What I'm Reading: ‘Momentum’

September 11, 2016

Dave Palmer, UCSB
Michael D. Young
For decades as a university administrator, I applied a simple operating principle: Good enough is never good enough. Being content ensured a certain passivity which, in turn, interfered with the imperative to regularly assess the changing environment and continually transform the institution. Eventually, comfort catches up to you.

I never realized that this basic idea could be developed into a framework for decision-making until I read Daniel Seymour’s Momentum: The Responsibility Paradigm and Virtuous Cycles of Change in Colleges and Universities.

The premise is that when the rate of change outside our institutions exceeds the rate of change inside, we either gain traction and evolve or lose ground and diminish. Standing pat is no longer an option.

But exactly how do we gain momentum? The virtuous cycle, or upward spiral, is introduced as a tool for colleges to create their own futures where each success becomes the platform for more successes. The core chapters describe a set of spiral dynamics that are at the heart of this relentlessly pragmatic exercise.

My own discomfort with comfort has been affirmed in the pages of this book.

Michael D. Young is a vice chancellor for student affairs, emeritus, at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and interim vice president for student affairs at Sonoma State University.