It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond

Solving the right problems: CPCC’s Center for Applied Research by Nheeda Enriquez
June 30, 2009, 10:55 am
Filed under: Charlotte, community services | Tags: , , ,

Terri Manning wears many hats, but when I met her, she wore the one that reads ‘Director of the Center for Applied Research’ at CPCC.  Her team is the only one like it at a community college level, and they respond locally, researching the effectiveness of a city’s health, education, housing, or labor and workforce programs.  And in an era of scrambling accountability, communities struggle to figure out which projects are successful and which require re-evaluation.

Dr. Manning told me about a recent commission to bring a Massachusetts state college’s math faculty together to do just that: assess its effectiveness.  But in digging deeper, she realized that this was a tall order, since each teacher had a completely different syllabus and style.  So she worked with the instructors to establish a common curriculum based on common learning outcomes.  But in the process of doing that, the group recognized that the most important outcome their students needed to develop was critical reasoning skills, and outdated methods of teaching mathematics do not contribute to this goal.  So the Center is now working with educators to create a more robust model of teaching math that can be replicated across other colleges and universities.

This lesson in root cause analysis demonstrates how true innovation begins with spending the time to make sure we’re solving the right problem, and not just solving to fix the symptoms of the problem.  And clearly defining the problem makes it a whole lot easier to arrive at solutions.  Because we as humans have a tendency to want to get to answers right away, it’s a simple detail that is often overlooked.

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