Student Tuition Fees – Who Should Pay?

Who should pay student feesA new paper published by the Intergenerational Foundation this week states that student tuition fees are economically inefficient. The press release for the paper states:

A new paper published today challenges the current funding system in higher education, calling it “economically inefficient”. In the paper, Dr Kevin Albertson, Professor of Economics at Manchester Metropolitan University, points out that the public benefits of a young person’s getting a higher education qualification more than outweigh the costs, according to the government’s published figures.

The paper uses an alternative way of thinking about the economics and is a very good example of how creative or alternative thinking can be used to solve problems and change the status quo.

Click on the link to download the full press release and contact details of the author Student Fees - Who Should Pay?

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Innovation – Food for thought

innovation foof for thought

If you search Amazon for “Innovation,” you’ll get over 43,000 book titles with many more ebooks and blog articles scattered around the Internet, many of which I am responsible for. So what are these volumes all about and why so many for such a simple word – Innovation? This provides some food for thought.

The challenge starts with the definition of innovation. Most of the definitions I’ve seen are overly complicated and do nothing other than help persuade the man in the street that Innovation is too complicated and should be left well alone. It can be made complicated but need not be.

The founder of the low cost airline JetBlue said “Innovation is trying to figure out a way to do something better than it’s ever been done before”. And Thomas Edison’s said “There’s a way to do it better-find it”. Which just about covers it all.

So far, so good. Our high level definition opens up innovation, and makes it accessible, regardless of industry sector or function. Let us move on to some basic principles, what I call the Three Pillars of Innovation:

  1. Ingenuity. Ingenuity is human creativity plus application, idea plus execution. Ideas on their own are invention and execution is simply working harder not smarter. We need both.
  2. Perfection. Imperfection is what drives innovation, because nothing’s perfect. Perfection is a pursuit, a journey, not a destination. The destination is a place called “Better.” We may have to know when to call it a day and move on to our next challenge as we can never actually attain perfection.
  3. Fit. Any innovation has to fit with your customers, market and expertise. There is no point creating something just for the sake of it. Or to put it another way, if you have the best mousetrap that the world has ever seen, you must have a really big issue with mice!

There has to be some element of each of the above for an Innovation to be successful. The big challenge for businesses is to ensure adherence to these key principles on a daily basis.

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Challenging Assumptions – Digging Deeper

Most people reading this will know of the freezing weather that gripped the UK over the Christmas and New Year periods together with the associated problems. Although there was some panic buying of food in the shops, by and large we survived unscathed. Did this mean that when the road conditions were appalling, my local supermarket was making superhuman efforts to deliver my Cornflakes?

Towards the end of the freeze I went to a local supermarket and was wandering up and down the aisles when I overheard a conversation between two of the department managers. The first was obviously toeing the company line and said something like “the shelves have been full, the supply chain has been doing a great job”. Nice, I thought, he recognises the contribution of drivers and warehouse staff in difficult circumstances. The second manager said “there were less people going to the supermarket because of the bad weather”. The second manager was either being cynical or he was in fact challenging assumptions made by the first.

It did not matter to me, since I was getting what I wanted, but it highlights a valid point. Accepting observations about full shelves without looking at all the facts meant that I was making a number of assumptions. If I was the supermarket manager I could be patting myself on the back believing that the arrangements I had put in place worked well. Next time there was a big freeze I could do exactly the same. But what if the local council gets better at clearing roads, or everybody buys four wheel drive cars? More people will arrive at the supermarkets and the food may disappear.

Do you think that this is what happened to many of our businesses between 18 months and two years ago? There is no need to become highly cynical, but learning to question the status quo and challenge assumptions is an essential component of an innovation system.

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