Trinity college recently revamped its admission process to better identify promising students. Why did it take a first-generation college student who grew up in a low income environment, Dr. Perez, to come up with the idea of allowing admissions officers to look for a checklist of 13 characteristics -- like curiosity, empathy, openness to change and ability to overcome adversity, comfort in minority of 1, delayed gratification, and risk taking?
One might ask the same question of the hotel industry that was disrupted by two industrial designers when they combined people's softer desires during travel with both a lower price offering and a micro-business opportunity to create AirBnB. As outsiders they were not looking at standard metrics of vacancy and revenue per room, they were looking at optimizing the experience of visiting a new place by putting people in homes of new and hopeful emerging business owners.
Right now it seems as though we are inching along to evaluate what works well to get students into college, just as the hotel industry was looking to do to fill rooms. What Dr. Perez, and AirBnB seem to have discovered is value in a less myopic approach, one that includes the entire ecosystem of a given population, rather than just trying to solve the problem from one side or the other.