Welcome to The Higher Edge Podcast!
Aug. 5, 2022

Change-Makers and Rule Breakers in Higher Ed (featuring Brendan Aldrich)

Everyone loves a good story.

Brendan Aldrich believes the world of higher education is full of change-makers and rule breakers, and that their stories should be shared.

These are the tales of growth and real change that positively impact our lives for the better.

As the founder and Head of Business Development at Invoke Learning, Brendan has connected with many people like himself who have helped drive change at colleges and universities across the country.

Join us for our inaugural episode as we provide the roadmap for our new show, The Higher Edge - a podcast dedicated to diving into the stories behind our pioneers in higher education.

Join us as we discuss:

- Why storytelling is the focal point of The Higher Edge (2:58)

- Brendan’s background working with higher ed institutions (4:02)

- How negative feedback can be a vehicle for positive change (5:31)

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

- Brendan Aldrich

- Invoke Learning

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website or search for The Higher Edge in your favorite podcast player.


[00:00:00] Welcome to The Higher Edge, a podcast for the brightest minds in higher education. Hear from the change makers and rulebreakers that are driving meaningful, impactful change for colleges and universities across the country. From improving operations to supporting student success, these are the stories that give you, “The Higher Edge”.

[00:00:32] Robb Conlon: Welcome to the introductory episode of The Higher Edge. I'm Rob Conlan, founder of Westport Studios and executive producer of this show. We're here today with Brendan Aldridge, an experienced higher education executive, and one of the founders at Invoke. He is your future host for the show, but before he takes on that role, we thought we'd put him in the hot seat here on episode zero to give you a little bit more of an idea of what to expect from the higher edge.

[00:00:59] Brendan, thanks so [00:01:00] much for joining me to kick things off here. It's great 

[00:01:01] Brendan Aldrich: to have you. Rob, it is absolutely my pleasure. Thanks again. Looking forward to it. Why don't we get started? Definitely. 

[00:01:06] Robb Conlon: I was excited to it. I've been looking forward to get kicking this off for some time. So to give our listeners a bit more context, Brendan, the goal of this episode is to share what you, the listener can expect from the podcast.

[00:01:19] But before we jump into that, Brendan. We talked about change makers and rule breaks in the description of this show, right? What does that mean to you 

[00:01:28] Brendan Aldrich: as the host? Absolutely. You know, there are just a lot of people doing amazing work in higher education. I mean, work that is, it's positively impacting their institutions and students across the country.

[00:01:40] And, and sometimes they're doing this by not necessarily doing things the way we always have or the way that we think that these things have to be done. So, uh, these are the people we wanna bring onto this show to share their stories and experiences with the broader community. With 

[00:01:54] Robb Conlon: that in mind, then, when we were laying the groundwork for creating this show, you mentioned that sometimes even though data does some of the talking, [00:02:00] it's the stories that really matter.

[00:02:01] So take a moment to kind of break that down for our listener. 

[00:02:06] Brendan Aldrich: Yeah. You know, there's a, a widely shared quote that stories are remembered 22 times better than facts. Impressive, which is in itself kind of a fact, and that might be high. I mean, other studies have shown that people remember stories seven times better or 12 times better.

[00:02:22] Uh, but I think really what it comes down to is we as people are just wired to remember culturally stories more. And there's so many outstanding and fantastic stories about how the things are going in higher education, how the real change is happening. Uh, and that's really why I think that these are the kinds of things that we want to focus on as we bring guests onto the show to share these stories that that will last, that will help our listeners look at things differently and to be able to also positively impact their roles.

[00:02:54] That's 

[00:02:54] Robb Conlon: outstanding. And you know, one of the big challenge. That folks have when they're hosting a show is [00:03:00] asking the right questions. Your background is, you know, we build you as a successful higher ed executive. Tell us a bit how that experience is gonna draw out some of those stories you just mentioned and make that applicable to our listeners for 

[00:03:15] Brendan Aldrich: their institution.

[00:03:16] You know, I've helped drive change at some of the, really, the largest city and statewide college and university systems in the country, but I take a very grassroots approach in the way that I do that, getting out into the community, working with the teams at the institutions, both the, the big, uh, institutions and the small ones within those systems.

[00:03:33] And, and as a result of that, I'm always hearing the, the stories, uh, from the teams that are on the ground that are always incredibly powerful and have a chance to influence the work in a lot of different ways. And, uh, so for me, I think that's just a natural part of. Of how I work is, this is just, let's hear about, uh, sometimes the anecdotal stories.

[00:03:55] Sometimes it's the apocryphal stories. Sometimes it's the stories that help us, as I mentioned [00:04:00] before, see things a little bit differently so that we can take those forward with us and give them a real chance to influence the way that we move forward and, and tackle new challenges. Got it. And a lot of times, 

[00:04:12] Robb Conlon: As folks listen to this show, there might, they might have a story that they wanna share themself.

[00:04:16] Maybe they're influential at an institution or maybe they've got something that has worked tremendously for them. If folks wanted to connect with you to either share their stories or talk more about this show, where would they go for that? Where would they go to share some ideas for episode topics, or maybe people they'd wanna see you talk to Brendan

[00:04:32] Brendan Aldrich: LinkedIn is first of all, a great place to do that. Sure. Uh, go ahead and hit me up on LinkedIn. Uh, drop me a message there. And that's probably the first best place. , Brendan 

[00:04:40] Robb Conlon: and a lot of the greatest shows out there get feedback from listeners. People write in and they say what they love, what they don't like, uh, what's the, what's the best way to give you and the higher edge some feedback, and how are you gonna make sure that that feedback gets 

[00:04:53] Brendan Aldrich: heard?

[00:04:53] It's, it's not uncommon in higher education when you're trying to do something new that you'll have people that will provide, [00:05:00] uh, feedback that could be considered constructive. , but sometimes critical or, or even negative. Sure. You know, we've tried this before, this isn't going to work. Uh, anything along those lines.

[00:05:09] And I remember actually talking with my dad when I was early in higher education about, uh, whether or not he had come across this in his work. He was a appellate court judge in California, uh, when he ran committees. And he says, absolutely. And I'd asked him, well, how do you deal with especially the, the more negative or critical feedback that you're getting from people?

[00:05:26] And he says, usually I try to make them part of the committee and. what? I mean, you feel like these are people that are trying to tear things apart from the outside. You bring 'em on the inside. Aren't they going to really try and tear things apart even further? And he said no. What you have to understand is that most people who are providing that kind of feedback, it's, it's perceived as negative.

[00:05:46] It's perceived as critical because usually if something like what you're trying to do has been tried before, it's because it missed something that that person really cared. By bringing them in and making them part of the group, you're now giving them an opportunity to make sure that that thing they really care [00:06:00] about gets addressed.

[00:06:01] And so, I can't tell you how many times that I've used this to really bring in people who are, uh, might have more critical feedback, and, uh, take your most vocal opponents and turn them into your most vocal supporters. The last 

[00:06:16] Robb Conlon: thing I know that you want to do with this show, Brendan, is. , some of the best podcasts that I've ever produced or listened to have at the end of the show, they have that one thing that somebody can walk away with that key takeaway.

[00:06:29] So I wanna start that off for you today. What's the one key takeaway for folks from your experiences that would help give them the higher edge 

[00:06:39] Brendan Aldrich: to tell better stories? You know, when I was in my early twenties, my dad asked me a really interesting question. He said, uh, you know, Brendan, What's your life goal?

[00:06:49] And I was in my early twenties, so I said, I have no idea what that means, . And he laughed and he said, no, no, I get it. He goes, look for me, your life goal is not about any one thing. He goes, it's really a [00:07:00] series of questions that you ask yourself like. Are you gonna go to college? Uh, are you gonna go get a master's degree or a PhD?

[00:07:07] Are you going to, what kind of job are you going to get? Um, what kind of company is it that you work for? Do you have a house? Do you rent? Do you have a car? Do you, do you, uh, take an Uber? You know, what are the, uh, the different questions that help fill out this, this picture of what your life is? He goes, now you're not gonna know the answers to most of those questions, right?

[00:07:27] But the trick is keep asking yourself these questions. And the reason is, is because what you're gonna find is in life, there are these moments you're gonna come across that will direct your path on where you're going to go in life. And usually life doesn't give you a couple of weeks to go have a coffee and think about what you'd like to do before making a decision.

[00:07:44] It's usually these really fast split second decisions, but the more he says that, you ask yourselves these questions, uh, you'll find, you start to know the answers. And the more of those answers that you know, when those split second decisions come, that will shape the direction that you can take with your [00:08:00] life, you will intuitively take the path that will lead you closer to the answers you've, you've already, uh, come up with.

[00:08:06] And that was amazing. Amazing advice. And I think what I would say is, uh, especially for everybody that's working in higher education, keep asking yourself these questions. Maybe it's, maybe it's about your own career. Maybe it's about your own path, but maybe it's about the work that you're doing, the way that you're doing it, the, the, the ways in which you might be able to, to change things positively for your organization and for your students.

[00:08:31] Because the more you're asking yourself these questions, I promise, the more you're gonna realize you already know some of those. , wow. 

[00:08:39] Robb Conlon: Wise words from two generations of Wise Aldrich men in this case, . That was excellent. So I guess it'll be up to your guests to match or top that if they can. Brendan, thank you so much for popping in here for episode Zero with us.

[00:08:53] That's gonna wrap it for our introductory episode. I'm really excited about launching the higher edge here, and I think it's gonna provide a ton of value to the people [00:09:00] who become your audience. 

[00:09:01] Brendan Aldrich: Rob, thank you. Really appreciate it. This has been a lot of fun and for everybody else looking forward, we'll talk soon.

[00:09:06] Robb Conlon: So listen. Make sure you come back here and tune into episode one of the higher edge. Thanks for listening. Thanks 

[00:09:14] Announcer: for listening to The Higher Edge. For more, subscribe to us on your favorite podcast platform. Leave us a review if you loved the show, and be sure to connect with Brendan on LinkedIn. Know someone who's making big changes at their higher ed institution that belongs on this podcast.

[00:09:30] Drop us a line at podcasts at the higher edge dot. The Higher Edge is a production of Invoke Learning. In partnership with Westport Studios, see how Invoke Learning is empowering higher education. At Invoke learning.com.[00:10:00]