Thursday, 12 July 2018

Rural Innovation Ecosystems and Leading Wellbeing


There is much talk in government and academic circles of ‘innovation ecosystems’, in which focused government interventions create an environment (or ecology) in which companies can be nurtured, grown and developed. Similar to ecology where organisms interact with one another and with their physical environment, the expectation is that with the appropriate start in life, the innovation ecosystem will blossom, put down roots and eventually become sustainable. There are several well-known examples where this has happened around the world, mostly where there is a cluster of high technology companies located near a world-leading university. Within the UK, the example most frequently cited is Cambridge, where over many decades strategic corporate partnerships and spin off companies have worked with the University, leading to a plethora of science parks, supplier relationships and new collaboration opportunities. In the USA, there are several examples, notably Silicon Valley, California and Boston, Massachusetts. And there are other examples in Europe, Asia and even a fledgling ICT Village in Madagascar, facilitated by the United Nations. In an innovation ecosystem, there may be an ‘anchor institution’ (usually a university), that provides an environment for knowledge exchange, skills development, and networking. There will be many innovative small companies, which could be spin offs, subsidiaries of large companies or independent. There are opportunities to find out about new technologies and ways of working, leading to collaboration and the development of new products and services. Business angels and venture capitalists will be drawn to the area to invest, large companies will seek to develop their supply chain there, and all this should lead to new jobs and wealth creation. 
 

Apart from a few cases, most of the successful innovation ecosystems are in urban areas. Clearly, networking and collaboration are enabled by closer physical proximity, but there is no doubt that such activities would be of great benefit in rural areas, which are characterised by lower levels of productivity and economic performance. In a recent article in the Journal of Corporate Citizenship (Marshall and Murphy, 2017), we have explored some of the issues facing rural innovation ecosystems. Rural settlements are defined in terms of population density. The dispersed populations obviously mean that businesses and communities are more isolated, so that travel times to access customers or collaborators, or to undertake normal business activities are longer. There are other issues too. Opportunities for young people, particularly those with higher level skills, tend to be fewer; typically they leave and move to urban areas. This makes the population demographics relatively older. This effect is further enhanced as rural areas attract people in later life, as retirees, commuters to urban areas, or home-based workers – all seeking a better lifestyle, or enhanced ‘wellbeing’. Larger employers, in the public, voluntary and private sectors, are more likely to be smaller subsidiaries. There do not tend to be specialist medical centres, or leading research hubs located rurally. There is a vicious circle around attracting, retaining and developing skilled professionals into the area, as it is hard to provide a package that supports their career development.
 

However, rural areas do attract a particular type of mid-career, skilled professional. They may have held senior roles in larger urban organisations and may have good networks in their own field. They are often attracted to relocate to a rural area, perhaps to accompany a spouse taking up one of the few senior professional roles, or possibly more proactively because they seek a better work-life balance, a desire for a rural lifestyle and wellbeing. Many become self-employed and many are highly innovative. There is evidence that rural economies are sustained by more varied types of businesses, including new business models, social enterprises and clustering of micro-businesses. Unlike what seems to be the conventional image held by policy-makers, these business owners may not be desirous of growth, but to prefer lower risk choices. They may also be older and they may be more likely to be female.  Social enterprise models in which there is a major volunteer element (such as Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN)) are prevalent. There may be links to cultural industries, particularly associated with the landscape and heritage of the area. The reasons for these differences are, of course, related to the population sparsity, the difficulties in accessing resources, people and skills. However, there is emerging evidence that there are also differences in aspirations, lifestyle choices and preferences. Rural areas are populated by individuals, many of whom work in more than one part-time role. Their lives can be a complex mix of paid and unpaid work, self-employment, educational and caring activities. Of course, this is not only a rural phenomenon, but there are certainly fewer opportunities for more conventional roles, meaning that this pattern is prevalent. This means that a rural innovation ecosystem could be something very different from a conventional urban one. It may be less about supporting high technology businesses to grow fast and more about developing individuals to sustain a balanced rural economy. It may require different types of structure, leadership and ‘anchoring’. 
 

As a starting point, we need to understand more about the kinds of businesses in our rural economy, how they use new knowledge to innovate, how they network and collaborate, and what kind of external business support is useful to them. At the University of Cumbria, we are starting to explore this in a small pilot study on the Innovation Capabilities of SMEs, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Innovate UK, in collaboration with the Universities of Exeter, Edinburgh, Essex. For further information: iflas@cumbria.ac.uk

 

Alison Marshall, David F Murphy and Katie Carr
Institute for Leadership and Sustainability
12 July 2018

IFLAS Open Lectures for Autumn 2018 - we're three quarters of the way there!

Three out of four Open Lectures for the coming season have now been finalised, with just one more to be set in stone. So, we have...


Tuesday September 11th, James Rebanks - How to be a sustainable farmer.


In the last five years, James Rebanks went from unknown rural shepherd to international phenomenon.   Initially with his popular Twitter account - @herdyshepherd1 - and then with his critically acclaimed, and bestselling, memoir The Shepherd’s Life, he documented the unique pastoral farming system of the Lake District that has now contributed to the Lake District 2017 World Heritage Site status.  James lives and works around Penrith in the Lake District, in the valleys and fells his family has farmed for more than 600 years.  He was one of just thirty people nominated in The Sunday Times 2018 Alternative Rich List: “In the frantic modern world, he is not only doing a deeply satisfying and meaningful job, which has been needed for generations, he is also campaigning to protect the land he loves and works on.”




James will be talking from a farmer's perspective on the ethics, responsibility and sustainability challenges that we all now face.


Then in early October, we are delighted to welcome back (to IFLAS and to the UK!) Kate Rawles, fresh from a tip to top cycle ride in South America for a recollection of that epic journey - 'The Life Cycle - a biodiversity bike ride'


In 2017/18 Kate Rawles aka @CarbonCycleKate rode the length of South America on ‘Woody’ a bicycle made of bamboo that she built herself at the London-based Bamboo Bicycle Club from bamboo grown at Cornwall’s Eden Project. From Colombia to Cape Horn, (or as close as you can get to it on a bike), Kate and Woody – the UK’s first ‘home-grown bicycle’ - travelled for 8288 miles following the spine of the Andes through an astonishing variety of landscapes and ecosystems, from Pacific ocean to high Andes paramo; from cloud and rainforests to Bolivian salt flats and the Atacama desert. The aim was to explore biodiversity: what it is, what’s happening to it, why that matters and, above all, what can and is being done to protect it – and then to use the adventure story to help raise awareness and inspire action on this hugely important but relatively neglected environmental challenge.





En route, Kate, who rode most of the journey solo, visited a wide range of projects and met some truly inspiring people. From a school whose entire curriculum was based on turtles to a group of young people standing up against one of the largest gold corporations in the world; from a woman who bought millions of acres of Chile to turn then into nature conservation reserves to an organisation protecting endangered monkeys by showing local people how to earn money by turning waste plastic into high fashion handbags rather than by catching monkeys for the illegal (but lucrative) wildlife pet trade. Having arrived back in the UK by cargo ship, Kate will share pictures and stories of her adventure, the highs and lows, the challenges, the ethical dilemmas and sustainability learning, the people and places and of course, the bamboo bike.

Kate’s previous ‘adventure plus’ journey, The Carbon Cycle, a ride from Texas to Alaska exploring climate change, lead to a slide show and a book that was shortlisted for the Banff (Canada) Mountain Festival Adventure Travel Book Award. Writing The Life Cycle book is underway!

Kate will be here in Ambleside on Tuesday the 2nd October, 17.30 to 19.00


Our third free Open Lecture, on Tuesday the 16th October, will be a welcome return for regular IFLAS contributor Julie Hutchison.


Transforming Not-for-profit Governance: Fresh and more diverse leadership for a digital age

The composition of boards is increasingly under the spotlight, both in the corporate and also the not-for-profit sector.  With word-of-mouth recruitment methods and many roles going unadvertised, questions are being asked about whether not-for-profit boards are representative of the communities they serve. 






 

In an intervention intended to support change, IFLAS alumna Julie Hutchison has set up a consultancy Trusteeship Matters, which uses a range of digital methods to better publicise vacancies, offer education on trusteeship, and support charity trustees by means of an online community of practice called #trusteehour.  This Open Lecture looks at fresh leadership for a digital age and how this can help a not-for-profit board evolve to meet emerging challenges."


Again this talk, along with the others, will be here in Ambleside, 17.30 to 19.00 in the Percival Lecture theatre.


To register, please email us at iflas@cumbria.ac.uk . (The James Rebanks talk is likely to be over-subscribed, and once capacity is reached, those wishing to attend will be added to a waiting list. Transfer from the waiting list to the attendance list may be at very short notice as people drop out).


























Saturday, 7 July 2018

Rethinking Leadership in the Lake District


The poor quality of leadership is a common complaint. Whether politics, business or social change, we often despair at the lack of character, vision, and decisiveness of those “in charge.” As economic, social and environmental problems worsen, some argue this leadership gap threatens our very security and wellbeing. They hope for a future where we would be able trust more of our leaders to do the right thing.

It is an understandable perspective. Indeed, psychologists studying our views on leadership tell us that wanting to be saved by leaders is a “hardwired” perspective. Once awakened to this tendency, we can think again about how to address the threats to our security and wellbeing. Rather than forever hoping for something different from above, we can begin to create something different from below.

https://www.google.com/search?q=lake+district&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjN7aXsy4zcAhWQbn0KHbDxB5QQ_AUICigB&biw=1366&bih=651
Come see what Google sees
That philosophy of "collective leadership" is what is being
explored in the Lake District over 7 days this summer. Its implications for how we engage each-other in social and organisational change will be explored, as well as the implications of a troubling global context for our future choices.

The first part of this exploration is a 2-day conference of both academics and leadership coaches. It will explore the role of communication and emotion under the title the “Poetics of Leadership.” In one of the keynote talks, the world-renowned leadership academic and coach Jonathan Gosling will explore his initial ideas on what a coming climate catastrophe may imply for collective leadership. In addition to 40 sessions and paper presentations, the conference will host performance theatre and poetry to stimulate reflection. Vice Chancellor Julie Mennell will open the conference on September 7th.

The second part of the exploration is a 4-day course on this new approach to leadership. It is hosted by Professor Jem Bendell, who has advised senior leaders in business, charities and politics. In early 2017 he worked with the leader of the UK opposition party to articulate his approach to collective leadership during the General Election. Jem will be joined by Richard Little, from Impact International, who has advised leadership teams in the worlds largest organisations. Ed Gillespie, of the sustainability communications consultants Futerra, will help us explore the implications of global challenges. Katie Carr will host activities to enable better communication and connection.  

The course starts on September 10th. Before that, a free Sunday provides conference delegates the opportunity for their own self-organised activities, such as a visit to the Wordsworth Museum, boat rides and fell walking.

These 7 days in the beautiful Lake District provide a lovely opportunity to begin to resolve that angst we can feel about a leadership gap in addressing today's threats. It may inspire a new way of approaching your work and life in the context of global dilemmas.  

To register for the conference, organised in partnership with the Crossfields Institute, click here.

To register for the course, without enrolling as a student or seeking assessment and qualification, click here.

To register for the course, as an enrolled student with requirements for assessment and opportunity to obtain a Certificate of Achievement or progress to the full qualification in Sustainable Leadership, click here.

True learning is transformative. “This course changed my life” said one of our past students. It’s why we do it.  

Monday, 2 July 2018

Leadership Lessons from the World Cup

A flurry of social media posts described the “curse of world champions” after the reigning football champions Germany went out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the group stage. Since the finals in 2006, every world champion has failed in the group stage at the next World Cup. Italy, Spain and now Germany. As defending champions, France also fell at the first hurdle in 2002. Each nation fielded similar teams to the ones that had won four years before.

There may be a reason for this pattern other than a "curse". A reason to be found in our typical reactions to success, whether achieved by an individual, team or company. A reason that explains how leadership lessons can also be taken from the transformation of the England team at this year’s tournament.

Like politics, a week is a long time in football. So four years between World Cups is like an eternity. Players age, slow down, pick up injuries, and can lose form. And whether they are successful individually depends on whether a tactical system is suited to their strengths. Not only do those strengths change as they age, but those tactical systems should change as the opposition work you out.

In management studies, we look at why it is typical for successful organizations to fail. If we look at the top of the stock market, almost 100 were not in the S&P top 500 at the start of the last World Cup. That means about a fifth of the world’s largest companies have fallen out of the top ranking. Success can breed failure when people become fixed into routines while the context changes, due to inevitable changes in technology, markets and regulations. Leadership is often expected to come entirely from the successful professionals who have risen to the top, and whom are allied to the those existing routines. Instead, fast changing contexts call for work cultures that encourage initiative from across the organisation – something now dubbed “collective leadership.” 

As both an Englishman and a Professor of Leadership, I’m appreciating the England team’s approach to collective leadership, which is in sharp contrast to the failures of defending champions. The England team failed to achieve success in major tournaments since 1966. Their last run to the semi-final of the World Cup was 28 years ago. In the 2018 tournament they won their first two games for only third time in their history and did so with a lively pattern of play. For once, it was fun to watch. 

Experts point out that the team does not have better players than in the past. So what is different? Under the manager Gareth Southgate, the narrative about leadership has changed. Which doesn’t just mean the focus on the captain, but the shift to an emphasis on system, team and squad, rather than on the famous players. 

In the past, England always went into tournaments with a drama about the recovery from injury of a ‘top’ player, which then disrupted preparations and meant some players were half fit during a tournament. The role of captain was made so paramount that the manager almost always had to play the established captain, even when they were not suited to a tactical formation, or no longer the best player in their favoured position. England also kept playing its star players well beyond their best years - a parallel to what happened with the exiting world champions. 

This culture has been encouraged by the sports media, who always single out individuals after a match. It is far easier to tell the public that the key to a performance was whether a star player did something good or not, rather than explain tactics. It is commonplace for journalists to speak about the ‘talisman’ of a team – a phrase that literally implies magical powers of a special individual. It is a problem when football managers begin to believe these stories of magical powers, by openly describing a player as an automatic choice.  

This situation parallels what organisational psychologists have discovered since experiments in the 1980s. They found that whether or not there is any evidence for the view, the majority of people think that any outcome that is below or above average is more a result of the boss than other factors such as market conditions. They concluded that we have a romantic idea of the importance of a leader, and that this idea restricts our ability to act collectively for our common interest. 

Gareth Southgate broke this thought pattern. Immediately he downplayed the importance of the captaincy and rotated it. "We have this thing about 'an England captain', but really the captain is the person that is captain in the next game, isn't it?” the England manager explained. "Always the danger in any sport with naming a 'captain' is selection. Always there is a danger with form or anything else that it becomes a matter of debate." He said “you need leaders everywhere” and described the importance of a leadership group within the squad. 

How do you achieve that? In the leadership courses I teach, we focus on how to create leaderful groups, where anyone of any rank can step up in a moment to help the group achieve a meaningful objective. It is a philosophy of collective leadership which made me notice the shift in the England set up. Last year the squad were taken to see the Marines and camped out in a forest and undertook activities aimed at team building. "That would never have happened back in the day…” said Jermain Defoe, the striker who played for a few England managers. “We did not have our phones. I did things that I never thought I would do. There were times when I felt a little bit scared doing it, but you have to because your team-mates are pushing you on and it's all about building that trust.” 

During the World Cup, Southgate has been invited to succumb to the magical idea of the talismanic leaders who will save a team. After the win against Tunisia he was asked to single out players for praise. In reply, he said the result was due to the effort of the whole squad. He often mentions how football is a squad game – even widening the idea that it is a team game.

This approach to collective leadership and dropping the myth of talismanic players has reduced the risk that a loss of form or an injury would disrupt performances. It has avoided systems of play being chosen because of one or two ‘talismen’ who have been mythologised. The new approach has been noticed by some sports journalists as ditching the era of “Mr Big Stuff”. 

Ultimately, success in sport, as in business, depends as much on talent, luck and the competition as it does on a philosophy of management or leadership. But the lesson from the failure of past World Champions and the transformation of England this year is that our attitudes to leadership do matter.  

Professor Jem Bendell, Founder, IFLAS.