• Innovation in Times of Change: Conclusion

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    May 1, 2013

    by Gary Alan Miller and Katherine Nobles
    Part 5 of 5

    Throughout our five-part “Innovation in Times of Change” series, we have focused on factors that can help career centers be better positioned to innovate, based on our 2012 study that fielded more than 600 responses. We also asked respondents to document some of their innovative output and the obstacles that prevent them from innovating more.

    It is no surprise that the top two obstacles expressed by our survey respondents were budget constraints and lack of time. As higher education professionals, we know there is never enough of either. The other obstacles identified in our survey were not as universal, but are still thought-provoking. We were surprised to find that the third most common obstacle referenced by participants was “boundaries established by people outside of your office.” Facility constraints and limited technological capabilities round out the top five impediments cited.

    We posit that the three capabilities of climate, leadership, and process that have been outlined in our prior articles are significant factors that allow some centers to overcome these challenges. It is important to recognize that the group self-identifying as producing more innovation than other centers (which we refer to as the “more group”) did report the most innovative output. Although they made up only 33 percent of the respondents to our study, they were responsible for 50 percent of the reported innovative output in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years. Those who self-identified as producing less innovation and the same amount of innovation compared to other centers are respectively referred to as the “less group” and “same group.”

    As seen in the chart below, the “more group” had the highest “all affirmative” rankings across the three capabilities, with 63 percent in climate, 49 percent in leadership, and 33 percent in process. The “same group” had 51 percent “all affirmative” responses in climate, 24 percent in leadership, and 18 percent in process, while the “less group” had 21 percent in climate, 17 percent in leadership, and 7 percent in process.
    Innovation in Times of Change - Graph

    While our study does not attempt to prove causation, we feel comfortable stating that the data shows a clear connection between the three capabilities and the amount of innovative output developed in a given center.

    However, it is also important to recognize that centers from all three self-identifying groups did produce new programs, services, and technologies during this period of time. The study revealed that our field implemented approximately 1,600 new programs, services, or technologies for students, and around 600 new programs, services, or technologies for employers between 2010 and 2012. The specifics of these new programs are varied and interesting, but also too numerous to outline here. Those interested in reading more can visit the website associated with our study and review the wiki pages dedicated to lists of examples.

    It is noteworthy, however, that of these 2,200 new initiatives, only a small percentage was reported as being brand new to the field. Specifically, only 4 percent of the new offerings for students and 4.5 percent for employers were noted as being new to the field. This indicates that we are leaning very heavily on “best practices” from our colleagues. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this method, it does reveal a narrow approach to and capacity for truly innovating our services.

    We have enjoyed sharing some of the results and recommendations from our study with you over the course of this article series. If you are interested in learning more, we would love to see you at our session at the 2013 NACE Conference and Expo. We will also each be presenting at the 2013 Innovation Forum for Career Services in August. As always, you can explore the data of our study on the companion website at http://innovation.web.unc.edu.

    Gary Alan Miller and Katherine Nobles work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previous articles in their five-part series on innovation in career services can be found on the NACE website (Introduction, Climate, Leadership, and Process). Miller and Nobles can be found on twitter at @garyalanmiller and @kgnobles.

Innovation in Times of Change: Conclusion