it did not seem like there was the same force behind the critique.

The book is developed by presenting a history of Harvard University and BYU-Idaho. In theory this offers insight into how modern college got to looking like it does today, but the history goes on for well over 200 pages, and I had a hard time finding much value in the process. It felt a little self indulgent to me. Only in the last 50-60 pages does the future of college really come into the discussion, and there there was hard analysis, most was soft recommendation.

The authors also made a critical, and somewhat ironic error (again in my opinion) in their analysis when they consider the role of the university. They state that the role of a university is in discovery, memory and mentoring (in essence, finding information, retaining information and passing on information.
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Format: Hardcover
I won't go over the lengthy ground the other reviewers such a Peter Keen have, other than to say they pretty much hit the mark. What I did not get from their reviews was just how painful this book is to read. I really wanted to read it, I am fascinated with the topic, but could only handle a few pages at a time before I had to put it down, do something else for awhile, and then come back. On reflecting why this book so difficult to read I never really came to a single answer, rather it is a combination of factors:

1) It is a paean to Harvard, the (according to the tone of the book) greatest university in the world. I got the sense that in education, like "The Simpsons" in cartoons, Harvard did it first. The pro-Harvard tone gets cloying very quickly.

2) The advertising copy for the film "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" had the line "It is exactly what you think it is." This book unfortunately does not have the same tag line, and it should. This book is exactly what you would think people from the Harvard Business School would write about higher education. The complexities of education are glossed over and all human problems become amenable to solution via a good business model.

3) It is poorly researched. In trying to track down references (where they were cited) I was taken to large Department of Education report databases and left to search for the relevant work. In many places key statements are made with no attribution, such as: "Many of the online adjunct faculty were working professionals or homemakers for whom the pleasure of teaching was as great a motivator as financial compensation." Really? That is not the experience of most adjunct faculty I know. Where is the data that supports this assertion?
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