Lightbulb image with quote from Edison "many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up

Be an Innovator: Part I

We are all busy. Super busy. But somehow we make time for the things that matter to us – paying bills on time to avoid a penalty, stopping for a coffee or tea, hitting the snooze button for just 5 more minutes. Instead, we prioritize the things that matter to us most. Becoming an innovator – and being viewed professionally as such – takes prioritization, as well. You need to prioritize:

  • Staying connected with colleagues
  • Keeping abreast of the latest ideas and tools in the field
  • Thinking about new ways to solve old problems
  • Connecting the dots for people

America’s Great Innovator

To understand how to be come an innovator, we can study folks like Thomas Edison. Edison was one of the world’s most prolific innovators, with more than 1,100 patents. His contributions to science and modern life are incalculable. On his many attempts to invent the light bulb said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Image of hanging light bulbs with the following Thomas Edison quote: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." Edison really knew how to be an innovator.

Putting Theory to Practice

Like Edison, you may not have a “winning solution” every time. But if your colleagues begin to view you as an innovator, you become known as someone who is closer to finding the solution than others who never look at all. When you connect the dots, filter them using your institutional expertise, and bring new solutions forward to leadership for consideration, you will be seen as innovator who thinks outside the box.

Using Innovation to Study Student Success

Let’s take one of my favorite topics, student success. Every day faculty and staff at nearly 7,000 institutions help students get a little closer to the completion finish line. Yet somehow, student success remains an unsolved mystery – why aren’t rates 100% for all institutions if that’s everyone’s goal? It’s not as if institutions strive to have a less than perfect rate.

If student success were an easy problem to solve, higher education leaders would have done it years ago. Digging deeper into data to find the student groups who are performing better than expected at your institution, and those who are not faring as well, can be the first step in solving the perennial goal of increasing completion rates. Luckily, you don’t have to develop your own instrument to identify the students who are most in need of additional supports. With RealityCheck, the data analysis is already done. (We’ve tried 10,000 ways it won’t work, so you don’t have to.) To be an innovator, all you need to do is determine if a tool like RealityCheck is good fit for your college or university to improve student success. Then, bring it to the attention of decision-makers and establish your place as a campus innovator.


Want to Know More?

Check out the second part of our Be an Innovator series.




The Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education (IEHE) innovates and improves higher education standards through our strategic research, publicly available resources, and partnerships with colleges and universities. We provide extensive expertise on data strategy, IPEDS, institutional research and student success to drive institutional effectiveness.