We develop perspectives about our world early on in life. Our opinions are shaped by those we interact with on a daily basis. These opinions become the lens through which we view the world and it shapes the decisions we make. The influence on our lives determines our optimism, pessimism, or even, skepticism. We can feel cheated after discovering that a version of the truth is different than what we have come to believe. We begin to question our way of life, our thoughts, and our long-held views.
Perspective is tricky. It is always subjective. It presents a version of the truth based on the beliefs of the storyteller. This is why we feel betrayed or lied to when a politician does not deliver on campaign promises or when academic preparation does not result in a dream job with a six-figure salary. As a consequence of this perceived betrayal, we protest, we get angry, and ultimately, we demand for more transparency.
We let ourselves believe that our dissatisfaction could have been avoided had there been more transparency. As though a more transparent world offers the solution to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Ultimately in seeking transparency, what we really want is trust. We want to know that the communication we receive, the actions we see, and the expectations we desire are sincere and consistent. A cry for transparency is often the result of bad behavior because we have lost trust whether it be in an individual, an organization, or a government agency.
Instead of creating more transparency, we need to focus on developing trusting relationships that acknowledge human error, failure, and short-comings. The premise behind higher education was to create opportunities for individuals to pursue knowledge as an investment in our country and its citizens. It was an opportunity for a younger generation to learn from previous generations while contributing new thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. As the world continues to evolve, higher education has been slow to keep up with the needs and demands of a changing generation.
Higher education has become a breeding ground for churning out a workforce to make the next widget instead of focusing on developing a generation that can adapt to and embrace diversity of thoughts and ideas. Instead of identifying failures and developing processes that enhance educational opportunities, we attack our own. We write articles highlighting their short-comings and we pass judgment, but never offer support or solutions. We demand innovation, while paving a pathway that blocks the very progress we seek.
Our focus should be less on transparency and more on building a trust between the student and institution and between the institution and the public. We should seek to highlight those areas in which institutions exceed our expectations while providing the support needed in other areas for continued improvement. Higher education should seek to meet the needs of individuals as a whole instead focusing solely on training for the skills of today. Our institutions should measure success, not on the number of enrollments, profitability, or increasing donations, but on the quality of human capital and the value we place on each individual.
Sure transparency would provide more information, but it is not a substitute for trust. Trust is built on believing that the lives we touch every day are more important than money, rank, or fame. When a foundation is built on trust, motivations are grounded in the best interest of people. We need to provide paths to support institutions that do the right thing, for the right reasons, and know that success is built on trust.
“You know, we measure success the wrong way in this country. We measure it by the financial performance and growth of a company, and yet we’ve got people whose lives are being destroyed every day by the way in which many companies operate. We are going to measure success by the way we touch the lives of people. All the people: our team members, our customers, our vendors, our bankers. For every action we take, we need to understand the impact it has on all the people whose lives we touch. If every business did that, the world would be a much better place than it is today.” ~ Bob Chapman
All of higher education needs to change the way we measure success within the industry. We cannot measure success through placement rates, loan default rates, graduation rates, enrollment rates, or institutional diversity. We should measure success based on the impact we have on each individual we come into contact with every day. We should measure success by determining whether the life we touched was made better by our actions. We do not need more transparency. We need to put people first.
How does your institution measure success?