Innovation on Campus: Strategies for Risk Management

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By Travelers
2 minutes
Risk manager talking about strategies for risk management.

Being a risk manager requires innovation to stay ahead of evolving risks on campus. Often, it also means introducing changes to ingrained behaviors and practices to a diverse group that can include students, faculty, alumni and the community. How you initiate and manage change can be critical to the success of important innovations, according to experienced risk management leaders.

After conducting ergonomic studies, Robin Oldfield, University of Dayton’s Assistant Vice President and Chief Risk Officer, created a mindfulness and body mechanics training to help increase employee safety and reduce workers compensation claims in two key departments. She developed a brown bag lunch series to help communicate and build acceptance for the idea across campus.

Susie Johnson, Director of Risk Management at Iowa State University, identified improper food handling as a risk and worked with dietary and food specialists to create an online, on-demand training program for student groups interested in serving food at their events.

Using design thinking and other innovation frameworks, university risk managers are brainstorming potential solutions to problems as a group. Having buy-in from stakeholders as ideas are being formulated lays the groundwork for better implementation. At the core of the well-executed innovation is a user-centric, empathetic mindset that understands the perspective of the different stakeholders and creates solutions that will work best for them. In the food safety training module, that meant a training module that students could access 24 hours a day online, in smaller time increments that suited their schedules.

A New Approach to Risk Management

Risk management today is more collaborative than ever before. Building a culture of creativity, collaboration and innovation can help address risk management demands in a way that everyone feels a part of the solution. That collaboration can also help identify potential problems before a solution is fully baked, Oldfield and Johnson have found. For Oldfield, understanding early on the potential reluctance that public safety officers might have to practicing mindfulness allowed her to train them in brief exercises that could be completed inconspicuously. “Mindfulness can still be effective in three-minute increments,” Oldfield said. “That early feedback about their potential reluctance helped me shape future trainings and build engagement.”

In design circles, the concept of a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP, is gaining traction for this reason. Essentially, this involves identifying what are the essentials you need to create for an idea to be functional, without it being fully built out, and launching with that. You launch the MVP with the intention to continually perfect as you go. It can also be easier for various stakeholders to adapt to the more gradual changes introduced by an MVP rather than a more polished final product.

That concept of a Minimum Viable Product is just one tool for an innovation framework. Risk managers can keep adding to the list as they explore what works best for their campus culture.

Incremental innovation can help risk managers develop a new perspective for looking at potential problems and solutions. Unlike more traditional approaches to solving for risks on campus, where a solution is fully developed and implemented, this new process is ongoing, with risk managers and communities meeting regularly to continuously evaluate emerging threats and develop new ways to address them.

Students serving food on campus.

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