Will new leader Allen Leighton introduce Bill Gate’s creative capitalism to the Co-op?

February 25, 2015

Rochdale PioneersSUBSCRIBERS ARE ADVISED THAT THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED REGULARLY

Newly appointed chairman Allen Leighton faces an existential battle at The Co-operative Group which may serve as a case study for the kind of creative capitalism proposed recently by Bill Gates

Bill Gates has recently called for more efforts directed towards creative capitalism. This raises the immediate question: what is it? At very least, there is need to examine institutions such as The Co-operative group which challenged capitalism yet attempted to create structures within the capitalist system rather than seeking its violent overthrow.

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Three Keys to Culture Transformation: Lead, engage, align

February 23, 2015

Diana Rivenburgh

by Diana Rivenburgh

What causes cultures to run amok? Why do people do things they never thought they would? Perhaps the most important question is “what can we do to create ethical, high performance, engaged cultures?”

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Michele Ferrero (1924-2015): Obituary of a discrete global leader

February 18, 2015

Ferrero-Rocher-PyramidThe notion of servant leadership is open the accusation of self-serving hypocrisy masking as humility and piety. Michele Ferrero’s life refutes such charges in his case

The Guardian noted:

When Michele Ferrero took over his family’s confectionery firm on the death of his uncle, Giovanni, in 1957, he wrote a letter to his employees. “I pledge myself to devote all my activities and all my efforts to this company,” it said. “And I assure you that I shall only feel satisfied when I have managed, with concrete results, to guarantee you and your children a safe and tranquil future.”

Ferrero was an entrepreneur of a kind Italy throws up from time to time, inspired more by the social doctrines of the Roman Catholic church than by any belief in the merits of the free market.

The case of Nutella

Michele’s father Pietro converted a family pastry shop into a chocolate factory with what became a world-beating product in Nutella, a Business School case favourite. Pietro lived in a region south of Turin famous for its natural products including hazel nuts, a key ingredient of Nutella. Michelle demonstrated his flair for confectionery and marketing when he reformulated and re-branded the choconut spread. Today the product takes around 20% of the world’s supply of hazel nuts.

The Ferrero group

Pietro instilled in Michele a passion for confectionery and product innovation. His son converted the local business into The Ferrero group, a global giant, making him one of the wealthiest of the world’s billionaires.

The business he inherited stands alongside other firms with a socially responsible ethos which transcends the structure of a CSR department. There are parallels with the Tata group of India, and various firms founded under the spirit of what Weber called ‘the protestant ethic’  including another confectionery giant, the former Cadburys group.

Its treatment of employees is at very least of high quality and in many aspects best-practice. The firm initiated the practice of collecting and returning employees to their villages. Medical care and other welfare services are of high quality. Ferrero’s workers have never gone on strike. The organization is active in awareness of and sustainability in the developing countries from which it sources its products.

 The iconic praline

The Ferrero Rocher brand has produced one of the most famous of images, that of the gold-wrapped praline product served at the exclusive party to guests of his excellency. When shown at cinemas, the ad always produces a humorous if ironic response at the incongruance between the product and the intended imagery of top-of-the-market tastes in confectionery.

By your acts shall you be known

The actions of Bill Gates and other modern titans of industry have helped us rediscover The socially responsible entrepreneur. We need not look for other-worldly piety. Critics point to Michel Fererro’s decision to leave Italy for Monaco under threat from The Red Brigades. He remained in tax-enlightened exile. He made no efforts to project or protect his public image.

He deserves to be remembered for his contributions to the well-being of his employees, and the satisfaction of consumers of his company’s products.


England v Australia Cricket Preview: Boycott v Morgan

February 13, 2015

Eoin Morgan

A day before the start of the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand Geoffrey Boycott provides a typically dismissive critique of the competence of the recently appointed England captain Eoin Morgan

Morgan, according to Boycott is “not as good a batsman as he thinks he is”, adding that maybe he is not even as good a batsman as other people think he is (excluding the prescient Boycott, naturally).

Why?

It is not difficult to come up with an explanation for Boycott’s remarks. Since retiring from Cricket, he has become a successful commentator known for his portrayal of a stereotype forthright Yorkshire man, never slow to articulate his opinions on the stupidity of others who might be tempted to offer alternative views.

This is probably a matter of calculated style, honed on the sports after-dinner circuit, where a certain kind of blokeish humour is almost obligatory. The exceptions are those with the languidness of the privileged classes who dominate Cricket’s elite, and who remain among Geoffrey’s bitterest targets for scorn and abuse.

I don’t think Boycott chooses a target just in order to be controversial. He is often making an intelligent point in his well-crafted remarks. He is more than intelligent enough to realize that he himself is now patronized in a tokenistic and school-boyish way by his fellow-commentators who tend to refer to him as ‘Sir’ Geoffrey.

The run maker

Geoffrey Boycott broke countless records as an England opening batsman. His self-obsession also explains why is ranked among the most inept of captains, although there is much competition for that title.

As a batsman, Boycott was seen as a consummate accumulator of runs, placing his own average above any other consideration. He was tolerated by players and public rather than liked, grudgingly accepted for the occasions when his self-obsession worked to the team’s advantage.

The Captain

Unsurprisingly, Boycott thought he would make a jolly good captain of the England cricket team, better than the public school oiks who always got the nod over him. Unfortunately, the temperament that helped him accumulate all those runs did not serve him well as captain.

To borrow from his own words, Geoffrey was not as good a captain as he thought he would be, and maybe not even as good a captain as other people thought he would be.

Notes:

 Top Image is of Eoin Morgan, from Wikipedia, looking disturbingly like former England captain Alistair Cook, seen here, also from Wikipedia.Alistair Cook


Concepts and Pragmatism: Applying original thinking in a Manchester Method way

February 12, 2015

HAKAM1624_1 (2)

Vikram Madineni

Applying theory to find practical solutions in professions like engineering is well-known.  The Manchester Method approach in the field of management comes from  applying the learning in one’s professional life and, leveraging trust and current experiences.

 

The Global MBA program at Manchester Business School gave me a platform to self-reflect and grow professionally, to learn the importance of communication and also to shape my future goals and ambitions

Personal Growth

I encountered many of the nuances of business management early in my professional life, but at first I had a hard time relating to decisions being made from a professional and personal perspective.

The dynamic nature of the Global MBA course work, diversity of people, need for team collaboration and applying theoretical frameworks to understand “why” and “how” part of the decisions, all have shaped my personal growth over the last 18 months.

The focus on teamwork is paramount and there is a regular need to improvise based on dynamics of team members. I have dramatically improved my group negotiation and implementation strategies. For this, I owe much to the information exchange with other students in multiple workshops across countries and partly to the self-reflection of my creativity reports.

By using theoretical frameworks of economics, marketing, operations, accounting, and leadership when answering individual assignments, I gained a better perspective of various factors influencing decisions being made within my own organization.

Manchester Method

The emphasis on “managerial oriented” application of concepts rather than academic discussions has been advocated in all courses. I got a better understanding of the principle after receiving feedback for my final marketing assignment. My thorough research was appreciated, as was required in an MBA course, but both examiners explained the importance of also arriving at practical solutions that could benefit the company.

In the induction session the program director [mention name] explained the importance of networking, teamwork, the value of working within a diverse cohort and building relationships.

This has been an enriching experience and it has helped me to manage assignments and projects in a more efficient and productive fashion.

Chartering the future – Social Responsibility

I dreamed of being an entrepreneur since I graduated from college and I got a new perspective after reading an inspirational book about the TOMS company written by Blake Mycoskie – Start Something That Matters.

I chose the book for my leadership assignment and published a post about TOMS and its CSR in Leaders We Deserve.

Around the same time, I became aware of the amazing work being undertaken by the Gates Foundation and within my own company, Ingersoll Rand, in providing opportunities to serve a social cause. I was inspired and motivated to change but also identified the lack of management experience in handling strategy or operational needs of social organizations.

Johnson. W (2012), “Disrupt Yourself”, discusses the concept of disrupting oneself to stay ahead or charting one’s profession career.

I embraced the opportunity to do the Global MBA program, and over the last year I have opportunities to learn and understand the business system at a functional and a strategic perspective. As I progressed through my learning I gained knowledge in operations excellence and insights of marketing for a non-profit organization.

I had to do considerable amount of research on TOMS for my leadership and marketing course assignments. I gained a deeper understanding and need to embrace social responsibility; and also the power of words, advertisement of conscious consumers, and era of storytelling successful companies. I discussed this concept with our company’s marketing team to rethink branding and customer connectivity. We needed a story; a story that connects with our customers and makes them our passionate advertisers.

Original Thinking Applied

One of the most enjoyable workshops and one that I can vividly recall is the Accounting workshop! Marketing, Operations, CIB and all other workshop assignments helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals but Accounting was very focused on one particular aspect of the organization or situation. I probably have never spent 6-8 hours analyzing just 3 sheets of papers before, the Balance Sheet, Cash Flow and Income Statements! It was a workshop in which I truly realized the potential of applying the thinking – understanding what financial ratios really mean, challenging whether the numbers are really telling a true story, what should the company or an investor be looking for.

Our group spent hours endorsing and debating each other perspective. I remember our professor being intrigued by the new metrics and ratios that we identified and how we linked them with a balanced score-card strategy. The level of analysis and realization of the importance of certain metrics all helped my immensely in applying the learnings in the business simulation course.

The business simulation course was another opportunity to bring all our learnings together for the first time and I enjoyed the challenge of managing and competing against my peers. Managing finances, building on equity, improving net margins, borrowing cheaper capital were all a result of application of deep analysis of the company’s financial statements and the market. This was also an opportunity for us to apply the concepts of strategy, adapt dynamically to market changes and build a road map for the future profitability. This gives me confidence in my ability to manage business operations in certain roles like strategic integrator, program manager in companies like TOMS or Gates Foundation.

 Leadership

My perspectives on definition of leadership have gradually changed over the course of my student and professional life. Growing up, my father was a leader for me; responsible, knowledgeable, humble and passionate. I inculcated lot of those values and owe my growth to his leadership skills as a parent. My views on leadership skills expanded during my career at Ingersoll Rand while working with my peers and my manager. We were now in a dynamically changing environment and it was educating to understand the need for a leader to find a “balance” – compassion and setting expectations, leading and allowing to lead, teaching and allowing to learn and most important of all humility and approachability.

The Manchester MBA program has expanded my horizon further on leadership traits and I was introduced to the concept of Servant Leadership. The ability to build a vision and then inspire and influence people to adopt and engage is truly a remarkable skill set. In this era of social consumerism the ability to reach out to people who are remote and influence their decisions is a differentiating attribute of the new generation leader.

The new era of conscious consumers and employees is suited in supporting and associating with a leader who is empathetic and is committed to social responsibility.

 


How books became unbound in the new era of e-publishing

February 7, 2015

The new era of e-publishing marks the decline of the printed book and the rise of a new mode of knowledge management

As a lonGutenberg's Pressg-time committed author and editor, I find two inter-related ideas which make e-publishing attractive and which will take us beyond the era of the printed book.

First, there is the speed at which an e-book can be produced, giving it an immediacy that cannot be matched through traditional publishing channels.

Secondly, there is scope for a far richer interaction with readers, through operating as a portal between the world of the internet, and the worlds of experience of author and reader.

To explain what I mean, I would like to trace briefly the distinguished history of the printed word, and one of its longest-standing products, the monograph. This helps me explain the way I turned the problem of retrieving information from a thousand blog posts on leadership into a new interactive approach to teaching and researching the subject.

Before and after the Gutenberg revolution

A milestone in human civilization was reached through the efforts of a fifteenth century German goldsmith skilled in the craft of metal working and manufacture of coins for the archiepiscopal mint of his home town of Mainz.  His name was Johannes Gutenberg and he is known today for a brilliant insight or transfer of technology. He applied his skills in creating moulds for making coins to the invention of the moveable type process.  His new press  punched out not coins but the obverse letters or types from which pages of a document could be mass produced. We retain the word type in various usages which may be traced to the original meaning in printing

The invention created the profession of craft printer, and with repeated improvements was to survive over 700 years to recent times.

Marshall McLuhan, in the 1960s, anticipated a world of mass communications. He saw how Gutenberg’s innovation accelerated the shift from pre-modern to modern societies, and indirectly to the Renaissance and the age of information.

Who ‘wrote’ this book?

Pre-Gutenberg, short ‘books’ were collected and bound together. The volume was ‘written’ by the mediaeval scribe who copied and bound together the contributions of the original authors.

Gutenberg enabled the process to reach far wider audiences. It had many consequences such as the e rise to the printed political pamphlet, with acknowledgment to its original author. Knowledge become more freely transmitted to any person schooled enough to read or willing enough to listen to its message.

The first books were serious pieces of work devoted to capturing thoroughly and in depth the interests of a monastic or scholarly calling. Printed monographs long after the invention of the printing press retained the legacy of their scholarly ancestry as universities took over the duties of the monastic scribes. Then, the great innovation of the printed word received its first serious challenge from the so-called electronic revolution.

New forms for a new age

I had become familiar with the potential for a new more interactive form of teaching through combining e-material into my work with business executives. I noted how students were interacting more in class through their own connectedness with the internet through their PCs, and then through their tablets and smart phones.

One obvious point was that the textbook was no longer the focus of learning. Instead it was more like a portal through which tutors and students interacted with the wider world on the internet.

The Leaders We Deserve e-experiment

I began to see opportunities in exploring a space between the scholarly style of the traditional textbook and the dynamism of the e-format. I was increasingly teaching and writing as a member of a learning community interacting with colleagues and readers.

Specifically I saw that I could not hope to explore adequately the thousand posts and counting that hadwritten partly for my executive audiences. I couldn’t, but the community of learning could.

The experiment means that I could try new ‘voices’ to communicate that would have been inappropriate for the traditional textbook. The experiences of the community were becoming living cases, non-linear at least partly unbounded by an author’s teaching aims and objectives.

Where will the experiment lead?

I’m still not sure. But I am sure it will be one of many such experiments at the dawn of a 21st century revolution will take us beyond The Gutenberg Galaxy, the legacy bequeathed us by a 15th Century German goldsmith.  As times change, words take on different meanings. Why should we expect a book to have the same features today when it is no longer bound (no pun intended) between hard covers, and no longer is produced by skilled crafts workers working with molten metal and moveable type?


CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND TEAM EFFECTIVENESS: EVIDENCE FOR A TWO BARRIER MODEL

February 4, 2015

Tudor Rickards & Susan Moger

University of Manchester, Manchester, England

 

Upsalla Creativity DayKey Terms:  Creative leadership, Creativity, Leadership, Team effectiveness, Bruce Tuckman, Benign Structures, The Manchester Method, MPIA, TFI

 

The post is offered as an extended research communication with formal reference citations. It is based on a presentation given at The Advanced Seminar Series, University of Upsalla, Upsalla, Sweden, [3rd March, February 2009].   It extends Bruce Tuckman’s well-established stage model of team development. Creative leadership is suggested as producing new routines or protocols designated as benign structures which help teams progress through two barriers to team development. The first is at Tuckman’s storm stage, (a behavioural barrier), and the second a barrier at the norm stage (a norm-breaking barrier).

To gain an understanding of creative leadership it is helpful to examine briefly the wider fields of creativity and leadership, before addressing the specific focus of creative leadership at the level of organizational teams. Creativity and leadership have been constructs which have attracted a great deal of attention, much of which exists in relatively loosely connected bodies of work across a range of professional and scholarly domains. Creative leadership, the region of investigation common the both, is relatively unexplored.

 Multi-definitional features of  creativity and leadership

Leadership and creativity  have both been regarded as constructs suffering from inadequate definition. More precisely, each has acquired a plethora of definitions, with no unequivocally accepted one, up until present times.

Stogdill (1956) in his review of leadership, and particularly through his celebrated handbook (1974) drew attention to this embarrassment of definitional riches. This was as part of his influential attack on leadership research at the time, and the dead-end toward which he believed it was heading. Stogdill is widely accepted as changing the course of leadership research from the dominance of trait studies (Bryman, 1996; Yukl, 1999), without resolving definitional difficulties (Rickards & Clark, 2005).

Similar definitional complexities can be found in the literature of creativity. Rhodes (1961) had made an early attempt to integrate the multiple and disparate definitions in the literature, into a taxonomy based on the four components of person, process, product and press. Later, Magyari-Beck (1993) suggested that creativity as a multi-level phenomenon could be further structured into levels of individual, group, organization, and culture.

Scholarly interest has not resolved the definitional issue (Isaksen, 1987; Mackinnon, 1978; Sternberg & Lubart, 1996; Rickards, Runco & Moger, 2008). Boden (1994, 2008) has also pointed out a similar lack of clarity and an abundance of definitions of creativity.

The overlap of creativity and leadership literatures

One complication that has contributed to the definitional problems in creativity and leadership research is the wide range of professional and academic fields in which they are studied. Both concepts have attracted psychologists, social and organizational scientists, decision-theorists and educationalists. However, only a small proportion of these have shown interest in both creativity and leadership. These would include Amabile et al, (1996); Basadur, (2004); Mumford, (2000); Puccio, Murdock, & Mance, (2007); and Rickards & Moger, (1999a, 2000)

 Creative leadership is doubly difficult to characterize

Attempts to define creative leadership inevitably retain the complexities associated with the two primary concepts. Unsurprisingly, the integration of leadership and creativity into remains an important and challenging area of study.

In this contribution, we concentrate on a relatively small region of the territory, while attempting to draw a conclusion about the broader implications for creative leadership. We confine our study to leadership processes operating in project teams. If leadership and creativity are considered as overlapping domains, our territory is that of the project team leader. This draws on a sub-set in the creativity literature of work on creative problem-solving structures, (Parnes, 1992; Basadur, 2004; Isaksen, Dorval, & Treffinger, 2000, Rickards & Moger, (2000); Puccio& Capra, (2008) and in the leadership literature the sub-sets of team leadership (Ancona and Caldwell, 1992; Kimberley & Evanisko, (1981); Manz & Sims, 1992; Mumford, 2000) and facilitative and trust-based leadership (Rickards & Clark, 2007).

The conceptual basis of our two barrier theory of teamwork

‘We propose that theories of project team development and of creativity can be integrated into a new conceptual framework. The framework proposes two structural barriers that bear on team performance, and modifies the well-established team development model of Tuckman. Creative leadership is suggested as an important means of breaching the barriers. Its differentiating feature seems to be its effectiveness in establishing protocols that sustain the creative efforts of team members. We have designated the protocols ‘benign structures’ (Rickards & Moger, 2000: 273).

Background to the MBS studies of creative leadership

A major early influence on our thinking was the work in the USA on techniques for stimulating creativity in teams, reported in Parnes & Osborn, 1992; Prince (1970) and Gordon (1956, 1961). These studies had been providing evidence of numerous empirical applications of the techniques. However, claims that techniques such as brainstorming could stimulate creativity were to become contested among more reflective researchers within the creativity paradigm (See reviews by Stein, 1975; Parnes, 1992; Kurtzberg & Amabile, 2001).

The pioneering American studies attracted interest internationally. In The United Kingdom, researchers and practitioners formed informal networks, at first at a national level, and subsequently internationally (Rickards, 1993, 1994). In the UK, our studies (Rickards, 1974b, 1982) reported that application of a creativity technique helped produce experiential learning and the development of effective modifications to team behaviours or routines, a process described as creative analysis.

The term creative analysis was developed in an examination of creative problem-solving techniques. It suggested that each empirical application of a technique was a situated experience which drew on analysis of prior experiences, and provided a learning opportunity for future experiences. The work can now be seen to anticipate conceptual advances made into situated creativity (Jeffcutt & Pratt, 2002; Stoetzler & Yuval-Davis, 2002).

Early work at MBS  examined the effectiveness of teams of technical professionals seeking product innovations within an R&D department (Rickards, 1976; Rickards & Freedman, 1978). Results confirmed that application of creativity techniques could be a productive way for a team to generate promising ideas. However, we found it difficult to establish the link between the application of techniques and generation of more imaginative product ideas. That is to say, we had evidence that techniques worked ‘sometimes and somewhere’ but the mechanisms leading to enhanced creativity remained obscure.

 The Manchester Method

After the early studies of R&D project teams, our attention turned to studies of teams of business students tackling real business projects for corporate clients.   The opportunity for involvement with such teams was a consequence of taking part in an educational innovation at Manchester Business School (MBS) known as The Manchester Method (Drinkwater et al, 2004).

Each cohort provides approximately twenty teams of MBA students engaged in projects.  Across several decades, approximately 4500 participants in 700 such teams experienced creativity training as preparation for their project work .   By the late 1990s, when executive education activities were added in, ‘over 2,000 work teams from 40 different countries were involved’ (Rickards & Moger, 1999: xi).

The composition of project teams within the MBA programmes, and the activities they experienced have remained remarkably consistent across the extended time-period from the 1970s to the late 1990s (although details of the course and creativity training provided changed over time. This was consistent with the precepts of creative analysis, as learning from experience influenced later course designs.

Most projects were selected as being suitable for a small project team working over a time period of weeks. When projects were substantially larger, the work was shared across teams by splitting up a large project into sub-projects. For example, in a project for UNIDO, (Rickards, Hyde, & Papamichail, 2005), each small team explored sustainability in an industry sector. Collectively, the work produced a diagnostic tool across sectors now in use by UNIDO, for supporting the transfer of technology into its third-world sustainability projects.

From these various studies, insights emerged into the nature of team effectiveness and creative leadership. Informally at first, we also began to collect evidence in a longitudinal fashion of leadership patterns of executives engaged in innovative work (1990s-2000). They were often, but not always, sponsors of MBS projects with whom we had built longer-term relationships.

 Team development and the limitations of prevailing theories

Over time, our experiences encouraged us to seek explanations for our findings in the established theories of teamwork. However, we found difficulties reconciling our experiences with the prevailing orthodoxy of how project teams develop stable performance practices or norms.

In our teaching, as well as our research, we were aware of the influence of the work of Bruce Tuckman on teams and team development processes. According to Tuckman (1965), teams develop through stages (form, storm, norm perform). A subsequent closure or adjourn stage was added later (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977).

One difficulty for us was repeated evidence that some of the teams involved in the projects we were studying were failing pass Tuckman’s  storm stage. This might just have been explained as arising from an extended delay in some groups in passing through the Tuckman stages.  However, even if that were the case, there was another, and more serious challenge to the four stage model. A minority of the teams not only reached the norm stage but went on to challenge and break out of norms.   This seems to be consistent with what might be described as achieving creative breakthroughs in their project work. The Tuckman model had no way of explaining how teams might break out of norms toward new norms of behaviour.

The two-barrier hypothesis

In addressing these conceptual difficulties, we proposed a two-barrier solution (Rickards & Moger, 2001), which is a modification to Tuckman’s stage model rather than a total rejection of it. Consistent patterns of behaviour had been discovered across the hundreds of teams studied. A small proportion of teams struggled to reach any effective result from their work. The majority of the teams achieved goals set them to the satisfaction of the client. A minority of teams performed beyond expectations.

We concluded that the most dysfunctionalteams had been defeated by a barrier beyond which the majority of most teams had been able to pass. In our view this was a behavioural barrier. We were led to that conclusion because the weak teams appeared to be permanently mired in behaviors which seemed to be consistent with Tuckman’s psychological storm stage of team development. The teams that passed the behavioural barrier for the most part behaved as predicted by the Tuckman model, arriving at stable group norms permitting effective functioning.

However, this was not the case in the minority of teams which appeared to go beyond the Tuckman norms of stable behaviour and achievement of pre-established production outputs. These teams passed the norm stage by going beyond the project brief in a creative way which added unexpected value for the client. We suspected that a differentiating principle of the behaviours of high-performance teams was the effective establishment of conditions favouring creativity, particularly by a team-leader appointed by the team.

To summarise: Our findings posed two challenges to the prevailing model of team development. The weak teams posed the question ‘what is happening if a team fails to develop beyond the storm stage? The exceptional teams posed the question ‘what happens if a team breaks out of the performance norms developed? Our hypothesis was that teams were differentiated by two barriers to performance. The weak barrier was behavioural, and defeated a minority of teams; the strong barrier was a barrier to creative or innovative performance, and defeated the majority of those teams passing through the weak barrier.

The two-barrier model offered a rich starting point for exploring how a team leader might be influencing the performance of teams. As our training interventions were intended to facilitate a team’s creativity, we began to look for a deeper understanding of how the practice of creative leadership might explain the observed behaviors.

Creative leadership and benign structures

We began to refer to the leadership practices in the most successful teams as establishing benign structures for creative success (Rickards & Moger, 1999a; 2000). This implied a mechanism through which creative team leaders helped reconfigure the behavioural structures and practices under which team members operate:

 ‘We propose that theories of project team development and of creativity can be integrated into a new conceptual framework. The framework proposes two structural barriers that bear on team performance, and modifies the well-established team development model of Tuckman. Creative leadership is suggested as an important means of breaching the barriers. Its differentiating feature seems to be its effectiveness in establishing protocols that sustain the creative efforts of team members. We have designated the protocols “benign structures” ’ (Rickards & Moger, 2000: 273).

We later extended the concept beyond project teams, suggesting that trust-based leadership and creative leadership shared the capacity to develop benign structures, even using as case examples work on pain-free horse training and horse-whispering (Rickards & Moger 2002).

Much work remains before a satisfactory theory of benign structures can be advanced. Our understanding developed initially in our analysis of the behaviours observed in teams applying creative problem-solving techniques.

It should be noted that in real-life project work, the period in which a team is engaged in such deliberate structuring of creative activity is a fraction of the time spent together as a team. This point is unremarked on in the literature, and illustrates an area of future work in examining how a team engaged briefly with creativity-structuring activities carries over (learns from) such behaviors to influence the broader inter-personal and goal-oriented work of the group.

To illustrate our understanding of benign structures we will begin with the simpler case of how a team leader applying a creative problem-solving structure may influence a team through that structure. This gives the critical and distinctive set of circumstances within which we were postulating that leaders introduced benign structures to a project team, with positive consequences for its creative productivity. Creativity techniques situated in real-life applications are then regarded as emergent products adapted to circumstances through an experiential learning process (Rickards, 1974, 1993).

We refer to the pioneering work of William Gordon in his Synectics approach to stimulating creativity in teams.   Gordon suggested that a creativity technique at the level of an innovation-seeking team might achieve results through a facilitative leader applying procedures which influence the psychological states of team members to permit easier discovery of new ideas. He used the vocabulary of operational mechanisms to describe the procedures, and precepts to indicate guiding principles behind the procedures.  This is an approach which provides a way to tease out the essential features of leadership behaviors which are necessary (if not sufficient) for the introduction of benign structures into group processes.   In any application of a creativity-spurring technique, we may need to assess what principles (precepts) are implicit in the approach, and what structures, routines, or rules are introduced (operational mechanisms).

If we apply Gordon’s classification to Osborn’s celebrated brainstorming approach, operational mechanisms and principles can be seen, although these are not all as easy to disentangle as might be desired. Instructions to the team to ‘, go for a large number of ideas, and build on other people’s ideas’ and clearly operational mechanisms structuring behaviors. The ‘rule’ that ‘quantity’ [of ideas] increases ‘quality’ is offered as an operational mechanism, but it is a rather loosely framed instruction regarding actions, and cold arguably be closer to a precept sometimes referred to as the deferment of judgement principle).

This example demonstrates that the ‘rules’ or structures for stimulating creativity are sometimes quite precise, sometimes less precise. The precepts serve as ways in which variations in the structures can be developed through experience, proposed as a process of creative analysis, (Rickards, 1974).

 Change-oriented leadership

Later, evidence from a group of Swedish workers helped us to an understanding of how the work might be accommodated into the broader literature of leadership. Ekvall and Arvonen carried out extensive studies of project teams, reworking the methodology of the classical Ohio State studies (Arvonen, 2008; Ekvall & Arvonen, 1991, 1994). Their results challenged the long-accepted two-factor model of management influence on team work. Ekvall and Arvonen carried out extensive examination of leadership styles and reported that a third factor was emerging, one they termed a change-oriented style. They conclude that the style had just not been visible under the conditions in which teams were studied by the earlier workers. Rather, they suggested, increased organizational uncertainties had contributed to its emergence. This analysis provided us with a rationale for investigating the third style, which describe as a creative leadership style.

 The MPIA structure and team factors

Might the components within creative problem-techniques provide insights into the nature of a leader’s impact on a team? From this question we examined the most commonly-applied technique we had been developing, which had been derived from many years of experimentation in search of a system with widespread applicability as a teaching and development aid.   The system had originally developed from the Parnes-Osborn technique (Parnes, 1992).

In the 1990s, when we began developing interest in benign structures, we had settled in our work for a four-stage creative problem-solving model, presented by the acronym MPIA. Details of the model and its applications can be found in Rickards & DeCock (1994).

Prior to their engagement with the project we explain to participants that their work will be assisted if they follow principles of creative problem-solving, and structure their work into the four stages of the MPIA structure, namely mapping, perspective seeking, idea seeking and actions.   Also in the early training sessions, teams are provided with opportunities to experiment with applying the system on realistic exercises.

In applying the MPIA, teams consciously engage with a series of processes of information management. Experienced facilitators of creative problem-solving will recognise variations on the Parnes-Osborn system which includes stages of fact finding (akin to mapping); objective seeking (perspectives), idea finding and acceptance-seeking (ideas and actions). There are differences of emphasis in the treatments by different researchers but these are not salient to the present paper, and can be found in, among other published accounts, Rickards & De Cock, (1994) and Rickards & Moger, (1999a)

The MPIA structure helped us to derive suggests team factors which may be influenced by a leader following its stages. These became the focus of much quantification as cited below.

(1)        POU: Mapping suggested to us a process of building a platform of understanding (POU) around the project task.

(2)        SV: Perspective seeking suggested a system which encouraged the development of shared point of view, which we rounded up to a shared vision or common goal (SV).

(3)        IO: The idea seeking stage was refined when we conclude that for some groups generation of ideas without commitment to own them was less effective than groups which moved towards ideas that were owned. This the stage became one of idéa ownership processes (IO).

(4)        CLI We associated the MPIA protocols with a team factor arising because application of each of stages seemed to contribute to a constructive or creative team climate (CL)..

(5)        LFE Our systems model of MPIA indicated the possibility that experience gained through applying the technique fed back into new possibilities for subsequent applications. This gave us a the factor of learning from experience (LFE)

(6)        RES One aspect of the projects seemed to differentiate groups into those which were defeated by unexpected setbacks, and those which transcended setbacks (for example, in having a proposal rejected by a sponsor of client). This suggested the factor of resilience (RES)

(7)        NA This factor arose out of interviews with team sponsors, one of whom suggested that effective creative problem-solving in his experience often required networking skills. We borrowed his terminology of network activation (NA). .

Of the seven team factors we had arrived at, four arose directly from considerations of the MPIA model, and three from our involvement with the projects over an extended time period. [Footnote: strictly speaking the idea ownership factor is a hybrid factor. The operational mechanisms and precepts of the Parnes Osborn and MPIA models drew attention to a team’s capacity to generate powerful (‘creative’) ideas’. Our treatment added the component of commitment or ownership to the factor of idea generation skills]

The Team Factors Inventory

The seven team factors became the focus of empirical testing. After preliminary studies it became possible for us to make claims for an instrument through the use of which the seven factors could be extracted from self-reports (Rickards, Chen & Moger, 2001). This was to become known as the Team Factors Inventory (TFI).  Further testing has been conducted, including studies with Brazilian entrepreneurs (Gimenez, 2006) and Saudi Arabian finance professionals (Al Bereidi & Rickards, 2003).

The broad thrust of our work has been to work with teams on business tasks with minimal intrusion through application of measurement instruments. We have found this requires instrumentation of a minimalist kind. The most widely-applied version of the TFI is one that has retained its items once these were established as providing reliable indicators of the seven team factors. We acknowledge that this by no means ends the pursuit for psychometric improvements and welcome any such studies. Web-based data collection appears to be one promising way of achieving further improvement in factor resolution, while retaining ease of use of the instrument.

Assessing the evidence for the two-barrier model of team performance

There is overwhelming evidence that a minority of teams of all kinds perform ‘beyond expectations’. Furthermore, from the same diverse sets of experiences, another group of teams perform in a disappointing fashion. This group could be said to perform ‘beneath expectations’. The majority of teams seem to fit into those who might be said to achieve but not exceed expectations.   Over a period of a decade of application we have accumulated extensive evidence that a two barrier model is consistent with, and yet strengthens the earlier proposal by Tuckman that teams acquire improved performace over time. The evidence has also received overwhelming support when presented back to teams in survey-feedback fashion.   The next stage in exploring the model is to add convincing quantitatively-based evidence of its validity.

Some years ago we had hopes to establish such evidence from the TFI data that would add strength to the qualitative findings. To date, various statistical manipulations of the database suggest that a three factor resolution into high, medium, and low clusters of teams can be demonstrated. We have hesitated to report these findings, however, as our cluster analyses fail to exclude the possibilities suggested by two factor or higher factor solutions. In hindsight, we feel that the TFI serves as an excellent survey-feedback instrument with high face-validity with respondents. However, the quantitative evidence is too indirect to be taken as more than indicative.

For this, further work is required, with additional (or even different) instrumentation which would probe more directly the nature of barriers to creative performance.   Much the same can be said of the impact of benign structures within the processes of team development. Discussion into the nature of such instrumentation would be welcomed and acknowledged.

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