Yesterday, I wrote about a new center of excellence that has been built at my university. Careful readers may have noticed that I never explained what, exactly, a "center of excellence" is.
Why didn't I? Well, the thing is, centers of excellence have become such a prominent trend in American higher education, it is no longer considered necessary to offer a definition whenever the topic comes up.
But you still don't know, do you?
If you find yourself engaged in a conversation with university faculty and administrators about centers of excellence, here is what you are likely to do:
- Try to avoid having others find out that you don't know what a center of excellence is.
- Express your fervent support for centers of excellence. (After all, you figure, they are both central and excellent. What's not to love?)
Hmmm. So, since you are too embarrassed to ask, I will now take it upon myself to provide the public service of explaining what a center of excellence is.
First, of course, I'll need to look it up.
Like any true scholar, I begin my investigation by carefully typing "center of excellence" into the Google search box in my web browser.¹ Happily, this returns a wealth of information. Here's some of what's out there:
- "Centers of excellence affect on-target, on-value performance when they manage all processes and functions from problem definition to resolution."
- Centers of excellence will help companies to "stay ahead of the business intelligence curve."
- A center of excellence "enables organizations to centralize requirements authoring expertise, define repeatable definition processes, and to ensure communication of requirements fits internal company standards."
Okay. Well, NOW I UNDERSTAND.
To recap, here's what happened: I searched for a definition of "center of excellence," and I found that it has something to do with defining repeatable definition processes!
If you ever have a question that cannot be answered by googling, then there is one additional tactic that you, as a scholar, can undertake. And that is, of course, to look it up on Wikipedia.
Now, here's the really freaky thing. Are you sitting down? There is no "center of excellence" article on Wikipedia! Can you believe that? Really! Look it up! This is perhaps the only question humankind has ever come up with that IS NOT ANSWERED BY WIKIPEDIA.
Here's one thing we can say. Wikipedia is certainly not a "center of excellence." In fact, as a sprawling reference work written by the same millions of people who read it, Wikipedia is best described as a "diffusion of mediocrity."
Apparently, the diffusion of mediocrity can't explain what a center of excellence is. But I'd bet you that anyone at Intel's Social Media Center of Excellence could explain what Wikipedia is.
Conclusion: We must establish a center of excellence on centers of excellence.
¹ You can tell that a lot of other people have this same question. The first suggested auto-complete search result for "center of e ..." is not "center of excellence" but "center of excellence definition."
[Cross-posted on PrawfsBlawg.]