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Last week I had the chance to attend the 2016 ASU GSV Summit in San Diego. The conference which has been called “the must attend event for education technology investors” by the New York Times, was sold out. Approximately 3,500 people crowded into the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel for 3 days of key note speeches, panels, and presentations from the best minds in educational innovation. I went to a lot of session, but there were a couple that really stood out.
I was blown away by Guy Kawasaki the serial entrepreneur, former Apple Chief Evangelist, and best selling author. His session was standing room only and as I sat down (15 minutes early) there was a palpable buzz in the room. It was a productive juxtaposition— silicon valley maverick presenting to a mix of ed entrepreneurs, ed tech companies, and stogy traditional academics (I don’t count myself in the later category). Guy spoke on his new book “The Art of the Start 2.0.” While not everyone in the room will start a company, Kawasaki had interesting points for the intraprenuer too. He urges everyone to begin with simple questions. His point? If you don’t ask the right questions you will not get to the right answers or products. Next, move away from strategic planning… Guy points out that it is useless to have a great strategy if your product, idea, or service in no good. He suggests jumping straight to the “MVVVP”— the “Minimum, Viable, Valuable, and Validating Product.” Guy notes that it is better to get prototypes into the hands of users and get rapid feedback than obsess over perfection. Case in point— Kawasaki’s first book that he says, now looking back, was garbage… but he got it out there and each subsequent book has been better than the first. Kawasaki continued to go through several steps for getting a start up off the ground. I think his fresh takes on speed to market and testing jives well with user-centered intraprenuership especially at institutions of higher ed.
Dr. Crow spoke at the Wednesday morning keynote breakfast. His first point? Stop listening to the media. They are obsessed with doom and gloom and highlighting that the world, and especially America, is headed nowhere. Crow said he fundamentally disagrees with that assessment and argued for the amazing opportunities that lay ahead, especially via education and technology. Crow reasoned that education at scale is what drives economic prosperity. This has been the case in the past and will continue to be the case in the future. Summarizing thousands of years of educational theory and models in five minutes, Crow explained the emergence of the Greek Academies, the religious colleges in America, secular universities, public university and land grant institutions, and a new wave of higher ed entities— wave 5 institutions lead by ASU. Surprisingly, and especially to me, Crow argued that the Wave 5 schools will not disrupt and replace the previous iterations. Sure, some bad or tremendously under resourced schools will disappear, but the old models will remain, even while new models emerge… why? Because that is what has always happened in the sector. New models enhance some of the old models and pushes education forward in an iterative manner. Crow’s point is well taken. We need old models and new models, partnerships between public and privative ventures, modifications of tried and true methods, and the emergence of new scaling technologies. In many ways, Crow is arguing for evolutionary innovation in a field that is centered on knowledge as the core commodity and reputation as the coin of the realm. Augmentation and adaptation of existing institutions is the future of higher education innovation, even as new divergent models grow up along side traditional ones.
ASU GSV is the best summit I have ever attended and believe me I have been to lots of conferences. The mix of educational philosophy and the hunger of venture capitalists to find the next big idea in ed tech makes for a really creative environment. I guess it is no wonder that my favorite speakers were a university president and a start up evangelist. ASU GSV is just that kind of place… and I have to say I have lots of new ideas because I attended. To watch the keynotes see here, they include: Bill Gates, Condoleeza Rice, and Sal Khan.