Copernican Revolution in Management

“Eppur si muove = And yet it moves”
-Galileo, in defense of his support for Copernican theory.

The gradual acceptance of the Copernican theory of the universe
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The gradual acceptance of the Copernican
theory of the universe, by Dorothy Stimson

In short, Copernican theory (or heliocentrism) is basically that the sun does not revolve around Earth, but that Earth is just one of many planets which revolve around the sun. It was a paradigm shift that took literally centuries to become widely accepted.

In the same vein, the Copernican revolution in management aims to change perceptions about the relationship between an organization and its customer (or for me, students). To continue the metaphor, the organization in a traditional sense is at the center, with customers orbiting around. The flip side is to portray the customer as the center, with organizations orbiting–and only able to survive, let alone thrive, as long as the customer  is there (i.e. their needs and expectations are being met).

As Forbes notes, the  methodology used to determine success aren’t different in this type of structure; yet, it does forebode some kind of inquiry into how ‘business as usual’ is being conducted, and what’s being done on multiple levels, particularly for those organizations with systemic issues that discourage employees and frustrate customers (aka students). For traditional business, much of this focuses on the inherent privileges and rights afforded to management, particularly as it relates to their duties. Higher education is no exception, but the structure is more complicated. The seeming dichotomy between administration and faculty, on top of staff, creates an interesting kind of dueling dualism (HOMONYM!) between sectors that are more than just silos; they’re distinct paradigms.

In both areas–traditional business and higher education–the need for multiple levels of bureaucracy disappears in the Copernican revolution. The status quo becomes in flux when the focus changes from geocentrism to heliocentrism, because suddenly, the organization is the one that needs to be motion. How this relates to management is that this static form isn’t operational. There needs to be a system in place that is agile and responsive (two words not normally associated with higher education) to customers, and for that to happen, there needs to be a new ecosystem for communication and hierarchy.

While many point to the recent economic woes (and Forbes cites a declining trend that goes back over 40 years) as an impetus for change, there are many other related factors like

  • Declining high school graduation rate
  • Socioeconomic and environmental factors affecting US quality of life for all citizens (check out this recent JAMA study)
  • High levels of employees who report feeling disengaged –> actively disengaged (a recent study showed that those who were unemployed were actually more satisfied and happier than working citizens who reported feeling disengaged)

Across industries and as older institutions of thought have apparently “run out of gas“, the Copernican Revolution seems necessary to not only re-engage employees but also help organizations switch from an internal focus to consumer-based. But when?

To read more about the Copernican Revolution (and much more in-depth analyses of other aspects), here’s your hook up.

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