What Can Higher Ed Learn from JC Penney’s Failure?

I was reading Dan Frommer’s blog today and read this thought he had on the (failed) turn-around at JC Penney, led by a veteran of Apple’s retail program.

JCP-New-logo-BHe said something about big box retail and big business that we in higher ed would be smart to heed. From the post:

Instead of trying to rescue a dying American heritage brand — one that probably deserves what’s coming to it — he could have spent the last year building his own. Instead of trying to fix Honeywell, he could have built Nest. Instead of trying to make a gauche mall store cool again, he could have rented out a few empty Blockbusters and done something interesting.

This easily applies to higher ed as well.

Are we spending too much energy to fix the legacy issues and challenges associated with higher education and missing out on the new opportunities?

Sure, some of our higher ed institutions are involved with MOOCs and Coursera, but thousands and thousands of smaller institutions are not.

What are they going to do? Are they going to try to fix the dying brand or build Nest?