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UIIN Workshop on Leading Organisational Change in Higher Education

How do you make change happen in higher education? In order to provide higher education professionals with the theories and practical tools necessary to facilitate change at their institution, UIIN has designed a two-day workshop. The workshop is led by Dr. Sanae Okamoto, Director for Asian Affairs at UIIN and Researcher at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University, and Dr. Jochen Barth, Director for Employability at UIIN, Managing Partner at CER10DIPITY, and Associate Partner at the Service Science Factory at Maastricht University. 

In this interview, Dr. Okamoto and Dr. Barth share their insights on why higher education professionals should join the upcoming workshop, which will be held on 24-25 January 2018 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 


Dr. Barth, please, explain how organisational change can affect Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)?

Many higher education institutions are struggling to change beyond their traditional ‘two missions’ approach of education and research. To stay competitive, they are required to introduce new ways of working, focus more on delivering student employability, university-business cooperation, and societal impact. Often, this engagement relies on the convictions and efforts of a few individuals. However, to realize true change, besides the institution-wide commitment and a change in behaviour amongst the leadership, the involvement of university staff is necessary. University leaders that are tasked with that change are who we like to address in our workshop. By bringing these leaders together and tackling their challenges we hope to make a significant impact to their role as university change leaders.

The workshop is designed for the higher education professionals; do you think that one individual can make change happen in the HEI, and in what ways?

As in any organisational change, real change will only happen if the leadership is an ambassador of the change and sets the good example. That’s why we aim the workshop at university leaders who have the formal responsibility of leading change. However, for individuals who “do things differently” within their HEI they also can play an important part in changing their institution. By achieving success by “doing things differently” they can be a role model for change as well. An accumulation of successes that were achieved by a different approach will slowly but steadily gain supporters. In that sense, any individual can gradually change an organisation from within. Important for these informal change leaders is that they make sure that their successes are widely known and celebrated within the organisation. Informal leaders who feel a desire to change their institution, possibly against the resistance of the formal leaders, will just as well benefit from the approach we put forward in our workshop.

Dr. Okomoto, the upcoming workshop introduces higher education staff to behavioural science type approaches, also called ”Nudge”. Could you explain the ”Nudge” approach? 

Behavioural science is gaining more and more attention in modern policy making. Fundamentally, it is trying to explain human behaviour and coming from multiple fields such as psychology, behavioural economics, neuroscience, sociology, and anthropology. This multidisciplinary approach provides a more accurate perspective on our mind, society and behaviour. Changing human behavior is complex and challenging. The “Nudge” approach aims at subtle changes in people’s environment to positively alter people’s behaviour in a predictable and an optimal way, without prohibiting any options or incentivizing them. You could say that it tries to change our behaviour without us noticing it. Hence the term “Nudge”. We are gently nudged towards behaving in a way that is positive for the greater good (separating trash) or ourselves (healthier life choices).

How is the ”Nudge” approach different from existing organisational change strategies?

The behavioural sciences approach can help university leaders to deepen their understanding of organisational behaviour. By framing organisational behaviour as a set of individual behaviours we hope to tackle inherent biases which could potentially cause barriers to real changes. In reality, individual behaviour is the core of the challenge. Whatever change initiatives are introduced, they always need to be adopted by the end-user. Predicting and coping with individual change would be an optimal sustainable strategy for organisational change.

What type of tools will this workshop provide to the participants to contribute to organisational change in their institutions, and how can they apply them in practice?

The workshop will provide leaders with a deeper understanding of what is required to achieve organisational change. We will provide several tools to map out the organisational and individual context. All participants will receive and be introduced to a very tangible tool to support change through the “Nudge” approach. The “Nudge toolkit” contains a card deck of concepts and a decision map which can be used to stimulate decisions and actions to achieve the desired change.

Register to secure your place at the Organisational Change in Higher Education workshop here



About expert facilitators 

Sanae Okamoto
Dr. Sanae Okamoto is Director for Asian Affairs at UIIN and Researcher at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University. She has taught behavioural economics, decision science, and psychology as an assistant professor at the School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. As an experimental psychologist with an original passion in primatology, her interests now mainly lie in applying behavioural sciences to understand human behaviour and improve it in a sustainable manner. She has several years of business experience in Japan and the Netherlands and almost 20 years of experience at universities and research institutes in Japan, Germany, USA and The Netherlands. A study about cooperation and leadership was recently published in Scientific Reports.


Jochen Barth
Dr. Jochen Barth is Director for Employability at UIIN, Managing Partner at CER10DIPITY, and Associate Partner at the Service Science Factory at Maastricht University. As managing director of the Service Science Factory, which established itself as a best practice for entrepreneurial universities, he gained extensive experience in triple-helix led knowledge transfer initiatives. Jochen is also an experienced management consultant and has advised over 100 organisations, SME’s as well as multinationals, spanning all sectors, in a variety of topics including business model innovation, talent development, and change management.


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