Residential Environments Drive Innovation

Many residential communities in higher education had to reduce the number of people living on campus in March, have we missed that next significant innovation?
I am wondering if there are some hidden consequences of the current COVID-19 lockdowns. Since many residential communities in higher education had to reduce the number of people living on campus in March, have we missed that next significant innovation? Why do I think that? Well, some of the best companies have been born in a residential community. A community that brings a diverse group of problem solvers together encourages innovation and peer feedback and supports some of the brightest people to help provide a fantastic breakthrough—a community that fosters lifelong connections that can bring together some of the best future leaders.

Innovations born in residential communities

Facebook is probably the most well-known innovation born in a Harvard University residential environment.  Google also got its start by residents of Stanford University. Dell computers were founded in the student room of Michael Dell. There are lots more examples, but let us take a look at some of these, which are really foundational.  I am using an excellent Dell Precision laptop to research this blog. I Googled (not searched) to find some reference materials.  While also using Facebook to connect and collaborate with friends, family, and peers. All of these are at my fingertips and provide a fantastic experience today.

Why does the residential community have such an amazing record of producing significant innovations? I genuinely believe that it's the environment of learning, challenging, dreaming, focusing, and innovating free of the challenges we face in our usual setting at home.

Mark Zuckerberg started with a less popular idea I won't cover here, but ultimately the campus residential environment led to a breakthrough that has become the world's largest social network.  Imagine the current pandemic without Facebook helping us to share, connect, Facetime with loved ones, and more. "Nearly 3 billion people now use at least one of Facebook's apps (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, or WhatsApp) each month, an 11 percent increase year over year and the highest it's ever been. Facebook alone had 2.6 billion monthly active users, an increase of 10 percent year over year."

Dell computers delivered an incredible breakthrough with affordable and reliable hardware.  Today they are still our hardware partner of choice for laptops, servers, monitors, and more.

Google has helped bring the world's knowledge together with an incredible search engine that is so popular that we no longer say, "search for it," we say, "google it."

Rona Skinner from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) shared a fascinating insight,

"Like many other institutions, we place a high value on innovation.  Since 2008, RIT had been hosting the Imagine RIT Festival, which allows students to work together and showcase innovative ideas and projects they have been working on to the community.  Last year that event featured over 400 exhibits and more than 30,000 visitors on campus.  2020 is the first time this has been canceled".

Another leading technology campus is Virginia Tech.  Ken Belcher said,

"One of our driving concepts in our facilities, especially our residential colleges, is the concept of the chance encounters and casual interactions that lead to unintended consequences and collaborations."

I wonder what great ideas and collaborations are a missed opportunity during this time when we do not have the thriving residential and learning communities together. Personally, I am excited to see the safe return of students to campuses and look forward to seeing the next generation deliver some great innovations.

Travis Knipe
As the CEO of StarRez, Travis has led a significant period of growth for the company and is most passionate about connecting with his teams and community.

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