David C. Hodge
September 3, 2013
Most of you probably know that I am a big fan of the book Good to Great. In this book, Jim Collins compares companies that are truly exceptional with those that are "merely" very good. As I have reflected on this past year, and look forward excitedly to this year, I have been thinking a lot about a part of this book that focuses on the concept of the flywheel. Collins writes:
"Picture a huge, heavy flywheel … Now imagine that your task is to get the flywheel turning as fast and long as possible. Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward. … You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns … five … ten … twenty … a hundred. Then at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor … its own heavy weight working for you. You're pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. … The huge disk flies forward with almost unstoppable momentum.
Now suppose someone came along and asked, 'What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?' … Was it the first push? ... The hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in the overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction (emphasis added). Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect on the flywheel."
Everywhere I go on our campuses I am struck by the sense of momentum that Miami has going, a momentum like that described by Collins which is produced by the overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Our common vision, our deep commitment, our hard work, and our spirit are building momentum and a better university. So I would like to take my time today to describe some of those "pushes," those activities and actions that stood out this past year and that we look forward to this year.
Last year certainly started out on a note of excitement as Paul Ryan, Class of 1992, was announced as the vice-presidential candidate for the Republican Party. The very first campaign rally involving Rep. Ryan was held on the Oxford campus. With very little notice, our staff and students created an exceptional event. Throughout the election cycle, it was most gratifying to see the positive attention that Miami received. The bookend to the Presidential campaign occurred when First Lady Michelle Obama visited campus three days before the election. Again, our staff and students outdid themselves in organizing an outstanding event.
The success of these events is a tribute to our staff and students who rallied (no pun intended) to the cause with very little notice. The political diversity of these events reflects well on our efforts to have our students engage alternative points of view. One of our newest efforts, the Janus Forum, was launched last spring. The Janus Forum is a donor-funded, student-run seminar that brings in individuals with sharply contrasting views on important topics. Each speaker makes a 25-minute presentation followed by an hour of questioning from the students. This past spring the students invited Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, and Ezra Klein, columnist for the Washington Post and Bloomberg to debate the question, "Is democracy in America working?" This fall the students have invited Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, governor of New Mexico, U.S. energy secretary, and U.S. representative, and William Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard and panelist on FOX "News Sunday," to debate "America's Role in the World" on October 30. I most enthusiastically encourage you to attend.