Students, faculty and staff will now have a place to offer suggestions on how to improve efficiency and reduce costs at Yale — including ideas which, so far, range from cutting the paychecks of University administrators to cutting off wireless access during lectures.
In an effort to allow the community to participate in their effort to improve the University’s organizational practices, the Administrative Services and Support Enhancement Team has created a Web site for the University population to post questions and problems and respond to others’ concerns.
“It’s a wonderful way to challenge the status quo and put in creative ideas that you think will have an impact,” Yale Associate Vice President of Facilites Management John Bollier, who is a member of the ASSET core group, said.
The Web site, called the Yale WhyNot Idea Board, is available online at www.whynot.net/yale. The University launched the site in early February.
As of Monday evening, the site featured 49 unique discussion threads on ideas ranging from creating a graduate school facebook to building a smoking lounge to improving University buses. Two hundred eighty users had signed up to participate.
Nalebuff said over 1,000 ideas have been submitted on the main site.
The Web site’s design is adapted from a site Yale School of Management professor Barry Nalebuff and Yale Law School professor Ian Ayres created in late October simultaneously with the release of their book, “Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small.”
Nalebuff said they gave the Yale efficiency site to the University which he said contributed a small amount toward development and programming costs.
Besides creating discussion threads, WhyNot users also have the option of voting on and responding to ideas posted by others. Nalebuff said user commentary is a key aspect of the site since it allows users to build off of each other, improving and refining ideas.
“The problem with traditional idea boxes is you put your idea in there, and you don’t know what happens to it,” Nalebuff said.
He said with the WhyNot site, users can see how their ideas evolve and see proposed solutions to their problems. In response to one person’s complaint about University Health Services, UHS Director Paul Genecin posted the e-mail addresses of the health services’ senior adminstrators and suggested users contact them about any issues they might have.
Yale Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner said members of Yale’s unions were “strongly encouraged” to be involved in the entire efficiency process, including using the idea board.
“There’s nothing like asking the people who do the work how to improve the work,” Lindner said.
Laura Smith — who serves as president of Yale’s clerical and technical employees union, Local 34 — said any opportunity for workers to express themselves is always good and said the Web site is “a valid way to get some input.” But she said Yale’s administration needs to go farther.
“I’d like to see much more systematic change that involves real communication in every department,” Smith said.
Smith said she would like to see more opportunities for give and take between workers and managers.
To allow more people to have access to the site, the University is setting up additional computer kiosks, Lindner said.
Ayers said three or four private companies have talked about licensing some version of the WhyNot site to use internally. There is also a WhyNot site for the Yale Law School at www.whynot.net/yls.