Morton: Creating North Dakota’s high-skilled workforce

May 25, 2018

Embracing disruption and innovation is critical as the North Dakota University Systems strives to create our 21st Century workforce. Otherwise we will be outpaced by the disruptors.

There is a new game in town and that new game is all about human capital. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Google are great examples of how today’s information-based economy lets businesses create vast shareholder wealth using very little financial capital but loads of human capital.

Software firms are hardly the only examples. Pharmaceutical firms like Lilly and Amgen, retailers like Kohl’s and Walgreen, even manufacturers like Dell and Applied Materials are all devising business models that generate tons of wealth with very little capital. Money isn’t what today’s firms need most. No, the best companies understand what they desperately need are talented people. Talent of every type is in short supply, but the greatest shortage of all is skilled technical talent.

In North Dakota one of our greatest resources is the human capital on the 11 campuses within the university system. It all starts with our students engaging with a talented and dedicated faculty supported by an outstanding staff organization, and exceptional campus leadership.

All of us within the university system must work closely with state government and the private sector to drive innovation at an accelerated pace. The faculty is skilled, talented, and eager to mold the next generation of leaders. This 21st Century digital transformation presents challenges and opportunities in areas like Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, experiential learning, online knowledge transfer, research and the monetization of that research. Lifetime learning must be embraced and presents an expanded market opportunity for higher education.

Innovation begins when the conversation shifts to how great the 11 campuses within our higher education system can be. It takes great humility to be an innovative leader and an innovative organization. It takes humility to admit your shortcomings and your areas of weakness. It takes humility to challenge your own assumptions.  It takes great humility and courage to say: “Let’s improve, we can do better.”

Yes, there is a new game and that new game is all about human capital, innovation, and a move from process accountability to outcome accountability. Our options are to learn this new game, the rules, the roles of the participants and how the rewards are distributed, or we can continue practicing our present skills and become the best players in a game that is no longer being played.

The message is simple – trust people, embrace change, take some chances. Bring great humility to your work place every day. Make a commitment to the idea that one organization can make a difference. Be that one organization.