Higher Education Innovation In Action

Innovation in the Registrar’s Office

Kate Heider, Technical Writer Apr 10, 2018

Registrars know all about small, incremental innovations, as they’re often pressured to perform with ever-shrinking budgets and workarounds. This kind of innovation is really more of a mindset. It’s also known as “design thinking,” and it’s an unwritten part of the job.

Take, for example, this article in iJournal – it’s from 2009 but still relevant, perfectly illustrating how registrars rise to the various challenges they face. The Admissions and Records Office at College of the Canyons, led by Jasmine Ruys, put together a team of volunteers to find quicker and more efficient ways to serve its growing student population. The team met once a week to brainstorm ideas and develop a plan to streamline registrations for the fall term. The result, Ms. Ruys said, was more satisfied students, and that afterward “the staff was motivated, even during hard times. They were excited about their jobs again… innovation can be put into place in any office.”

In her project management post last April, Natalie Spooner wrote, “effective teamwork is just as critical to project management as day-to-day implementation.” It is also an important ingredient in innovation and design thinking. With that in mind, here are three articles on how to inspire innovation among your staff and breathe some new life into your team projects.

How to Inspire a Culture of Innovation

“True innovation isn’t about creating the ‘next big thing’ to capture fleeting attention.” So says Mauro Porcini, the chief design officer of PepsiCo, in this article in Entrepreneur magazine. Instead, he says, collaboration and connections are key. “The fast-paced business world is focused on results and returns, but truly innovative companies have a culture focused on long-term gains where innovation can thrive.”

The Greatest Innovations are the Ones You Don’t See

In this post, Jeff DeGraff talks about finding inspiration in “the hidden gems” – the places where others don’t think to look. Using travel and camping as a metaphor, his advice includes “swimming upstream,” or turning a problem on its head to consider it from another angle, and “talking to the locals” to ask them what they need. For registrars, “the locals” might mean students, colleagues, or staff in other departments. They usually have lots to share about their pain points. Engage with them and look for opportunities for improvement. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and really get into the thick of it – perhaps those in the trenches are too busy hustling to innovate – but that’s where you step in.

Five Stages in the Design Thinking Process

Finally, this article teaches you about the five stages of innovating a project.  They are:

  1. Empathizing with your end user
  2. Identifying the problem
  3. Ideating (brainstorming)
  4. Prototyping the solution, and
  5. Testing the solution

Recall that the Admissions and Records team at College of the Canyons (above) followed all of these stages:

  1. They empathized with students by…
  2. Identifying a need for faster and more efficient service.
  3. They met once a week for a brainstorming session.
  4. They prototyped a plan.
  5. They successfully implemented the plan, which benefited staff as well as students.

This article also emphasizes that innovation doesn’t happen in a straight line. “In essence, design thinking is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users,” the authors say, “with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave.”