#1 difference working at the University of Manitoba #books

I’ve worked at a number of different enterprises throughout my career. I’ve seen even more of them when I was a consultant. In one way or another I have seen all the following organizations in action:

  • Manitoba Hydro
  • Great West Life
  • Investors Group
  • Multiple departments in the Province of Manitoba
  • Assante Asset Management
  • Manitoba Blue Cross
  • Manitoba Public Insurance
  • I could go on…

What is the most interesting to me is how the University of Manitoba differs from all of these in one important way. I imagine that this observation can be applied to other educational institutions as well.

I see books everywhere.

Books

What I’ve noticed is that almost everyone reads books specific to their career. Beyond that, there is a commitment to education. I guess this should not be surprising since this is a University, but the focus is profoundly different from anything I’ve seen in the private sector. Now before you jump to conclusions, I’m not saying the education budgets are larger. I don’t get that sense. But almost every project that delivers has a focus on education and training. There is just a profound focus that we need to educate people and train them and we should not expect people to just pick up new skills without training and effort.

Hand in hand with this focus on education and training comes an increased focus on innovation and improvement. Perhaps because our main clients are students who learn, we are eager to share information and learn ourselves. This gets magnified as Universities are very collaborative and we are eager to share information and innovations. This creates a larger eco-system of innovation with the goal to improve the educational system and our support of higher learning.

Since private companies are in competition, you rarely see professionals between companies sharing new methods and procedures that could help others in the industry. As a result, innovations have to be ‘discovered’ multiple times in private industries.

System Thinking

Which brings us back to System Thinking. I remember reading a book on System Thinking that proposed IT systems are designed within the larger enterprise context and can’t help but mimic the overall company culture and values. An open company’s IT systems will have less formal procedures that a company that is very hierarchical. The IT systems reflect the company.

So I guess it should not be surprising that our systems and our IT organization and culture have been modeled after the University as a whole.

 

 

A year at University #UManitoba

I have now been employed at the University of Manitoba for over a year now. I’m not sure I knew exactly what I thought it would be like working at a University, but I thought it would be good to reflect on what I have learned over the past year

The first thing that has occurred to me as I look back is that I have never, ever been more proud of where I work. The ability to contribute in some small way to the advancement of education, research, and advancement of the students at the University of Manitoba is truly inspiring. I have always been proud of where I have worked in the past, but most of the time the outcomes assisted large private companies. I just find that isn’t nearly as rewarding as ultimately playing a small part in the educational system.

The University is an environment where ideas are fostered and critical thinking is encouraged. This environment promotes collaboration perhaps more than any other place I have been in. But the University somehow continues to foster collaboration within a structured environment. This should not be minimized, in my experience the introduction of structure usually caused the reduction of collaboration. This is not the case, if anything the structure at the University of Manitoba encourages collaboration and the fostering of ideas. An important factor that contributes to this culture of collaboration is the concept of peer review. Although peer review is commonplace in the research areas, I’ve never been in a work culture where it manifests itself in the entire organization. People actively seek out each others opinion and truly expect feedback and critical review of their ideas that can help to make the ideas better. This ends up making all the ideas the best they can be and helps to make the collaboration enjoyable and without conflict.

That isn’t to say, there aren’t challenges. But a lot of the challenges come from just how large and diverse an organization the university is. Once an issue to identified, the perspective is just focused on what is the best solution is to the issue at hand.

Ultimately, the University of Manitoba is a community and has a culture all its own. I’ve worked in other placing that tried to define their culture and community. I realize now that to have a community and culture you need to have a diverse group of citizens that are all committed to the ultimate goal. For the University of Manitoba, that is education. I also realized that you define culture by thousands if not millions of small, meaningful, thoughtful acts. It is something you can’t create.

I’ve appreciated that the culture of University of Manitoba is defined by millions of meaningful, thoughtful, insightful, professional, and intelligent ideas – repeated.

Oh, and I love working on a campus with historic buildings, green spaces, and co-workers of the same mind…

And geese…. I love the geese…