Organization:Overcome Institutional Resistance

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How to Overcome Institutional Resistance

The resistance of your institution to accepting an innovative culture on campus is a very challenging barrier to overcome. Whether it is resistance from faculty, administration, a culture that does not foster innovation, or an on campus patent office that is hesitant to fund patents  for potentially unsuccessful products, the student can have many problems to overcome. Using some simple techniques is a great way to show the institution that the student can be a serious player in innovation.

Need and Goal

In order for a student to create an innovative culture on campus the faculty and administration has to support it. Without institutional support, funding, a place for innovation to occur, mentorship, and awareness becomes much harder to obtain.

To overcome institutional resistance, students should show the institution they are serious about innovation and will be self led. They should also take advantage of as many events the campus offers to show there is a culture of innovation. Students must change their campus to fit the needs of students. Proving that students are essential to innovation on the campus is the key to laying the framework.

Academic Permission

Gaining academic permission to innovate on campus is one of the main challenges to overcome. It is impossible to gain permission without the approval of the administration to the student project or innovation group. Going directly to the top of the school's administration may not result in any progress. A single student proposing an idea is a small voice and does likely not convice the insitituion to spend large, or even small amounts of money on the project. The best method is to start from the bottom with graduate students, lab instructors, or instructors. Teaming with other students and working up will create a large pyramid of support and show the insitition the students are serious. It may not even be necessary to obtain academic approval depending on the project. Getting a strong start and being able to show some good data is a great way to gain permission.


Faculty support is vital to the support of the innovative culture on campus. This support can help sway a resistive Administration. A united, strong innovative student culture will show the faculty that the students are serious and will hopefully create an innovative culture among the faculty and in turn show administration the campus as a whole is innovative.

Leadership responds to organization, passion, and results, so one strategy that is helpful to gain support is to have students do as much as possible without getting faculty or administration support. Showing the faculty that the students have achieved noticeable progress can prove that the student body is serious.


The high cost of innovation is often used as an excuse to barricade student led innovation. Large amounts of money must be spent for classes where students create new things as the raw materials or equipment are often very expensive. The university does not have to be the only group to fund the project however. Often, cities, states, or the federal government offers grants or assistance.

After the idea is developed, gaining a patent on the innovation is often a high concern. Patents are not cheap to file and it is a large expenditure for a school to justify without knowing for sure if the patent will move forward and generate revenue for the school and student to pay back the investment. It is not uncommon to have a patent that seems like a great idea not generate any income. There are other ways to pay back the patent costs rather than the direct, front door method. Having successful revenue creating patents pay for the filing of future patents is a good way to keep the process moving. In addition, showing outside investors and  prospective or current students the large number of patents being filed will help bring not only possible investor donations into the school but could foster current students to innovate and bring students that might go to other institutions to this university.


Where a school is located can really set the tone for how much innovation is accepted on a campus.  A supportive community often encourages innovation friendly campuses. As one could imagine, a non supportive or indifferent community could do the opposite for a campus and discourage campus innovation and improvement. As a result, some schools are more welcoming to innovation and change than others simply because of where it is located.

Challenges with location can be found within the campus as well. Finding a space on campus to innovate can be a challenge. Many innovations need a workspace or makerspace for ideas to form and for tangible items to be created. Finding an existing space such as a lab or classroom to work in is a helpful strategy. Teaming up with faculty that have similar insterests is also a good method.


Getting involved with on campus acitivies and competitions is a great way to push through the institutional resistance. Many campuses love to show students organizing themselves and the great things they can accomplish. Anything from creating an informal meeting during lunch to bounce ideas of each other to creating a inter-collegiate innovation comptetion is a great way to get fellow students active. Activities on campus are a large part of creating an innovative culture but there is nothing stopping students from branching out into the community. The community may foster innovation greatly and bringing that mindset into the campus is highly beneficial when it can be shown the University works hand in hand with the community

Lessons Learned and Tips for Others

The first and most important tip for those faced with the problem of having to overcome institutional resistance is to not be discouraged. As cliche as it may sound, if there is a will there is a way. Remember to focus on the goal of innovation and understand that getting the approval of administration can be a lengthy process. In the mean time, keep communication open with faculty and administration, find support from fellow students, encourage innovation events and organizations, and call in help from supporters in the community and fellow innovators.