GUEST POST from Shep Hyken
No matter what business we’re in, our storefront better be located at the intersection of Extraordinary Drive and Innovation Way.
Of course, I am speaking figuratively. But, I’ve literally taken a photo at this real intersection that exists in the middle of High Point University. I am a fan of the university and its leadership. I’ve attended special programs there on several occasions, and every time I go back I’m reminded of its focus on being extraordinary and its innovative approach to education.
We can all learn from HPU. Higher education is a sector that is facing major disruptions from every direction. (Did you think it was just your industry having to find new ways to compete?)
Consider the looming demographic shifts impacting higher ed. According to a CNBC story, undergraduate enrollment is down 9.4% compared to two years ago. Fewer kids going to college in the next few years means a leaner market for universities to fight over. Then there’s all the chatter about whether college is really worth it. Just go to a trade school, a coding boot camp, etc. The headwinds that higher education is facing are stronger than ever.
Yet, HPU has created a distinctive niche in the higher education industry by becoming the Premier Life Skills University. How much of what a student learns in school can really be called life skills? Of course, students must embrace the liberal arts and explore subjects like literature, math, art, history, science and so on. These make us smarter and provide us with more knowledge, but are they translated into life skills? Shouldn’t education go beyond information and theory, and instead prepare us to implement those lessons in real-world scenarios?
What happens when we’re asked to describe ourselves in a job interview? How do we handle ourselves in client meetings and boardrooms? Are we ready for conflict, constant change and complex problem solving? These skills are not typically taught in school, but it’s exactly those abilities in which HPU excels, differentiating it from other colleges and universities.
So, let’s take a lesson from HPU and discover how it has created value for its students (and their parents) and how we can do the same in our businesses and organizations. In short, they’ve done it by living at the intersection of Extraordinary Drive and Innovation Way. Here are a few examples:
When critics of higher education suggest that college isn’t worth it, HPU decides to create extra value by providing every freshman with a professional success coach, equipping its Career Office to deliver an impressive 99% placement rate for recent graduates. It even offers a tuition-free Master’s Degree in Communication and Business Leadership. How are you adding additional value for your clients and customers?
When critics of higher education suggest young people should just learn a trade, HPU’s answer is weaving the “trade” of leadership and life skills into every major. It even has an “In Residence Program” that puts industry leaders in the classroom. Imagine being mentored by founders of companies such as Apple Computer or Netflix. Imagine being coached by the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks or Domino’s Pizza. They, along with dozens of other accomplished executives and leaders, all work with HPU students. So, beyond the fully accredited classroom experience that HPU offers (like every other accredited college in the nation), it has added real-world mentorship to the value equation. What is the lesson for you and me? We better be sure we deliver extraordinary and relevant benefits that add value to our customers’ and clients’ experience.
When critics of higher education suggest just going to a coder boot camp instead of college, HPU reminds families that technical skills aren’t enough when it comes to building a sustainable career. HPU has studied and surveyed employers and proven through its data that life skills are the unshakable foundation for earning and sustaining success no matter our occupation or our age. So, how are you interpreting your value to your clients? Because if you don’t, you are leaving it up to someone else. And that someone else may be your competition!
And beyond the critics who question the value of a college education, there are others who specifically criticize HPU. Success is sweet, but it also comes with competitors and critics putting a target on your back. One of the often-mentioned criticisms is the look of its campus. Really? HPU is proud that almost everyone who sees the campus for the first time says, “Wow!” It’s hard not to be impressed with the manicured campus, the beautiful buildings and the engaging, positive environment that students enjoy. But there’s far more to this university than its good looks. Look beyond the surface and you’ll find some of the most extraordinary and innovative classrooms and programs, such as the $500 million Innovation Corridor filled with cutting-edge labs where research funded by NASA and the National Institutes of Health takes place.
While higher education is in the midst of disruption like most industries, HPU has transformed what a college can do and be, and that by nature draws criticism. But here’s the lesson we can all learn: When your business or organization creates transformational change, it will surely attract criticism. As long as you are rendering value for your clients, then you know you’re doing something right.
We all have critics of our business or industry. And we all have challenges we must overcome. How we succeed or fail is directly related to how we respond to criticism and how we deliver on behalf of our customers. When we make the decision to live at the intersection of Extraordinary Drive and Innovation Way, we have no choice but to keep up our neighborhood and deliver value.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com
Image Credit: Pexels
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