Posted 03/06/2016 by: Professor David Lloyd

Well, we came, we saw, we jammed and jammed and jammed for 30 hours straight. And then we slept and suffered through withdrawal. Some of us sneaked back online to read and re-read the jammy content (the site is still live, in read-only form until the 10th June). The statistics tell us that 85% of our staff registered, a major group within the near 5,000 registrants of staff, students, alumni and friends. That 77% of those registered logged onto the site (that’s an exceptionally high conversion rate, say IBM). That this constituency went on to contribute 11,832 posts to the jam over the next 30 hours. In a while we’ll no doubt figure out how may work weeks of input we amassed over those hours. In the meantime, IBM have been busily datamining the content generated.

With our most recent jam, we have successfully delivered that second difficult album. This time around the band had to cope with the fact that three years ago it had burst onto the scene and established its sound – so the novelty, the newness of the first jam could not possibly be recaptured. The vibe was different – the ask was different – contribute to our existing plan, don’t dream up a new one. But this was no lesser sequel – no ghostbusters2 for us. No, this time we had the Wrath of Khan, The Empire Strikes Back of jam activity. I’m not exaggerating. IBM concur – we jammed hard and we sustained our engagement – in the darkest hours we still had hundreds online – the posting slowed to a trickle at around 3:30am but our jammers were still in there, reviewing, liking, prepping for the coming of the dawn and from 5am on day two we ramped right back up again to hit participation levels even higher than day one. Take a bow – you officially impressed IBM, again. And they’ve done over 100 of these globally.

Our special guests dipped in and out, dropping stones into the thought pool of the organisation and leaving richer for the engagement. Phil Baty, Editor of the THE World University Rankings bowed out of his session and immediately tweeted ‘Take note: this #unijam is an amazing initiative. Truly inclusive…Well done to @UniversitySA’. This jam had a life outside the hosted platform. We trended on twitter. We streamed live. We had participation from 55 countries around the world and over 18,000 visits to our website. These impressions augment our international visibility. Interest is fostered, new links are formed – beyond what we ourselves derived from the jampot, the jam itself is noticed and noted – and so our reputation is enhanced. But this unijam was never a PR exercise. It was, specifically, a reconnection exercise. A reconnection to Crossing the Horizon and a positive consideration of what we can do next to make real our ambition and to ensure its currency and relevance.

There’s no hard and fast rulebook on how to jam. There is a preparatory phase, in which we work closely with IBM, defining the breadth and depth of the conversations we hope to have and training facilitators on how to drive dialogue from ‘wouldn’t it be great to blah’ to ‘why would that be great to blah in the context of CTH’ to ‘how would we go about delivering blah for the benefit of CTH’. A great deal of that structure evaporates once the first post goes up. I confess that the first two hours were like the big bang – the jam went so wide and diffuse that I thought – how on earth are we going to bring this back around to discussing what we need to do in the next three years? Then I took a deep breath and relaxed – and let it unfold. A friend of mine likened it to nailing jelly to a wall. The organic nature of the conversations, the depth of the threads – all of these things unfolded live and it was very interesting for me to sit back and watch – something I couldn’t do the first time around in 2013. It made this second jam a very different experience for me.

One of the things that IBM have done ‘behind the curtain’ was to deploy their machine learning system ‘Watson’ on our dataset from the jam. This is an experimental assessment – Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data – it is IBM’s new ‘cognitive computing’ platform – the closest they’ve got to artificial intelligence in terms of machine learning so far. Watson isn’t optimised for jam mining, so its deployment was somewhat experimental. What it reported back is interesting. Watson, an AI algorithm, on review of the content of our second unijam – says (of UniSA) that;

‘You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. You are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them. And you are proud: you hold yourself in high regard, satisfied with who you are.

You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of efficiency.

You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done. You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person.’

If you ignore the fortune cookie cadence, I’d say that’s pretty much on the money. I look at this as a wholly objective and unbiased analysis of us as an organization – based on what we have written, unprompted, about ourselves and our ambition. Watson knows absolutely nothing about us – yet it has interpreted what we have said and captured something of the essence of us. That’s pretty neat. Or maybe I am too geeky for my own good.

However innovative and cool the IBM tools are, rest assured that we haven’t relied on automated digital analysis – every one of the 11,832 posts has been read by my jam tasting team (a team of six, including me, who went through about 2,000 posts each, all wholly anonymised – just the text). That physical review has been very important. For one thing, our ‘manual’ analysis marries almost exactly to the computational mining. The ‘best’ ideas can be seen both by the algorithms and by the human eye and mind. Those ideas which captured the imagination and attention of the jammers can be gleaned from text, not just from likes and the depth of threads and concurrence/consensus analyses.

So, what did we find in our new pot of jam? Well, in no particular order, the following will be garnering additional specific and detailed attention in the coming weeks and months – mapping back to our Crossing the Horizon ambitions and planning how best to resource and deliver them over the remainder of our current strategic planning cycle;

  • A review of our VCAs (the Vice-Chancellor’s Authorisations – the mechanism by which we empower approvals at the local level – a proxy for empowerment) – with a view to bringing new, empowering, levels through the University Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee
  •  Progressing our first new regional hub at Ernabella in the APY lands
  •  A new Innovation degree (this was a hugely engaging thread in the jam)
  • Internal mobility for professional staff across the organisation
  • Student entrepreneurship
  • Volunteering (this, again, garnered wide support and discussion)
  • A global network of universities of enterprise
  • UniSA Online (one of the most constructive discussions in the jam)
  • Transforming the PhD
  • Industry engagement strategies
  • Activating Mawson Lakes campus
  • Extending the campus connector bus service
  • Enhancing recycling facilities
  • New clinical clothing for our students in placements
  • Exploration of novel, interdisciplinary programs
  • A carbon neutral campus – taking Mawson Lakes off the grid (this may well be the ‘Great Hall’ of our second unijam)
  • Looking at the provision of true one stop shops / front doors on each of our campuses

One thing I took from my review of the full content is that there are heaps of things we are already doing that we don’t seem to know we are doing – or that we have a low appreciation of the fact that we are doing. And, in the same vein, there is a lot of best practice and innovation underway that is invisible outside of the immediate area that is enacting it. This suggests that we have to get to grips with enhancing our internal communication channels. We can’t jam every day. One thought (in fact it was in the jam) is that we should make more use of the portals – staff and student – for this purpose – and I think this has merit. We can try it out at the very least and see if it makes things better.

And, as an aside, if there’s stuff in the jam that you really want to do and that isn’t listed above – my advice is that you don’t need the official endorsement of ‘The University’ if it’s something you could just press on and deliver through working with like-minded individuals to go on to make a positive difference. We don’t need really need ‘The University’ to create a social club or yoga groups – that can start through grassroots movement (if The University was involved it’d probably be lame). As those good grassroots idea gain momentum, perhaps ‘The University’ could add a little value here and there.

Oh – I almost forgot – it was the ‘add a little value’ comment that reminded me. Perhaps in a post jam thread review induced sugar rush, last week I approved the creation of a one-off fund of $2.6m – providing specific resource to our schools and units to progress implementation of the best bits of the jam (as determined from their perspectives) – so do make sure you feed your views into your heads of school and directors of units. There are no strings attached to the utility of that fund – only that they report back on their good works and how our lot has been improved by the investment.

In summary – unijam number two was engaging, exhausting, affirming and challenging. It provided ample food for thought and in the heel of the hunt, an artificial intelligence objectively determined that we rock. Can’t ask for more than that.

Stay tuned for forthcoming town halls and discussion of the things listed above in greater detail.

Thank you all so very much for jamming.


Professor David Lloyd

Through The Big Picture, I hope that our whole community gains a greater and current appreciation of what is going on, how it fits together and how our activities connect and reinforce each other at a whole of enterprise level.


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