Michael Nanfito: An interview by Bob Morris

Posted on: August 19th, 2014 by bobmorris

NanfitoMichael Nanfito is the executive director at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). Mr. Nanfito sets the vision and strategic direction for NITLE, working closely the member community. He has a background in networked information resources and technology-related entrepreneurial activity, ranging from the development of large data-driven web environments to consulting for small academic libraries.

Nanfito has worked in networked information resources since the late 1980s, at that time developing databases in the library database industry. In the 1990s, Nanfito served as a consultant to the Microsoft Corporate Library to identify information needs across the organization and to develop a strategy to implement web-based library portals. He subsequently worked as an entrepreneur and consultant in a variety of capacities in the Seattle area, including developing large data-driven web environments and consulting services to bring small libraries up to speed on emerging online library resources. Before joining NITLE in 2006, he served as director of instructional technology at the University of Puget Sound. One of his primary interests and efforts while at the University was the development of a digital asset management program to digitize, organize, and provide access to academic resources housed in departmental collections. A 2002 Frye Fellow, Nanfito holds the M.L.I.S. and a B.A. in history (San Jose State University).

His book, MOOCs: Opportunities, Impacts, and Challenges: Massive Open Online Courses in Colleges and Universities, was published by CreateSpace/An Amazon Company (December 2013).

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Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Nanfito: I “discovered” the Internet, quite by accident in 1991. At the time I had enrolled in the library and information science program at San Jose State University and was working with an advisor on a research project. Initially the project was to center on “information equity” issues but changed when she asked me why I had enrolled in the program. I responded that I was interested in the impact that information services have on the process of global democratization. The attempted coup in the (then) Soviet Union had just occurred. She decided my question was more interesting and re-wrote the grant to reflect the shift.

As I looked into the coup I discovered that a California State University professor of computer science, Dr. Larry Press, had just returned from Moscow immediately prior to the coup attempt. He had been working with some start up groups (this was the time of perestroika and glasnost) to get budding “commercial” software development services going.

(Not coincidentally, in 1989, the US Department of Commerce had allowed TCP/IP Internet services to be accessible in the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries so academic institutions in each of the soviets had internet access at the time of the coup.)

I learned that resistance to the coup was aided by communications from academic institutions in each of the soviets, made possible by the use of something called the “internet.” As I investigated farther I learned that in addition to the “internet” the resistance made use of another murky service called “BITNET.” BITNET (the Because It’s Time Network) was exclusive to academic institutions (read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BITNET). I realized that I was at an academic institution and that I could probably get on this thing, whatever it was. I asked at the campus computing center and they gave me an account, pointed me to some things called “listserves” to learn more about using the “BITNET” thing.

I was brand new to both computing and online services. In point of fact I knew nothing about either and was an admitted technophobe – if not an actual luddite. When I had initially expressed my interest in learning how information services were influencing democratization, I was clear that I meant print services. I had just recently purchased an IBM 286 (clone) computer with the help of a friend and he had had something called a “modem” installed when they built the machine. I had no use for the modem – until I got my BITNET account. All of a sudden I was tooling around computers out there somewhere in a green-screen mode using TELNET, Archie, and FTP. It was all sort of fun but the content on these computers I was visiting was mostly about, well, computers and computing. Nothing that really applied to my query. That is, until I found Project Hermes.

One Saturday morning I was stumbling around the BITNET/Internet thing using my new 286 PC and modem, looking at files via TELNET and FTP. Then I saw a TELNET reference to Project Hermes, an experimental online repository of Supreme Court decisions. I picked a case at random (involving then Governor Clinton of Arkansas). The record I had stumbled on was not merely a bibliographic citation of the case, it was the full text. I recognized that this BITNET/Internet thing had utility. Then it got better, I discovered I could “download” the record. To my home computer. And print it. So I did. I timed it. It took less than five minutes to search for the record, download it, and print it off. I got so excited I had to go outside and walk around for a while. I realized that this would change everything. Citizens would be able to gain access to information of value and make use of it. Libraries would never be the same. My own graduate program suddenly seemed ridiculously antique.

The light bulb had gone off for me and I have been working with online resources ever since. And for me it is still about how to help people make sense of and use this extensible resource in the service of making the best decisions for themselves and their organizations.

A long answer to your question but it truly was an epiphany.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Nanfito: Attending educational institutions provided context for my real learning to happen. In both my undergraduate and graduate programs I made extensive use of special studies, the maximum allowed in both cases. This freed me to do some real work. I enjoyed most of the lectures I attended but I felt pretty disengaged overall. I was energized by the narrative I was developing for myself.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Nanfito: (Formal) credentials are not the only measure of ability and don’t (necessarily) mean as much as we wish they did. I wasted a lot of time believing I had to wait until I had received external authorization to really contribute. I no longer believe that and I don’t really look at people’s credentials much when hiring. I want to know about the person, what they are excited about, and whether they want to change the world or not. Transcripts and degrees don’t tell me any of that.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Nanfito: Moneyball leaps to mind. In our consulting work we emphasize the need and the value of taking the time to really identify the real problem at hand. Too often we leap to (comfortable) solutions before we have accurately identified the problem to solve. For me, Moneyball was in part about rejecting an old business model and asking better questions in order to understand an actual problem facing the organization and work at a solution for that problem, not the one we are comfortable with.

Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Nanfito: East of Eden: “Thou mayest not sin.”

We have choices. The more common – and apparently inaccurate, at least according to Steinbeck’s character in the book – representation of that edict is “Thou shall not sin.” It is a command, a directive that is absent choice. The former version requires choice. In business, we have choices and we should cultivate curiosity and a culture of experimentation. Directives and excessive structure make it easy to abdicate our responsibility to make choices and decisions. Active involvement in the organization requires that we take chances, do our best, and take responsibility for our decisions.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao Tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Nanfito: In our collaboration consulting work for higher ed we emphasize the need for shared leadership. Hierarchy – which is firmly entrenched in education – is a tool. When it becomes the program, real sustained, programmatic collaboration is impossible and we are less than we can be.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Nanfito: Programs are best when they are about the substance and not the personality. Work to help others own your best ideas, make them their own, and thus help them build something useful.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Nanfito: Convention is comfortable and comfort is a trap. Real change requires real change (there’s a cliché for you). Foster choice, risk-taking, and participatory decision-making. Work to make your innovation tomorrow’s boring cliché. That may be a measure of success. If everything I do is always “innovative” where is it’s utility?

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Nanfito: I learned a long time ago that once I believe I know something I stop asking questions about it. Curiosity about the given ubject or object is blunted. I stop learning. The real fun lies in the questions, not in the answers.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Nanfito: Someone advised me a long time ago not to “make problems that don’t exist.” Focus. Understand the real issues at hand and address them with discipline and humility. Avoid working on (or worse, inventing) questions to demonstrate your ability to answer them. Leave that to the trial lawyers.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Nanfito: “The Way that can be spoken of is not the constant Way.”

Leaders should cultivate active participation in decision-making. Having said that, there can be only one captain of the ship. The leader needs to foster a culture of participation and risk but we still need leaders to look to and inspire an actionable vision. We can share collective leadership and authority but we can’t distribute that kind of executive responsibility and accountability. Leaders still need to take the heat when it goes awry, and continue to share rewards when it goes aright. Might not be fair, but leadership, executive leadership, is not fair.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Nanfito: Lucy once told Charlie Brown that we learn from our mistakes. He responded with the observation that he must be the smartest person in the world.

We should not confuse mistakes with failure. Mistakes are only failures in rigid models controlled by external authority with narrow channels of activity that reflect a dogmatic and enduring reliance on and allegiance to pre-existing processes. In an organization working to be responsive to emerging and unmet needs, it is imperative to respectfully challenge the way we did the work yesterday. Just as when hierarchy becomes the program, when ideology and dogmatic ritual ossify our work, we are less than we can be. Convention and routine may offer a level of comfort but comfort is not the objective in a responsive organization.

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?

Nanfito: Dozens of possibilities loom. I suspect there is a correlation between certain personality types that are associated with visible and celebrated success, and organizational cultures that reward controlling behavior. These same organizations and C-level execs cannot cultivate collaborative, shared leadership. That behavior may have been useful in an antique industry of command and control, pre-determined directives, and unchanging objectives, but I don’t believe those are the attributes of most of our contemporary business efforts.

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Nanfito: Leaders need to sell a vision. They are taking us someplace we have not been and, as they cultivate our shared leadership, they require that we enter into the vision with them and become champions in our own right. The story told becomes an artifact that we can then make use of as we deepen our own involvement in the vision and the mission. We all need good stories. And, like good stand-up comedy, the best stories are lifted from someone else.

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?

Nanfito: Do not rely on meetings, workshops, and seminars. Organizations with ambitions to change require concrete tools to define a vision and a path forward, a statement of purpose that can be shared easily, and effective problem statements that accurately identify the issue(s) to address. These tools must result in artifacts that serve as touchstones to combat organizational memory and culture.

Morris: In recent years, there has been criticism, sometimes severe criticism of M.B.A. programs, even those offered by the most prestigious business schools. In your opinion, in which area is there the greatest need for immediate improvement? Any suggestions?

Nanfito: Elementary school. Children are exceptionally creative and, generally, less self-conscious and less concerned about appearances than adults. They are more likely to engage in exploration and tolerate what adults would deem “failure.” We should not wait until someone is an “adult” to draw out enthusiasms, excitements, and ambition. We have a huge opportunity to help children leverage their inherent curiosity in order to foster a creative discipline that can inform participation in adult education later in life. We think we do this now, but we don’t.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to MOOCs. When and why did you decide to write it?

Nanfito: I’ve been involved with helping colleges integrate technology and pedagogy for nearly 20 years. During that time I learned that, for reasons of culture and legacy, higher ed institutions need help asking better questions when considering exploring, testing, and deploying academic technologies. I was looking for a hot topic that would potentially impact several sectors of higher ed to use as a platform to frame questions and offer a programmatic approach to technology review. When MOOCs “burst” on the scene in 2011/2012 (depending on when you start counting) it was a natural. MOOCs apologists rabidly proclaimed them the ultimate disruptor and detractors circled their wagons in a defensive posture. MOOCs use existing technologies yet open the door to emerging tools like adaptive learning and data mining protocols.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Nanfito: I had always intended to avoid lobbying for or against MOOCs. My concern centered on helping people ask better questions to contextualize the issue and identify the best strategic problems to solve.

Morris: If you were asked to write an updated version of the book, what would you add, delete, and/or revise?

Nanfito: I would re-architect it as a toolkit to review online learning in general and as a guide to explore and implement, as appropriate, collaborative curriculum exchange. I may still do this.

Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest MOOC challenge to overcome? Please explain.

Nanfito: The greatest challenge, and conversely the greatest opportunity regarding MOOCs is the integration into existing institutional curricula with meaningful course credits that contribute to degree acquisition. This will require a status that provides for student financial aid and a revision of the “seat time” metric of class participation. Competency based education models will play a role in this evolution. Learning happens best when the learner is actively involved in their own educational narrative. MOOCs provide specific opportunity for learners to active responsibility for their education rather than passively consume content.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye. For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as [begin italics] the most important point [end italics] or [begin italics] key take-away [end italics] in each of these passages.

First, Identifying Expectation and Hope (Pages 27-29)

Nanfito: Once we strip away the media hype and existing institutional enmity, we are able to dispassionately review the real potential of MOOCs, contextualizing the connectivist model in contemporary society. Successful and sustained social services reflect the habits and intention of the society in which they operate. In a networked world, we require an educational infrastructure that accounts for patterns of behavior and learning that leverages interconnectivity rather than resists it. Educational institutions and their leaders must ask better questions and make the best strategic decisions, not only for their institutions but the larger educational infrastructure. This will require, by default, exploring opportunities that we are unfamiliar – and uncomfortable – with.

Morris: Analytics, Assessment, and improved educational outcomes (35-36)

Nanfito: MOOCs (and online learning in general) generate a wealth of user data – both learners and educators – and this expansive resource provides an opportunity to better understand how we learn and what we know. Users leave digital artifacts in online environments that have the potential – if do this well – help us measure competency in new ways. Beyond traditional tests and examinations, we can watch how learners navigate an educational landscape. We can build systems that are in service to learning that do not rely solely on the educator in the room.

Morris: The Demographics of MOOCs: Overview (41-42)

Nanfito: Students enroll in MOOCs for a variety of reasons. We must contextualize that participation in the larger context of education in general including face-to-face classrooms and other online learning spaces. We must review MOOCs as one of the nodes in an expansive learning environment that is increasingly offering choices to both educators and learners in an educational culture in transition.

Morris: A brief review of the technologies that implement and sustain a MOOC (60-62)

Nanfito: MOOCs amplify existing support issues. While the technologies that enable MOOCs are generally in place now, the scope of service that MOOCs offer is likely greater than current institutional support models can contend with. Further, much of the technology – such as social media and videoconferencing – that comprise any given MOOC platform, may already be in high use by faculty and students but they are using, and used to, services they acquire on their own. Facebook, Google Hangouts, Twitter, WordPress blogs, are all tools that students and faculty are used to using on their own, unsupported by campus IT groups. If an institution decides to formally integrate MOOCs with the attendant technologies into their curricular program, they will need to survey existing support to better understand to what extent this decision impacts current workloads, budgets, and planning processes.

MOOC Accessibility (67-69)

Nanfito: Digital technologies provide a wonderful opportunity to repurpose existing content in new ways and to make data and information available in creative and extensible modes. We have generally effective adaptive solutions for users of traditional media (especially print). But technology-mediated information places an interface between the content and the user that generally makes heavy use of visual and aural senses. We will need to ensure that courses that make use of videoconferencing accommodate visually or hearing impaired students (and faculty). Digital games, gaming, and role play are increasing used by innovative faculty. We have a ways to go to be able to provide access to students with mobility issues when a joy-stick on a game console becomes an integral tool in a learning space.

Morris: Setting the Stage: massive investment and hedged bets (79-83)

Nanfito: The educational services industry is investing heavily in new products and services. Whether we like it or not, barring some apocalyptic event, we are not returning to print books, chalk boards, and pens and pencils as the primary academic technologies. For decades educational institutions have become ever deeply mired in the development of curricula that now rely on academic technologies. There is no going back and there is no stopping the wheels. Schools need to review this trajectory and make equally impressive investments in their staff, their faculty, and their infrastructures to ensure that they can remain viable players in the education industry. Despite the persistent pastoral impression of the college, higher ed is a very competitive industry. Leaders need a vision that will keep pace with emerging realities and a plan of action to ensure that their institutions can actually sustain their viability.

Morris: From Project to Program: Four Fundamental Questions to Answer (84-87)

Nanfito: For decades now, “investing” in faculty professional development with respect to online learning meant providing small stipends and release time from courses. This model essentially enabled faculty to transfer their print pedagogy to an online space. It retained the traditional culture of autonomy and independence that higher ed has supported. But real effective online learning systems require a team approach. Faculty need to work with academic technologists and instructional designers to craft effective and accessible digital content. They need to work with librarians and digital scholarship specialists to create networked resources. The traditional hierarchy of faculty and non-faculty will not function in this emerging world. Reward structures for highly skilled and motivated non-faculty will need to be developed to ensure a cooperative, if not collaborative, respectful team environment of shared leadership.

Morris: Mozilla Open Badges (116-120)

Nanfito: The reign of the static four-year college education is over. Few students complete a degree in that time. Increasingly, students are persistently episodic learners, working while going to school, taking time off to work full time, get married, start a family, and return to a formal education. In the process of working many skills are developed including leadership, management, communication, and critical thinking. As a result, competency based education metrics are being developed to help measure existing knowledge in order to place learners accurately in the matrix of their educational narrative. Tools like Mozilla badges are being developed to help educators and students document knowledge in a form that is much deeper than traditional transcripts or a print resume. Badges provide a record of how a student arrived at their knowledge rather than a simple marker of completion like a grade.

Morris: MOOCs and the Measurement of Knowledge and Competency (135-137)

Nanfito: “There is nothing sacred about the structure or the administration of the college or university.” MOOCs arrive at a time when there are new tools, new processes to develop and deliver information and knowledge. There are new tools and processes to measure academic progress. The business of the college must adhere to the social structures within which education is happening now. The nineteenth century model of delivering academic content and measuring competency really must be reviewed and jettisoned where they no longer make sense. That the culture encourages us to cling to the old models is no excuse for inaction, or worse, resistance.

Morris: Models for Review and Consideration (143-144)

Nanfito: Competency based education already has a long and successful history although practitioners are still considered outliers, we refer to their institutions as “alternative” schools, and not with a positive frame. Alverno College, Empire State College successfully navigated this evolutionary angle decades ago. MOOCs actually model the active participatory education that these institutions have implemented already. We can learn much from them.

Morris: Lessons from Learning-Centered Institutions (156-158)

Nanfito: These institutions have developed cultures of assessment that require the student to be active participants in the development of their education. MOOCs, perhaps in parallel development, are inspired by and implement similar models that place more responsibility on the learner. A critical component of this model is that the whole system is continuously improving. Assessment, in this mode, is not only about the student, it includes institutional assessment, organizational review – and these are part of how MOOCs operate. This is also one of the mechanisms that allow these institutions, and MOOCs to be learning-centered, rather than learner-centered (or worse, still faculty-centered, the old sage-on-the-stage view of education).

Morris: In your opinion, in which sector (i.e. schools, community/junior colleges, four-year colleges, or universities) do you expect to see the greatest increase of MOOC registration during the next 3-5 years? Why?

Nanfito: MOOCs will evolve. Online learning has been here for 20 years. MOOCs are the most recent iteration of that model. One of the factors to watch is less about the institutions and more about the educators. The increasing mass of unaffiliated PhDs who want to teach but for whom there are no tenure track positions, and the increasing reliance on these “ronin” as adjunct educators – non-traditional teachers in hyper-traditional institutions – will have an interesting impact. While we see adjuncts attempting to unionize at places like Macalester and the University of St. Thomas, we see persistent opportunities for these roving educators to find homes at places like the Saylor Foundation and Western Governors University. Private non-profit tutoring services using these unaffiliated PhDs are on the increase. As a result, the biggest growth may not be at the traditional 2- or 4-year college or university but rather in new sorts of organizations that don’t suffer from the baggage of the past 150 years and are frankly more nimble and less encumbered by an old model.

Morris: Of all the great educators throughout history, with which one would you most want to share an evening of conversation if it were possible? Why?

Nanfito: Nathaniel Green Herreshoff, naval architect and engineer. (Learn more about him by clicking here.) Herreshoff, a graduate of MIT in 1870, came along at a time when shipwrights still built from memory and tradition. He applied principles to ship and boat design that made use of new materials and processes. And he successfully retained and insisted on an aesthetic for vessels. There is a human dimension to his work. He understood that boats and ships are more than mere transportation. They are wonderful solutions to moving humans through the media of air and water, and the dimension of time.

As an amateur boat builder I appreciate the value of work that is fueled by an understanding of tools, materials, and processes.

Learning by experience how materials behave under specific conditions. Learning how to manipulate materials using tools and developing processes to achieve objectives all pay off. You might even end up with something that looks a lot like a boat that moves through the media of wind and water in just the manner that the design specified. Moving from a spare skeleton of frames and potential through a development process and on to a successful launch. Gaining an understanding of the relationships between materials, tools, and processes applies to so many areas of endeavor and there are so many exercises open to us to gain such insights. But it takes a bit of humility to acknowledge that we have something to learn, that we don’t yet know it all.

I would welcome the opportunity to talk with Heresshoff – Captain Nat, as he was known – as I am convinced that the same principles apply to building organizations, organizations that retain a human dimension, are flexible enough to navigate shifting winds, and stable enough to withstand the big blows that inevitably assail all organizations.

Morris: Long ago, Thomas Edison observed, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Your response?

Nanfito: I come to work to achieve pragmatic objectives. I try to provide concrete tools for clients to do their work, overcome challenges, and implement solutions. In that light I can appreciate Edison’s edict. However, I have the sense that there is a place for dreamers. People who are imaginative and who may not execute on the images they conjure. Lack of execution notwithstanding, dreamers may inspire the plodding pragmatists like me.

“It takes all kinds.”

Morris: Let’s say that a CEO has read and then (hopefully) re-read MOOCs and is now determined to establish or strengthen a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. Where to begin?

Nanfito: From my Principles of Collaboration document that I use when working with campus leadership. I think much of this applies to your question:

“The development of a program with multiple stakeholders requires facilitators to create clear expectations, foster information sharing, follow through on problem-solving, and track progress. Facilitating collaboration requires organizing stakeholders around a common model that is congruent with sought after outcomes and intersecting ambitions.”

Statement of purpose/Problem Definition and Scope

The most critical element of collaboration is a clear understanding of the shared (or intersecting) goals that justify inter-institutional collaboration. The success or failure of a collaboration more often depends on the strength of this element more than anything else. If the rationale is strong enough, money, staff time, etc. will be found; if the goals are not intrinsic (e.g., if the collaboration is motivated by externalities that may vanish at any time) then ultimately the collaboration will be jeopardized.

Identifying/Cultivating Sponsorship and Champions

Sustained collaborations have the benefit of executive sponsorship whether from the president or the provost or the Trustees. The defined opportunity is clear and senior leadership and other sponsors can easily get behind it in a productive and persistent manner. While not a guarantee, sponsorship is helpful in weathering organizational and funding storms down the road. In addition to program sponsors, successful collaborations have one or more public and active champions who are willing, able, and eager to go to bat for the collaboration. Champions need not be a part of the collaboration proper. Champions can be found in campus presidents, provosts, deans, CIOs, Librarians, technologists, faculty, as well as corporate and industry leaders. The extent to which they can easily share the statement of purpose and the opportunity, the easier it will be for them to remain enthusiastic champions in the service of the collaboration.

Champions help galvanize the collaboration. To that end, a program of “ongoing persuasion and motivation is needed to sustain collaborative work.” Presidents, trustees, senior administrative staff – indeed leadership at all levels of the institution – must be provided a strong narrative at every phase of the collaboration to ensure success.

Champions require stories to share about the rationale supporting the collaboration and the measurable outcomes that will benefit participants. Developing that narrative and getting into the hands of sponsors and champions is a key component of a successful collaboration.

Cultivating Trust and Vulnerability

Explore vulnerability as a positive. Through transparency and openness new potential can be realized. All of this requires trust. It can be a challenge to be vulnerable enough to work together in a public manner, show work before it is “finished,” and allow others to work collaboratively on it, or even see it, before it is “polished” to satisfaction. It can be hard for some to let down their guard and allow others to re-work their contributions, and insert their own in its place. To really work together in honest collaboration requires a significant level of trust and vulnerability and a safe environment to foster these.

To learn more, please click here.

Morris: For more than 25 years, it has been my great pleasure as well as privilege to work closely with the owner/CEOs of hundreds of small companies, those with $20-million or less in annual sales. In your opinion, of all the material you provide in MOOCs, which do you think will be of greatest value to leaders in small companies? Please explain.

Nanfito: I hope an overall takeaway is the urgent need to review organizational status with an unbiased eye. Take the time to probe the issues and opportunities before the organization, familiarize yourself with the variables, and draft a statement of purpose based on core principles and strengths, market/customer directions, and unmet needs. Avoid launching solutions prior to the development of an accessible statement of purpose and a clear problem statement. Outline a plan to invest in the people who make up the organization, cultivate champions and leaders who can get behind the vision, understand the context within which the organization is currently operating and where it is anticipated to head. Provide a safe place to make mistakes. Take responsibility for crafting a responsive organization that understands its place in history.

Exercise choice to do the best for individuals as well as the larger organization.

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Michael cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

The NITLE link

The Academic Commons link

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