"They straightway enter into the 'problem-solving' mode without entering into the 'problem-understanding' mindset. This reduces every brilliant solution to a sham."

- Ravi Shankar, in How to Increase Creativity in Problem Solving
Understanding the Iceberg Model helps leaders understand that they cannot readily see most of a program’s or system’s data. It’s hidden below the surface. You can dive for the data now or swim to stay afloat later. 

Let’s explore a business model in higher education through the Iceberg Model lens.
Tip of the Iceberg for a College or University - They know they need a new business model. They want to spend and invest smartly, and they'd love to see a higher return on that investment. They admit that they have not always tracked outcomes, measures, and supports and have not practiced any sort of disciplined cadence of what to shift, scale, or scrap on a 90-day basis. In short, they know what some of the elements are below the iceberg but they could dig much deeper. This is true whether it is a business model, academic model, policy plan, or grant project. Courage is often not found in the approach. Courage resides in the ability to act in a repeated fashion to produce success.

Below the Surface - The team has spent too much time looking around for project ownership. They are still trying to identify champions. The project lead is soft on establishing a regular check-in or huddle cadence for the work. Project milestones are often set, but the interim work to complete objectives is not tight on deliverables, timelines, or artifacts/research required to complete the work. Doubt begins to creep in as well as comfort, and personal identities are often threatened. The business model project is at a standstill. So what to do in the next 90 days to help a college or university get unstuck? Here's the game plan borrowed from John Kotter on managing change for impact:
Let’s run Kotter’s plan through the Setser Group playbook:

Create urgency.
Set a new business plan project goals.

Build your team.
Surround yourself with early adopters, folks who have a disposition towards achieving the goal. Similar to fitness partners, find like minds and champions who will go with you on the journey.

Form a shared future vision.
Learn about what others are doing. Share positive data opportunities and interview experts who have done what you are trying to accomplish. Communicate these learnings frequently and celebrate success.

Enlist a volunteer army.
Involve other stakeholders on campus, follow social media supports, learn new tools, and recruit executive sponsors to give you cover to iterate, fail, and learn.

Enable action by removing barriers.
Figure out ways to offer release time to study the work. Reallocate resources to planning percentages for team members. Figure out ways to gain approval on old policy constraints.

Generate short-term wins.
When dealing with early success on your business model, set interim milestones to report progress and celebrate key team members. Build a team culture that provides more responsibility for team members seeking growth. Communicate up to the cabinet what you are learning and gain inputs. Enlist the help of the CFO to share resources that can be used towards the effort, and develop ways to show the cost savings and revenue back so they can help tell your story.

Sustain acceleration.
On campus, create incubation challenges or prize competitions. Enlist your business school students in the solutions. Create a culture of innovation calendar.

Institute change.
As education leaders, reset your practices and structures around two transformations - improving what you do and innovating towards what you need to become. Take this assessment on creating a culture of innovation at your institutions, and act on the changes required to deliver on your business model.
Our client Oakwood Schools had a problem they wanted to solve in terms of assessing a fair and accurate grading policy for the district. We’ve spent the past few months working with Tom Stein and Doug Reeves to review documents, interview stakeholders, and benchmark national and Ohio trends. In short, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the entire iceberg.

On July 12, 2021, our team will travel to Oakwood to present our findings and then discuss how the iceberg needs to be managed.

For a great read on learning, teaching, and leading in k-12 schools and districts below the iceberg tip, Check out Doug’s book: Fearless Schools.


We are live on YouTube on July 7 at 2:00 pm EST!

Setser Group CEO Bryan Setser discusses innovation with Johnny Collett, Deputy Director of the UK Human Development Institute.

Subscribe to our channel and click on the bell to set a reminder for the premiere event.

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How can you use the Iceberg Model to drive organization success? Connect and learn more at Setser Group.
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