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Robert David, Director of Corporate and Professional Programs , University of California, Berkeley

Robert David, Director of Corporate and Professional Programs

Robert David is Director of Corporate and Professional Programs at the University of California, Berkeley – UC Berkeley Extension. He has more than 20 years in key sales and business development operational roles inside several technology companies. He specializes in helping HR and Learning & Development professionals bring Berkeley-quality curricula to their companies through custom on-site training, sponsored…
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How is your team changing the game within your industry sector?

Within UC Berkeley Extension, education innovation is highly valued. We tend to look for examples outside the organization and compare those with opportunities inside the organization, and then try to create an innovative approach to solving our objectives.  Then communicate the value internally and embrace the change. But that’s all very theoretical until you consciously try to do new things or do the same things in a different, more efficient or more effective way. It’s very important to work at it. We tend to do ‘pilot projects’ to prove the concept and see what the outcomes are from both a financial and student satisfaction perspective.

It’s also very important to recognize and encourage ideas for innovation from all levels of an organization. These ideas can be simple changes to business processes to large shifts in strategy involving relationships to customers or vendors. Don’t underestimate the value of simple changes–in empowering the people who come up with them and in keeping the organization agile and welcome to change. We also like to use successful models or processes in one academic program area and try to apply it to completely different academic areas to see if it will work as a controlled experiment.  Our Dean likes to share examples of how we innovate, or how we focus on quality of student experience, or work more collaboratively in all-staff meetings to inspire staff to bring about change.


What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

Often it’s fear of the unfamiliar or values that don’t really welcome and encourage change. However, in today’s economy, change and the need to innovate is practically a given. Given the shifts in communication technology that we have all experienced with cell phones, apps, social media, big data…it’s hard to dodge the new. It’s a way of life now and in many respects, that’s an advantage. In higher education, business as usual mentality, highly bureaucratic processes, antiquated systems, risk adverse culture.  In many cases, too, lower level staff often do not feel empowered to suggest changes, or to work across functional departments to streamline a process, or to do things differently. 


How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture, and how is it being optimized?

My role was newly created last year, so basically everything I tackle requires the organization to respond in new ways. Sometimes it requires some arm-wrestling, but we’re making good headway.  Also, I work in education and it’s a field that’s experiencing tremendous innovation as we explore the opportunities and drawbacks of online corporate learning in all its various forms.   Because we are getting real-time feedback from employers about workforce development needs, our organization is prioritizing the development of innovative ‘intensive workshops’ to spearhead new program development efforts. 


What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

We are at just the beginning of a wave of new technologies that will help people learn more, faster, and better.   Mobile is a technology that educators are beginning to embrace as part of an overall blended learning experience for both traditional education as well as professional development and corporate training.  It’s hard to project what that will look like from here, but it is exciting. Data analytics will help to provide more real-time and better information to facilitate decision-making about course development and offerings.


Can you share a specific innovation strategy you’ve recently encountered which you find compelling?

Outside the field of education, firms in the biotech and high tech areas tend to best embody the innovation mindset. For higher ed, we can see big changes coming in corporate online education.  The jury is still out as far as what the right business model should be, but we are clearly pushing the envelope as far as the use of online courses and flexibility of the delivery platform. 

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