Most Innovative Companies List

Posted on February 15, 2012

My memo to our campus community:

The 12th most innovative company in the world? That’s what Fast Company said of us in its recent listing of the “World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.” There we are with huge global brands like Apple (#1), Facebook (#2), Google (#3), HBO (#11) and Tesla Motors (#13), at the top of the rankings for the Education subset, the only university on the list, and the only NH organization to be included. The head of IBM’s Higher Ed Partnerships emailed me and wrote: “I have one word: ‘wow’!”

 Wow, indeed.

 However, anyone who knows SNHU knows that innovation is in our DNA. Under President Ed Shapiro, we were an early pioneer of continuing and international education. Under President Dick Gustafson we introduced the three-year competency-based undergraduate degree, a full 14 years before that model became such a hot topic. In my almost nine years here, we have seen our online education become a regional powerhouse. This is an institution that has long sought new and better delivery models and that tradition of innovation has now received national recognition in a big way.

The Fast Company reporter interviewed me and in a casual conversation, she asked about my background. If you read the listings you also know she gave that personal story a lot of emphasis. I feel a bit sheepish about that fact since so much of what earned us that 12th spot has to do with others. Think about it: Saving Higher Education, the new book looking at our three-year program, was written by Marty Bradley, Steve Painchaud, and Bob Seidman and is being widely read. At a recent meeting, officials from the Gates and the Lumina Foundations both cited it. In Salem, Laura Corddry is doing a marvelous job leading the SNHU Advantage Program. Beth Sheehan has been the passionate champion of the College Unbound Program. Yvonne Simon is leading some ground-breaking work in the Innovation Lab. Roy Morrison forged a complicated and ground-breaking energy hedge that has won EPA awards for us. COCE, which got a lot of attention in the article, is thriving under the able leadership of Steve Hodownes and scores of talented people both in the millyard and on the main campus.

This recognition has been a group effort and one that started well before many of us, most of us even, started at the university. I thank you all for this important work.

How important is the work? We know that almost 70% of all new jobs in America will require at least two years of post-secondary education and that unemployment for college degree holders has been half that of those without a college degree. Education has never been more important and never been more out of reach for millions of Americans. SNHU will continue to innovate, to increase access, to keep costs down, and to improve quality. As an institution, we can be proud of helping to lead the way among our peers.

 That said, part of me cringed a bit when thinking about being labeled the 12th most innovative company in the world (in the world no less!). We still have to be better at so many things and many of them have to do with simply doing good day-to-day work, never mind innovation. If you were a student whose plumbing broke down last week, the “innovator” label might ring a little hollow when all you want is a working toilet. So we have a lot of work to do. I suppose that is true for everyone on the list. Consider the recent exposes on Apple’s manufacturing in China, skepticism over Facebook’s future, and concerns over Google’s erosion of users’ privacy. Lack of parking, plumbing issues in old dormitories, and unwieldy systems feel downright prosaic in comparison. That said, we should remain modest about this recent honor and remember how much we have to do even as we take pride in this tremendous acknowledgement of SNHU’s innovative past and present.

 But for the next couple of days at least we should feel pretty darn good.

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