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The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  349 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The Innovative University illustrates how higher education canrespond to the forces of disruptive innovation, and offers a nuanced and hopeful analysis of where the traditional university and its traditions have come from and how it needs to change for the future. Through an examination of Harvard and BYU-Idaho as well as other stories of innovation in higher education, Cl ...more
Hardcover, 475 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Jossey-Bass (first published June 24th 2011)
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Gideon Burton
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
The book is an excellent overview of standard features of higher education that came to us by way of the Harvard model. Those features were innovative in their day, but ironically, now impede the forward evolution of higher education because those aspects are not sustainable. This is pretty bold stuff, frankly, and will be upsetting to many traditionalists. But it incoroporates Christensen's thinking on disruptive innovation and was, for me, very convincing.

While heavily weighted toward the inno
...more
Charles
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
I do believe that anyone who is planning on going into higher education (to be a professor or administrator) should read this book. It helped me understand the DNA of our current Harvard-driven university system in the U.S. (somewhat of a mystery to me earlier), which the authors claim is probably unsustainable for many others institutions trying to parrot the elite universities.

It was also interesting to see a wildly different approach at the new BYU-Idaho.

There is an interesting section towar
...more
Marc
May 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This reads like a case study comparing what made Harvard and BYU-Idaho successful, but it is quite a bit more. The research and analysis of these two very different institutions uncovers the fundamental issues of formal education: aligning costs/capacity with the purpose (that is based on the shifting needs of the broader society).

The authors also make a fairly strong case that a hybrid model (in-person and remote) is still better than strictly remote where possible.
Graeme Roberts
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a magnificent book! Anyone who cares about the future (and the history) of higher education in the United States should read it. By examining the progress of Harvard and a small Mormon institution, Ricks College, that later became BYU-Idaho, they examine the forces, including online technology, that are changing higher education. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had the freedom to make major changes to Ricks and BYU-Idaho as they were required, and thus provided excellent str ...more
Reid Mccormick
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
“I am not aware that any one single thing is well taught to the undergraduates of Harvard College” – A Massachusetts senator from 1839

Criticizing American higher education is as old as American higher education. Harvard University, America’s first and most prestigious university, is not immune to such criticism.

The Innovative University is a different critique on higher education. Most critics of higher education focus their condemnation on administrative bloating, faculty tenure, grade inflatio
...more
Mark Nichols
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
An excellent book; the loss of the fifth star is only because it is too long, and provides too much detail in terms of historical context of Harvard and BYU-Idaho. It could be argued that the depth demonstrates how institutions change over time, but much of it seems tangential to the book's main thesis: that universities must continually change their DNA to remain relevant and competitive. The last few chapters were well worth wading through the rest for; a highly recommended read for anyone see ...more
Chrisanne
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
May I respectfully suggest that it be a requirement for ALL people working (or tenured) at an institution of higher learning to read this book by the end of the summer?

The world is changing and Christensen and Eyring have put their finger on some of the ways that change will effect the traditional university.

And, respectfully, I disagree with their view of UVU as an example -- it is too early in the game to prove their methods worthwhile (indeed, they seem to be struggling with specific goals,
...more
Richard
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
The book makes some notable recommendations in the last few chapters, and has proven to be somewhat prescient in ways. That being said, it was a bit of a slog to get through in parts, and a bit long-winded for my taste. It was still a decent read, and has a number of wonderful quotes and insights. I wish I could give it a 3.5.
coolwind
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
If you are like me, think this book is about innovation on university, you will be disappointed, or very disappointed. It is more a narrative of history of two universities plus what generally university does. There are good contents if you want to know how university is structured and why their policies are like as they are. The rating of 2 is mainly because the title of the book is misleading.
Fadl
Dec 12, 2019 rated it liked it




The beginning of this book is strong and good. It discusses the history of Harvard University with lots to learn. Yet in the second half of the book, the authors fall into the Trapp of repetition, then pick back towards the end. All is all good book with important ideas , yet it could have been downsized to 300 pages
Noel
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved the history of Harvard and the higher ed system in the US. Wish there were more details on the operations and financial aspects of BYU - Idaho.
Bailey L.
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a long book, but so thought provoking. If there is one thing this book did, it is shape my life's vocation to a more strategic purpose. I am committed to creating programs/initiatives to support student development, but now this book has made me realize that to do that really involves some policy shaping at a macro-level to make universities get why students' moral and mental development is so crucial to the university experience. To do that, mentoring students HAS to become a fundament ...more
Anna
Jun 05, 2014 rated it liked it
This book provided interesting insights into the problems facing higher education and detailed possible solutions in the last few chapters. It provides a lengthy description of Harvard's history that felt quite long in the middle.

Eventually, it expanded on the results of a study done in 2010 by McKinsey Company quantifying the productivity and effectiveness of universities at producing degrees leading to jobs relative to their costs.

I learned a great deal about BYU-Idaho as they hold it as a m
...more
Emma M.
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
What a book! This was a great way to begin my graduate studies in higher education administration because it was so incredibly informative. Christensen exposes the issues in higher education today by tracking the evolution of our education from the very beginnings. He tracks the history of Harvard because many traditional colleges are still trying to be just like them when they really cannot. He also tracks the history of BYU-I because it broke the mold. It chose to be different and embraced its ...more
Lauren
This book is outstanding. If you're in higher ed at all, or if you're interested in the future of higher ed in particular, I cannot recommend this book enough. If you're sending a student to college in the next few decades, I'd recommend it to you, too.

It's really a good read.

This book clearly uses the Innovator's Dilemma as a framework, but also draws on other conceptual models including the competency trap, lean manufacturing, the Pareto principle, and others.

The main takeaways: the most succe
...more
Laurel
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
This very readable book provides one of the most comprehensive histories of Harvard I have read. It clearly outlines and articulates how most traditional institutions of higher education have attempted to model themselves after Harvard, and not succeeded, mostly due to lack of resources.

The authors also present the case study of the rise of BYU-Idaho, and how the founders and current administration have chosen not to emulate Harvard, with great success.

The only idea that the authors do not con
...more
Jae
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
I found this to be a very strange book. Toward the end it did have a few interesting (and potentially useful) ideas/models for how higher education can remake itself in the current and coming crisis, but they were buried under an enormous history of Harvard University, which took up most of the book. Since I simply don't buy the notion that the entire world's university system as it's been run for the past several hundred years is based on Harvard (I mean, for one thing, many of the great univer ...more
Dolly
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education, favorites
Essential reading for anyone working in academia and for anyone working in K-12 education with the goal of helping kids climb the mountain to and through college. Also, important reading for any parent who hopes for their children to attend college.

As a professor at a research university, I learned a ton from this book that will help me be a better contributor to great potential higher education holds for society. I come away better grounded in the historical context of higher education and more
...more
Bonnie Irwin
Feb 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The last 30% or so of this book is excellent; thought-provoking, even if one does not buy into the authors' thesis entirely. The first 50-70%, on the other hand, is of interest only to those readers who might be interested in a detailed history of Harvard, and a relatively detailed history of BYU-Idaho. 300 pages could have been covered in 50, and the last 100 pages would still be meaningful. The gist of the book, that higher ed must seriously change its DNA or wither away, has several grains of ...more
Mike
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
A great primer for anyone who wishes to understand the issues higher ed faces today. If you work at a higher ed institution, this book wont alleviate the frustrations you most likely feel, but it will give you some context to understand the nature of those frustrations (they're systemic and not easily solved without major effort from senior management and buy in from employees). ...more
Clinton King
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating history of higher education in the United States (focused primarily on Harvard). When they start talking about what's currently happening, it gets alternately scary, intimidating, and hopeful, speaking as someone currently employed in higher education. I liked it. It's not light reading, though. ...more
Dave
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
My main complaint with this book is that many of the most likable parts sound like they are plagiarized from a dystopian novel. That was the uncomfortable feeling I kept getting. Yet the authors have serious proposals and some good ideas. Those involved in the university would benefit from reading this book.
Shaun
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love reading Clayton Christensen books. This book details the history of Harvard and of BYU-Idaho. I attended Rick College during my freshman year, which became BYU-Idaho. It was interesting to see how innovation and a university's acceptance or willingness to embrace innovation can make a real difference in the success of a university. This book made me think and I found it quite interesting. ...more
Drtaxsacto
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
I felt I had to read this book. Christensen is quoted a lot. And it actually is decent. It has some good history, especially about the history of Harvard's presidents but also about the transformation of BYU Idaho. It is a quick read. But I am not sure that many of the examples offer anything but transitory understandings of the kinds of change facing higher education. ...more
Ben
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a very detailed and thoughtful analysis. Not only is it's argument more nuanced and sympathetic than any other other book that I have read about higher education, it is also the most applicable and practical. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the current situation and the future of higher education. ...more
Hom Sack
Aug 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
Verbose and not very useful. The 15 tables in the book are all you need to read. And even then, the information is marginal. However, there are some interesting history about Harvard. But on the whole, don't waste your time on this 512 page book. I'm sure there are better ones out there. ...more
Kara
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I loved this book! I thought it was a great comparison to show what the differences were between different schools. Because it was a case study between two institutions, it seemed a little limiting, but the references cited and referred to will be helpful for further study. I enjoyed it.
Laurie
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I joined a book discussion group to read this -- and I had trouble making it through the "must read" chapters. It's not because the book is not well written, clear or provocative (for academics). It's just because it's too much like homework, and the thesis can be gleaned from the first chapters. ...more
Rachel Cheeseman
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is very long and meticulously researched, and it's actually quite exciting to read. You have to be a higher education nerd to really appreciate it, but I would say that this book is the best of all the books I've read about the future of higher education. ...more
Jason Golomb
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Terrific in-depth look at The Innovators' Dilema and how higher ed needs to evolve. Focus is on the historic development of Harvard and the little-known BYU-Idaho.

Informative, historical, and thought-provoking. Especially for a dad whose first of three just started college. :-)
...more
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Clayton M. Christensen is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, with a joint appointment in the Technology & Operations Management and General Management faculty groups. He is best known for his study of innovation in commercial enterprises. His first book, The Innovator's Dilemma, articulated his theory of disruptive technology.

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