Charles Darwin, in his book “The Origin of Species”, affirms that neither the strongest nor the most intelligent species survive, only the species that adapt to change. If we transfer this phrase to the field of organizations, I believe that survival alone is not enough for successful management, it is necessary to go further and find the best way forward, focusing on the needs of people. Needs that they find in the digital transformation of organizations, a more practical, modern and useful way to solve their problems, satisfy their needs, and the new ones that are created to generate long-term links.
Stephanie Woerner, in an interview with Knowledge Wharton about her book ¿What’s Your Digital Business Model? Six Questions to Help You Build the Next Generation Enterprise, affirms that, “culture is a word that describes what has to happen within companies, finding new ways of working and taking into account the evidence when making decisions.” 6 years ago, when these digital transformation issues were just beginning to be addressed in Peru, at the UPC we knew that we had to strengthen ourselves internally to consolidate our digital proposal abroad, with a different educational model that allows, through a digital experience , train agile professionals for the environment in which they were going to operate. Talking about digital transformation is talking about transforming our culture and the way we communicate.
Most entrepreneurs think that digital transformation is only about obtaining the latest technology or getting the processes digitized, however, that is nothing more than a continuous improvement of services or creating new channels. Digital transformation is thinking about what the business strategy will be and who will be the players with which the leadership of the industry will be achieved. It is thinking about how customers are going to interact and how their consumption habits are going to change in order to understand what needs to be “transformed”. In other words, it is understanding with new technology what you need to trace the path.
The UPC understood what education was going to be like today and what it will need in 15 years. It is based on this that we have been promoting a series of projects and initiatives. We believe that education has to be more accessible, and it has to be personalized in times, consumption habits, formats, places, etc. We have created an entire ecosystem to co-create the future of education together with young people. It is our main concern to educate them, train them to think and understand how the future is going to be so that they anticipate changes and know how to implement innovation at all levels. If they are not capable of questioning themselves and do not participate in real transformations, that is, if they do not live the experience firsthand, they will hardly be prepared to do so when they leave the classroom.
Today, through our open innovation strategy, we are pioneers in developing our iLab, the first corporate innovation laboratory developed by a university in Peru. We are proud to drive this change process that incorporates a complete innovation ecosystem on all fronts, which also has its own direction and budget. Through this ecosystem, we periodically develop events such as innovation challenges and hackathons, where participants propose ideas and develop disruptive innovations related to a theme suggested by our committee, for example: Smart city, Smart campus, sustainable mobility, Blockchain, etc.
On the other hand, we have our StartUPC business incubator, with which we have managed to be one of the six incubators accredited by Startup Peru, for its Startup Peru Plug softlanding program, which allows us to receive incubators from all over the world. Within StartUPC, we handle different portfolios of projects that are divided into three important axes: business innovation, social innovation and applied research. In this way, we ensure that all projects obtain the best strategic support according to their nature.
We are close to opening our first Fab Lab on the Monterrico campus, with state-of-the-art technology, applied to the development of ventures and projects of various kinds, such as 3D printing and modeling equipment, laser cutting, CNC, electronics and robotics, available of our teachers and students. In it, students can make prototypes and objects on a personal scale, stamping on fabrics, cutting pieces, etc. Technology is undoubtedly a facilitator of the learning process and a catalyst for industries.
Over the course of these years we have been implementing the digitization of the learning environment. Thanks to these changes, students and teachers access the cloud from any device to download academic material, share content wherever they are, and we implemented the Blackboard platform, our virtual classroom, where the teacher stores class material, uses the forums of discussion with students, and carries out work sessions, among other online functions. Likewise, to strengthen relationships and foster integration between students, professors and administrative staff, we launched the social work network Workplace, by Facebook, being the first university in the world to do so. This collaborative environment is like our own Facebook account, but internal, where we all communicate, share content and belong to work groups with common affinities. With this we ensure that we are leaving out obsolete technologies such as email.
All these changes and initiatives that I describe translate into what Stephanie Woerner mentions in another excerpt from her interview with Knowledge Wharton: “Leadership has to change because it cannot go with intuition. Being an ecosystem is really very difficult. You have to have a platform. You have to have the people. You have to have the associations in place. You have to know a lot about your clients ”.
I think it helps a culture that allows you to trial and error, where there is a lot of work in cross-functional teams and that is horizontal. A culture that really gives importance to innovation and digital transformation, providing it with resources and promoting it, understanding a lot what new technologies are going to be able to do or allow so that you can question how your products or services are consumed. How is it going to be consumed? Will there be barriers? From where? These are some questions that if we can understand them, we can have a better idea of what the future will be like.
This is how the UPC has been leading over the years, at an educational and organizational level, the digital transformation process, being aware that if we do not begin to create a living experience for our collaborators and teachers, we will hardly be able to transfer it to our students, even less, they can put them into practice on the court. These decisions, finally, guarantee the sustainability of our processes in the matter, and position us as a vanguard institution that demands itself in favor of the transformation of Peru.