As current chief learning officer (CLO) at the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), Jim Young describes himself as chief strategist—the owner of the vision for change at the organization. He also views learning as a “timeless imperative” and, in his role, is focused on choice architecture because he knows the powerful impact this can have on learning.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with Jim about his path to becoming CLO, what the role means to him, and how he plans to grow and develop SCUP’s learning offerings in the near future.
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00:18 – Thank you to YourMembership, the podcast sponsor for the third quarter of 2017. YourMembership’s learning management system is specifically designed for professional education with a highly flexible and intuitive system that customizes the learning experience. YourMembership’s LMS seamlessly integrates with key systems to manage all of your educational content formats in one central location while providing powerful tools to create and deliver assessments, evaluations, and learning communities.
01:05 – Highlighted Resource of the Week – Tagoras Platform Directory for Learning BusinessesTM – A free report that profiles 30 different companies that are a good fit for trade and professional associations, as well as other learning businesses.
02:01 – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa interviews Jim Young, chief learning officer at the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP).
03:56 – Introduction to Jim and some background information about SCUP, who they serve, and how.
08:16 – You’ve been chief learning officer at SCUP for about three and half years—would you talk a little about your background and the path that led you to your CLO role? Jim shares that until about three years ago, he spent the entirety of his career in higher education so he has a varied, very interdisciplinary background with significant threads in libraries, learning, and technology. What also differentiates him is his background in entrepreneurship. He views himself as a “student of integration” and views integration as the “timeless imperative of the 21st century professional”. Jim recognizes that his experiences have put him in the center of the innovation conversation and the concept of integration has been driving that. When he thinks of his journey to CLO, Jim describes himself as an “expert generalist”. As current CLO, he sees it as a synthesis of his past experiences and also the launching point for the remainder of his career. He says his job is really to be a deep learner and he sees learning as preparedness and readiness, which is at the heart at what they’re designing at SCUP. Jim adds that the phrase “planning” or “planner” has a bit of an image problem but they link that to innovation.
13:32 – As you look back over your career that landed you in this current CLO role, was it a conscious effort to get to this position or more because circumstances led you that way? Jim reveals that it was a little bit of both, recognizing that early on, something drew him to newly created roles and organizations that were thinking differently. So in some ways, he’d say it was absolutely by design but recognizes he didn’t even know this position existed years ago. However now that he’s in it, he’s surprised he doesn’t hear about it more often.
15:45 – In my experience the CLO role isn’t terribly common at associations, and, based on data we’ve collected for the Tagoras Association Learning + Technology Report, only about a third of associations have a CLO or an executive with a similar title focused on learning. What are your thoughts on why you think it isn’t a more common role among associations? Jim admits that up until 3 years ago, he wasn’t super familiar with associations from an inside perspective but says he loves the title and how it gets organizations to be thinking more creatively about design and innovation as cultural hallmarks for the future. He calls learning a truly “timeless imperative” and he’s not sure why the CLO title doesn’t seem to resonate. Jim says in some ways, this signifies an investment in learning at SCUP and underscores who they are as an organization.
17:42 – What does it mean to you to be a CLO? When you think about leading learning at SCUP, what do you think about? Jim explains that at this stage in his history at SCUP, he’d really be considered a chief strategist—they are designing their organization to be strategic, for the long haul, for diverse revenue, and also for the future learner. Ironically, for a planning organization, Jim says they are becoming strategic for the first time and in an investment mode. He leads strategy building and deep dives into things like:
- Understanding what planners want and need
- What’s going on in higher education that people need help solving and how to understand/define these problems across boundaries using new models/frameworks/technology tools
- How to build an infrastructure and culture in which learners have choice
- Imbedding content experiences in people into the lifeblood of ones day-to-day work life—meaning people need practical tools to solve problems
21:39 – Jim adds that because they are an association, they focus on building what they call, a culture of shared value creation, meaning how and in what ways they can engage volunteers as they evolve a fairly traditional membership model, to take robust engagement—often bound in events—and make it durable across the boundaries of the entire association, and what tools, cultural frameworks, and staff they need to be order to do that well. In large part, Jim thinks of the work they do as a professional association serving higher education as translation work.
23:25 – What type of learning does SCUP currently offer and what ideas or plans do you have where to go and grow in the future? Jim reiterates that they have fairly traditional offerings with their unique value proposition being around integrated planning for higher education. They’ve been events driven for nearly the entirety of the organization, they’ve always had a journal, published books, and they do social media. Where they’ve been emphasizing in their vehicle for change over the past three years is something called the, “Planning Institute”. This will emerge over time as the space in which they are building capacity, on the back-end, for what they call a “product platform” which ultimately will allow people to engage in ways they’ve never really been able to before. They are continuing to do in-person workshops—which are popular but have a limited reach and a fairly rigid business model—to a hybrid approach so people can engage online in new ways. They are looking at how they can develop and design an organization to support the full range of planning activities so they are building a choice architecture, which will span the entirety of the product portfolio (but is currently embedded as an incubator in the Planning Institute).
27:14 – Jim notes that one of the core strategic initiatives he’s leading is something called “organizational identity” and that really encompasses two things: organizational strategy and brand identity. Jim says to merge those two things is key to creating a singular, clear, unique value proposition for why people will engage with SCUP over time. This is in the background but it’s linked to how to develop a choice architecture. He reiterates they are in investment mode right now and things will start to execute by Fall 2018 in a way that their members and customers will see a lot of their input start to be realized. Jim adds that the challenge is navigating short-term, real need with the patience of reaching the vision, which is still on the horizon.
31:28 – What’s going on in learning these days that most excites you? This could be an exciting initiative at SCUP or a broader trend or development that excites you as a lifelong learner. Jim shares that in the adult learning space he’s finding people want practical knowledge to help them solve problems and to apply what they’ve learned to do this across a variety of domains. He says people want to engage across various delivery modalities. A huge trend he points out smaller organizations struggle with is how to translate what they know about their markets or use data in more creative ways to inform learning in real time and how to use data to pivot as organizations, and how to design organizations so that pivoting is possible. He’s finding there’s a need to invest in, not only the resources, but also the questions around collecting data and ensuring they have feedback loops of different time horizons so they know how well they’re doing and can also respond more quickly and accurately to learner’s needs. Jim also thinks about what it looks like to create an extended learning community in an organization and what lifecycle learning looks like in an association, something they are digging into deeply at SCUP.
37:09 – How do you approach your own lifelong learning? As mentioned previously, Jim describes himself as an “expert generalist”. He reads and listens deeply and broadly, including traditional news sources, social media feeds and listening to podcasts. He pushes himself to dabble outside of his expertise all of the time which pushes him into a professional learning mode in a non-traditional way. He sets personal goals to stretch himself and open up to new perspectives including through exploration and travel. Jim shares a philosophy he’s always had is that by traversing new landscapes, we learn more about our homes/communities/neighbors and it bridges our difference. He also points out that in his professional learning journey, he and his wife are really intentional about trying to understand the world through their kid’s eyes.
41:00 – How to connect with Jim and/or learn more about SCUP:
41:52 – Wrap Up
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43:37 – Sign off