Agile Strategy at the North Carolina Research Campus

F or the past decade, the North Carolina Research Campus has developed the infrastructure to support innovation in plant nutrition and human health. Now this loose confederation of entities — 8 universities and a private research foundation — is developing a path to move to the next level of its development. You can read more about the campus, including its history, here.

Developed as a unique public-private partnership, the campus represents a collaboration among the State of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina system, and Castle & Cooke, a private company owned by David Murdock.

Last week, we participated in a launch event to take the campus to the next level of its development. To help design the event, we called on our Strategic Doing skills. This is an good example of how the skills of Strategic Doing can be put to use without doing a full fidelity Strategic Doing workshop.

Mark Spitzer, who represents Castle & Cooke, the private partner in the development, lead the session. He structured the event with a white paper that outlined the key strategic issues facing the campus in its second decade. Mark explored issues such as the mission of the campus, research direction, financial sustainability, regional economic impacts, and shared governance.

The session included only the research scientists from across the campus. Understanding the opportunities that these research scientists would like to explore begins to reveal the core assets of the research campus. In other words, by focusing first on what research scientists see as their shared opportunities, we gained insights into their assets and how they connect.

We will carry on this conversation over the next six months or so. From this initial session, we will develop a strategic action plan, focusing on some Pathfinder Projects that make sense to pursue. The project will be an excellent example of introducing agile strategy to a complex network in order to give it additional structure and focus.

Ed Morrison is Director of the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. For the past five or six years, he has been developing new, agile approaches to strategy in open, loosely joined networks, a discipline he calls Strategic Doing. Prior to starting his economic development work, Ed worked for Telesis, a corporate strategy consulting firm. In this position, he served on consulting teams for clients such as Ford Motor Company, Volvo, and General Electric. He conducted manufacturing cost studies in the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Sweden, and France. Ed started his professional career in Washington, D.C., where he has served as a legislative assistant to an Ohio Congressman, staff attorney in the Federal Trade Commission, and staff counsel in the US Senate. He holds a BA degree cum laude with honors from Yale University and MBA and JD degrees from the University of Virginia.

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