New article highlights ambidexterity at Daniels

Paul Olk

You’ve likely heard the saying that you’ll need to change the wheels on the car while driving or fly the airplane while you’re building the wings. In a recent article in the Journal of Management Inquiry, Paul Olk, senior associate dean for faculty and professor of management, explains how the faculty and staff at the Daniels College of Business accomplished that by adding three new programs while the College continued to offer its current portfolio.

In the article, “Seeking Ambidexterity in an Increasingly Turbulent Environment: The Case of the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business,” Olk outlines how the College redesigned the full-time MBA program, developed an Executive PhD program and launched an online MBA program.

“A recent decline in our graduate enrollments brought about the impetus to consider more radical changes,” Olk stated in the article. “In our current context, we realized we could not cut our way to growth and had to explore significantly new programs.”

In 2014, the College hired Brent Chrite as dean, who set out a new strategic vision. By 2015, the College focused on four core priorities:

  • An unrivaled student experience
  • Market connectivity
  • Impactful research
  • Programmatic portfolio innovation

Over the next three years, joint faculty and staff leadership committees were formed to explore and develop new initiatives while balancing the College’s current operations.

“The committee of faculty and staff organized to investigate each initiative usually met regularly over several months, to ideate, to collect data, to receive feedback and to build broader, College-level support,” Olk explained. “While the investment was considerable, it was necessary to vet the ideas and to achieve the required level of commitment, including formal faculty approval.”

Daniels also made changes to its organizational operations, including new positions, employees and offices, to accommodate the programmatic updates.

“These structural changes … also helped communicate the College’s intended effort to continue to learn and grow. Thus, they signaled sustained resilience by the College as it continues to transform itself,” Olk stated.

As Olk was implementing these initiatives, he was asked to sit on a panel at the Western Academy of Management’s Conference. The theme was Resilience and Transformation. After sharing what was happening at Daniels, he and the other panelists were approached to write articles for the Dialog Section of the Journal of Management Inquiry.

The other articles include examples from the University of Redlands and Utah Valley University. The fourth article highlights resilience in management research across business schools.

While the three new programs are up and running now, Olk indicates that Daniels isn’t sitting still—especially with its new dean, Vivek Choudhury, at the helm as of August 2019.

“We also plan to continue to explore new teaching approaches as we strive for more flexible delivery formats—for example, on-demand, off-campus, online—that will allow students to take courses from us but not necessarily require them to be on campus at regularly scheduled times,” Olk said. “The goal is to integrate these once exploratory efforts into our traditional efforts, as we then explore even newer opportunities. As the pace and scale of environmental changes increase, we know we will need to balance exploitation and exploration if we are to transform ourselves even more and survive in the long term.”