What I'm Reading, July 21
Thursday, July 21, 2016
This edition of “What I’m Reading” features the lessons offered by a couple of billionaire entrepreneurs, the seemingly intractable challenge of income and educational inequality, and the failure of so many colleges and universities to prove they are distinctive.
“Under Armour at 20: The $5 Billion Startup”
The Sports Business Journal reflects on Under Armour’s 20th anniversary, and how founder and CEO Kevin Plank maintains the culture of a start-up even as he has built the hottest brand in sports performance wear. I met Kevin several years ago, and of course RMU is now an Under Armour university, and let me tell you there is a lot for any organization to learn from the way Kevin does business. Like this gem: “Nothing should be an accident, every single thing matters, and that is the nuts and bolts of everything here.”
“Bet You Can’t Find Just One”
The Insights blog from higher ed marketing consultant Stamats features this little gem about a theme we’ve discussed before, but which always bears repeating: Too often colleges and university fail to distinguish themselves from one another. They use fuzzy, unquantifiable characteristics to describe themselves, and play follow-the-leader in adopting new academic programs. As the writer says, they given in to “sameness” and become Generic U. Here’s the biggest takeaway: “Every time a college makes the comfortable decision rather than the right one, we lose to sameness.”
“Can a City’s Compassion Remedy Educational Inequality”
The Chronicle of Higher Education takes an in-depth look at a broad-based coalition in Louisville that is attempting to boost that city’s anemic college completion rate. The challenge, of course, is the same everywhere: How to shrink the gap between white students and minority students, between low-income families and affluent families. The good news about Louisville’s effort, and similar efforts elsewhere, including Pittsburgh, is the support from all sectors, including the corporate community.
“The Mark Cuban Effect: How a Vocal Billionaire is Betting on Higher Education’s Disruption”
I’ll say it from the outset: Some of the Mark Cuban’s critiques of higher education in this Chronicle of Higher Education story are tired and not terribly well informed. But he’s putting his money where his mouth is in trying to change the way our industry does business. And I’m a big believer in the idea that a leader in one sector can draw plenty of lessons from the success – and failures – of leaders in other domains. Like Kevin Plank, Mark still acts like he has to kick the door in, even as he has built a billion-dollar empire.