There’s not a lot of stagnation in the world of higher education these days. In fact, here’s an industry that has experienced dozens of seismic changes in just the past few years ago. It demands innovation.
Thankfully, people like Shaul Kuper are here to provide it. Kuper is the founder, president and CEO of Destiny Solutions and our guest on this week’s BusinessCast.
Destiny Solutions creates software for universities and colleges—think: the University of Toronto, Cornell and Stanford—that helps them successfully attract, manage and maintain non-traditional students.
And what, exactly, is a non-traditional student? In short, anyone who falls outside the norm of the stereotype of an 18- to 22-year-old working on an undergrad degree for four years straight. The latter is a cohort that’s no longer the norm, Kuper says: “75% of students today are non-traditional, meaning they work while they go to school, they take longer than four years, they may not be taking an undergrad degree. The profile of the main student on campus has changed quite a bit.”
Students of any type—traditional or not—were hardly on Kuper’s radar when he started a web company in 1995. But two years later, it received an RFP from the U of T’s school of continuing study requiring a website, he figured it was worth a shot. “We thought, ‘we could do some pretty cool stuff here,'” recalls Kuper. He was right; his team built a site that was the first to allow a higher-education institution to enroll students online.
Since then, the company has grown and evolved dramatically to become an industry leader, and is not slowing any time soon. Higher education is changing at a blistering pace, and the only way for a company like Kuper’s to survive is to change with it. And that means knowing how and when to innovate. So, we asked him what he does to make his firm as nimble, dynamic and ahead of the curve as possible.
1. Make sure your people know what they’re doing
“It’s all about people,” stresses Kuper. He’s a huge advocate of Jim Collins’s blockbuster book Good to Great—in particular, its insistence on getting the “right people on the bus” to move your company forward. “That’s a talent in itself,” he says.
2. Clue in to customers
“We’re very in tune with our customers—what they’re about, what they need, what’s going on in the marketplace,” says Kuper. “It’s really important to understand the marketplace. We speak to our customers every day to find out how it’s affecting them.”
Sound impossible? Not with the right tools. Destiny Solutions developed a website called EvoLLLution.com (the three Ls stand for Life Long Learning) to connect people in the non-traditional education community—everyone from professors to deans to students. “We have 1,000 contributors who write articles for us on a daily basis. And we have 30,000 readers,” he explains. “The site is a way for us to understand what’s happening at every level. We end up getting a very interesting view of every topic. It helps us innovate to solve their issues.”
3. Take the macro view
Kuper knows that he’s only as healthy as his clients, which means he spends a lot of time assessing how they are positioned in relation to their rivals. “If we’re doing our job,” he says, “our customers are growing faster and better than their competitors.”
Read: Innovation Made Easier
For more of Kuper’s thoughts, listen to this week’s BusinessCast. To download the full podcast, click on the iTunes logo below:
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