The Intelligence Of A Smart University

December 13, 2016
The Intelligence Of A Smart University
Image by Tim Green/Licensed under CY BB

We have to admit that the role of the university in our society is evolving in a direction very difficult to define, finding itself in a no man’s land between the tradition it represents and a new social framework where knowledge is Online, and the capabilities and qualifications that our society needs are more present in spaces like a FabLab than in a traditional classroom.

The massive incorporation of new technologies in our daily lives and social ecosystems presents an emerging crisis in our teaching methodologies, where students arrive to the real world without the tools they need to develop themselves in the so-called Smart-ecosystems. In these ecosystems, the rules are still being defined and the power of personal connectivity is the cornerstone for the professional development of any individual.

In Leading Cities, we have a long experience working with universities around the world, developing joint research and trying to address the talent needs and opportunities of both universities and cities. But the real question is not about what can we do for the universities, but what can we do with universities and members of the Smart Ecosystem.

Working together we can begin to better provide new tools for understanding and managing the society of the future. Even more important, new flexible curricula must be developed to fully allow the potential of each student to be released by exploring new careers in emerging fields rather than focusing so heavily on the paths that were designed a century or more ago.  

How many cases of success are associated with students that have dropped their studies in order to create a start up? And, why were they convinced that the university was not the ideal ecosystem to develop their ideas? These are the questions that we have to take into account when we analyze the role of universities in Smart Ecosystems if we want to provide our societies with useful tools that can promote real innovation and creativity, new paradigms, and new ways of understanding our reality.

From Leading Cities’ experience with several projects developed over the past several years we understand that a “Smart University”, should create a living lab experience, a place for knowledge exchange and hyper connectivity with every corner of the world. It is in such an academic experience where students can be empowered to take their own path, select their own curricula, specialize in whatever they want. However, most importantly, students would be encouraged to fail and be supported when they do, because this experience is likely the most important lesson that we can take from this “controlled” environment that universities represent.

We as professors, should explain to students that even the greatest minds of our time have made several mistakes throughout their career. Entrepreneurs and businessmen and other professors of practice do not have to focalize their lectures on just stories of success, but underlying the failures that also existed and how they were overcome. We have to return to the roots of the “try and fail”. And with that lesson, we can better prepare the next generation to excel in the real world and couple this teaching with an advanced understanding of how to be connected, how to create high-performing teams and how to accelerate synergies with partners, clients, products, and the like.

The traditional university is not in threat of obsolescence, however, we urgently need their transformation to “Smart Universities.” If our traditional institutions of learning do not proceed or succeed in this endeavor, then they open the door for new institutions to emerge.

Leading Cities is a global leader in Smart City solutions, city diplomacy and collaboration advancing sustainability and resilient city strategies and technologies.

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