No matter the organization or the people served, all industries experience ups and downs. During the up times, organizations are successful and lulled into a false sense of security. During the down times, organizations are forced to rethink their business model and the realities of their situation.
In 2008, the housing bubble coupled with the recession forced financial institutions to rethink the way they conducted business. They faced public and political criticism for practices that a few short years earlier, no one really questioned.
Now it’s higher education’s turn to come under very public and bipartisan scrutiny. In the midst of unprecedented Department of Education, Department of Justice, and Federal Trade Commission inquiries, institutions are being held accountable for the products they claim to deliver. While there are always bad players in the game, most higher education institutions are simply struggling to provide quality academic programs that continue to serve a growing student population.
While this increased focus can be viewed as negative, if you push aside the cover stories and political agendas, what is left behind is opportunity. Higher education institutions need to learn how to use the f-word in business. Fortitude.
Fortitude is the strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage. Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The word fortitude is not used very often and rarely, when the conversation turns to business or institutional practices. However, fortitude is needed to reimagine institutional practices and meet the needs of a changing student population. Pursuing opportunity with fortitude requires saying no.
- No Fear. Often, people look at the circumstances before them and only see the impossible, for instance, increasing regulation, expense, and overhead. But really, the little voice they are hearing is fear. There are always risks involved in order to change, but it’s the fear we allow to paralyze us that prevents innovation. We stay so focused on the plan currently in place, that we are unable to see all the other possibilities that could exist.
- No Flak Jacket. Sometimes we need to feel the pain in order to reconnect with our mission and goals. Without the anticipated pain of loss, we fail to face those processes that are no longer working. The threat of pain causes a need to reevaluate areas of weakness in order to mitigate against them.
- No Fault. When seeking opportunities, there is no room for blame. A time of refocus requires acceptance of responsibility and input from all stakeholders. This is a chance to offer suggestions that can provide alternative solutions. It is critical that all stakeholders understand their opinions are valued.
Fortitude is about facing the unknown with determination and courage using known strengths. Effective solutions are not always the ones with the biggest price tags. Sometimes the solutions needed for survival are found within by shutting down fear, understanding that pain forces us to grow, and realizing that progress is not brought about by blame. In the end, it doesn’t matter why the industry shifted, what matters is that we respond to it.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” ~ William Shakespeare
What opportunity can you seize by using the f-word?