Blog: Rethinking Risk

Finding Light in our Universities: Part Four

by | Jun 19, 2020

Finding Light in our Universities: Part four in exploring opportunities for growth in a world dominated by COVID-19


For the fourth installment of our blog series exploring risk and opportunity in the time of the novel coronavirus, we are focusing on Our Universities. Particularly, we will be focusing on our university and the Risk Innovation Nexus’ institutional home, Arizona State University. ASU has nearly 150,000 faculty, staff, and students throughout our global community and is living up to our reputation as the most innovative university in the U.S.

As with any organization deploying a risk innovation mindset in this time, ASU is focusing on the communities we serve, the value we can deliver, and anticipating and protecting this value from unanticipated threats. This process is guided by identifying the organization’s values, stakeholders, and orphan risks through the short and long term.  While ASU’s community is expansive and diverse, the goals are the same in uniting our communities through COVID-19. In this post, we look at three separate efforts taking place at ASU and the valuable insights they provide, within the context of  our foundational risk innovation questions:

     1. What does our community care about and how can that change through time?

The Luminosity Lab is a student-run, Research & Development lab, at ASU. Their diverse project portfolio covers guardian drones, teaching platforms for robotics, and even the development of a self-driving Camaro – built to compete against world-class race car drivers.

Added to that list, is the PPE Network, designed to crowdsource university and community supplies to healthcare providers in need of personal protective equipment to fight COVID-19. Community users who opt-in can sign up to contribute 3D printed face shields, test swabs, or other crucial equipment as requests come in. This equipment is made to the medical specifications, sanitized, and often personally delivered by Luminosity Lab’s Executive Director, Mark Naufel.

ASU’s Luminosity Lab remains laser-focused on their community’s value by crowdsourcing both the supply of 3D printers and the demand for medical supplies. By asking healthcare providers to request specific amounts of specialized equipment, the Luminosity Lab’s decentralized production network can meet their community’s needs through time and scale appropriately.

     2. What are our orphan risks?

ASU, in partnership with Banner Health, hosted a Devils Invent Hackathon with the specific goal of addressing communication for COVID-19 patients and families. Some of the criteria included HIPAA compliance, the ability to operate within a hospital’s existing data security system, and sanitation requirements all without placing the additional load on hospital staff.

By focusing on these potential threats to value, one of the award-winning solutions was TechEvolv, a plug and play in-room video system using Alexa and Webex for patients to communicate with their families with pre-configured hospital network and software.

This team focused on, not only anticipating and avoiding their orphan risks, but also adding new areas of value by protecting hospital staff, patients, and their families. And now, in partnership with Banner Innovation Group, TechEvolv will have the opportunity to bring their idea to fruition.

      3. How can we stay adaptable in order to protect and grow our value?

ASU is well known for its digital learning innovation (for instance, partnering with Starbucks to create a first-of-its-kind partnership for an open-access platform, To Be Welcoming, dedicated to thoughtful discussions around diversity and inclusion)

Now, ASU has advanced the launch date for ASU For You, a collection of online learning resources for elementary students to adults. For example, ASU Digital Prep is a fully accredited virtual high school which helped keep Arizona high school seniors on track to graduate as Spring 2020 became digital-only.

While there is no silver bullet, online education platforms help to provide the flexibility for academic institutions to continue to deliver value not only to their current community members, but also new ones.

There is no such thing as “future proofing” your organization. One of the only guarantees we can count on in the coming months and years is a rapidly evolving landscape that promises to hold new risks and new areas to contribute value. By keeping these three questions in mind, your organization can remain focused and nimble while deploying your risk innovation mindset:

1. What is most important to the groups we are accountable to and how might these areas of value be more or less urgent moving forward?

2. In this quickly evolving landscape, what are some possible events that could threaten these areas of value next month, next quarter, next year?

3. How can we adapt with agility to protect and grow stakeholder value and to avoid our orphan risks?

For more information on the Risk Innovation Nexus approach, our resources, and our tools and services, and to keep up with our series exploring opportunities for growth, please sign up below to join our mailing list.

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© 2020 Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of Arizona State University