Why is Higher Ed Different? is a multi-part series where we’ll be exploring the unique needs and requirements of Higher Ed IT. We’re passionate about Higher Ed and feel that it’s unlike any other industry out there. Whether you’re a newcomer or an industry veteran, it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle-and-bustle and forget to really take note of these idiosyncrasies. Paying attention to them, however, will make a world of difference in your projects.
The Project Management field is broad and diverse because it applies to a wide array of businesses. Every work environment has a different culture which will inherently inform how you manage your projects. The Higher Education industry, however, stands apart from the rest. The education environment has major core differences in its operation as opposed to the way typical businesses operate.
Workplace culture is one overarching factor that will seep into every part of your project management experience. Other differences that we’ll address in this series are directly influenced by Higher Ed culture. It may not be the biggest difference that we’ll cover, nor is it likely to immediately stand out to you, but it’s certainly the most important at the core.
Higher Ed culture is communal and approachable
The Higher Ed community is less competitive.
Higher Education puts an emphasis on camaraderie and team-building, creating a more communal work environment. This contrasts with the business world, as they traditionally do not place as much emphasis on approachability. The Higher Ed community is less competitive in the same way as the business world, which is the underlying cause for the differences in workplace culture.
An Emphasis on Decentralized Systems
Competition within the academic world is focused differently than in other industries, but that doesn’t mean independence isn’t important within a university. Almost any college or university will be comprised of multiple schools, each with their own strong sense of identity within the institution. Schools within a university will often push for their own agenda. When asking the entire university to take on a certain project or system, it could get a little tricky, as it’s not uncommon for each school to look at themselves like a standalone college within a greater consortium.
Sharing Knowledge is Key
People share their knowledge and experiences more freely, since there is less to worry about.
Higher Ed culture is much more communal than most other industries, and the sense of competition is focused differently. In many industries, there’s an overall atmosphere of secrecy, which is not so in Higher Ed. An advantage of working in academic environments is that people share their knowledge and experiences more freely, since there is less to worry about. Project Managers and other IT professionals communicate between universities to learn from each other’s past successes and mistakes. This makes it a great community to be a part of, and one that all of us working in Higher Ed can benefit from.
Functioning in Higher Ed Culture
Culture is just the beginning of Higher Education’s differences. Higher Ed consultants must work in different ways to accommodate the fundamental differences in the industry. In this series, we’ll discuss all of them, from the decision making to team members, users, and products. There’s a reason why we at Optimal Partners believe so strongly in the unique nature and specialization of Higher Ed, and we are passionate about recognizing these institutions’ unique needs.
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