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Organizational Applications: A Case Study in Strategic Planning

In this section, we present an organizational application of the Toolbox approach. Using a case study, we chronicle the application of our approach to aid strategic planning and, specifically, the development of mission and vision statements. After describing our client and how TDI approaches workshops focused on strategic planning, we present the workshop structure and findings and then conclude with recommendations for conducting philosophically-infused workshops in the field.

Using the Toolbox Approach to Develop an Organizational Mission and Vision

The MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity (C4I) was established in 2017 and initially described as “a unit that will advance interdisciplinary research and pedagogy at the University while preparing the next generation of citizen leaders to address the most challenging questions of our time” (Center for Interdisciplinarity 2017). This initial charge emphasizes the need for C4I to contribute to both research and graduate education, but its contributions are expected to be different from a standard research center. In addition to original research, C4I was expected to facilitate interdisciplinary research at MSU and beyond, which it would do in part through its close relationship with TDI.4

One of C4I’s initial tasks was to develop a mission and a vision statement. Given TDI’s interest in expanding our field philosophy approach into strategic planning, and the close relationship between C4I and TDI, it was natural for C4I to use the Toolbox approach in creating a mission and vision statement that reflected the needs of the MSU community. Mission statements focus on the identity and purpose of an organization, and vision statements focus on the future. The strategic planning literature underscores the importance of stakeholder involvement in the development of mission statements (e.g., Baetz and Beamish 1993; Carroll 1993; Baetz and Bart 1996; Griinig and Kiihn 2018). According to Griinig and Kiihn (2018, p. 48),

The mission statement ... can only fulfill its function as the normative framework of strategy development when it reflects the values and objectives of the important stakeholders. It is therefore recommended to carry out a stakeholder analysis before proceeding with strategic analysis and planning.

Based on this, we sought to develop the C4I mission and vision statements in the field. Workshops were offered to the MSU community (including graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty, and staff) that featured a dialogue portion structured by a Toolbox instrument and a co-creation activity. The instrument design for these workshops drew on TDI’s previous work, particularly with interdisciplinary teams and graduate education, non-academic strategic planning, and community engagement. TDI also drew on expectations for C4I as expressed in the initial charge and related documents. This yielded an instrument focusing on the nature of interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity at MSU, and engagement with communities. (See the Appendix at the end of the chapter for the prompts in this instrument.)

The co-creation activity was designed to allow participants to give direct suggestions to C4I leaders. Participants were presented with the statement, “What do I want/need from a Center for Interdisciplinarity?” and asked to brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Ideas were then shared with the group and, in dialogue with the participants, organized into categories by the facilitator. The last step of each workshop involved completing a feedback questionnaire about the workshop experience.

Mission and Vision

These workshops yielded several categories of suggestions for C4I. Some themes raised by participants were expected, such as funding mechanisms, interdisciplinary consulting and training, and access to interdisciplinary resources. C4I also received feedback related to the idea of community building, such as providing space to work in, opportunities to network, and opportunities to receive (or provide) mentorship and feedback about institutional barriers at MSU. Participants also expressed a desire for culture change around interdisciplinarity and more support for interdisciplinary pursuits.

In addition to conducting its own research, C4I aims to serve as a resource for faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students in the College of Arts and Letters and across campus, as well as for partners in the local community and across the region. It serves as an advocate for researchers and scholars, consulting with teams, providing resources for and about interdisciplinarity, and creating opportunities for training, education, networking, mentorship, visibility, and funding both on and off campus. All of this is accommodated by the mission statement “Strengthen and nurture interdisciplinary research involving the arts and humanities at MSU, as well as locally, nationally, and internationally’’ which has its message expanded in the C4I vision statement that emphasizes leadership in facilitating interdisciplinary scholarship and interdisciplinary careers. The full mission and vision statements are available on the C4I website (http://c4i.msu. edu/). C4I expects its mission and vision statements to be living documents that continue to evolve with input from stakeholders.

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