In January we launched our academic master planning process to develop the common goals that would drive us forward in the next five year.  By April we had suspended that work, but we will take it up again in a few weeks, with a presentation of the Academic Master Plan to the Board scheduled for November.

This recent article in Inside Higher Ed about design thinking as an approach to strategic planning – recommended most especially for institutions that are planning in the midst of a pandemic – caught my attention.  How do we plan?  In our daily lives, in our professional lives, in our classrooms?  Do we design to achieve outcomes, or do we plan around activities?  I’m afraid I am often guilty of thinking in terms of activities – hopefully  with an eye to outcomes, but probably with too much focus on the activities themselves.

The author suggests that we start with the problems we want to solve rather than trying to draw a map for where we want to be in five year.  In an age of constraints – both fiscal and physical – he further suggests that constraints can provoke creative thinking.  He recommends empathy throughout, and an intentional focus on a few things rather than trying to do everything.  And of course, for ACC our planning should reflect our mission and our passion for a more equitable world.

Whatever you may think of some of his recommendations, I found his approach thought-provoking as well as serving as a reminder that creativity and empathy are the keys to the things that we do as a college.  Whether we’re designing our courses for the Fall semester or designing the college’s academic master plan for the next five years, let’s not forget to rely on empathy, experimentation, and creativity.  They will serve us well as we move forward towards a more equitable classroom, college, city, and world.