Aberfan Remembered

October 21, 2016


I heard the news of the Aberfan disaster from a young Spanish doctor.  He had tears in his eyes

Fifty years on, I don’t remember what he said. It didn’t matter much. He knew me slightly, enough to remember that I came from Wales. We were both working at a hospital in uptown Manhattan.

It was a time before good cheap international communications. News drifted in of the horrors over the next few days. I was born a few miles down the valley from Aberfan.

Before, it was an unremarkable little community. You needed a reason for visiting or remembering it.. That all changed as a giant mud-flow swept down to engulf a little school.

Years later I remember Aberfan afresh. A Mexican student, this time studying in Manchester for a business degree, came up to his tutors in some distress. He also had tears in his eyes.  Susan and I in puzzlement thought that he was talking about moths.

We eventually understood. He meant mud. There had been another mud slide.  This time in Mexico.

A Postcard from Potsdam: The Consumption of Chocolate Fredericks

October 18, 2016


A visit to Potsdam for a conference combines memories of its place in history, with a few thoughts on today’s confusing global political scene


October 10-16 2016

Our visit to Potsdam was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the journal Creativity and Innovation Management about which more later, including news of the chocolate Fredericks.

The immediate consequences of the Brexit vote

Preparing for the trip, the immediate impact of the Brexit vote was apparent, as I bought euros in the UK. The best rate I could get was parity, as the pound sterling had dwindled in value since the referendum. I await the promised economic benefits from a revitalized UK economy sometime in the future.

Potsdam and Keynes

Potsdam is associated in my mind with the visionary, John Maynard Keynes, and his contributions to history through a historic conference held in 1945, which was in some ways a re-run of the Versailles treaty of 1919, in which he also played a part. Versailles was to impose harsh retribution on Germany for its bellicose actions during the Great War. Keynes wrote in horror of what he saw as the inevitable consequences of the conditions being forced on Germany after the Great War ended in 1918.  [Note: this is not intended as an explanation for the rise of the third Reich, but a comment on the contributing factors after Versailles according to Keynes. Not for the last time, his predictions were eventually found to be prescient].

Le Monde’s view of the US Presidential debate

I am not sure why a plane from Manchester, bound for Berlin via Amsterdam, should only offer late-boarding passengers a complimentary copy of Le Monde. However, the paper gave its own cultural treatment of current World events.  Information on the state of affairs in England was noticeable by its absence.

Le Monde headlined the remarkable second Presidential debate between Clinton and Trump. It built its story around Trump’s assertion that as President he would appoint a prosecutor to imprison Hillary Clinton for her assorted crimes against the State. It also had a magnificent analysis of contemporary economic ideas, at a depth rarely found in the Anglo-Saxon press.

 Students are students

We arrive at the University of Potsdam. Students are wandering around like students do all over the world. A kebab bar is doing a roaring trade.  A statue outside the University is daubed with an Adolf  moustace. The weather is doing a good imitation of a drizzly day in Manchester.


Settling down and news from the UK

A dinner for two at our hotel cost 60 euros or pounds.  Sorry to bang on about this. A few months ago, it would still have cost 60 euros but rather less than 50 pounds sterling. Before our visit ended, we learned of the tensions back home as retailers fought with suppliers to deal with price rises of consumer goods resulting from the weakened pound.

The last Trump?

We kept up with the increasingly bizarre events in the US election campaign. Recently, Donald Trump appears to be dipping in the polls, criticized by significant republican politicians, even if some are avoiding voting for Clinton, by choosing writing a named alternative of their ballot paper.

At the end of the second debate, each candidate was asked to say something positive about the other (stifled laughter for the second time from the audience. The first was when Trump explained his ‘gentle’ treatment of Hillary, because he was a gentleman.). Hillary said she admired Donald’s children, a reply that hinted at another American political dynasty might be on its way. A bemused Donald muttered about whether she was joking, before making a genuine-sounding and generous remark, that he recognized his opponent’s resilience. Perhaps we are witnessing the last trump for Donald’s political aspirations and of his offspring after all.

The political trolls of the Trump campaign

Why is Hillary Clinton hated so much by Trump supporters? Are political trolls causes or symptoms of the strong emotions being generated? A rather normal-looking woman stares out at me from the BBC website. Her actions and words are anything but normal.  Emily Longhurst is an everyday illustration of a political troll, using extreme language to make her case for supporting Donald Trump by her vehement attacks on Hillary Clinton. Emily is an active member of a group known as Hillary for Prison.

The Palace fire and the Chocolate Fredericks

So, to the conference.  Susan and I as co-founders have the pleasant task of making a brief overview of twenty-five years of the publication of the journal Creativity and Innovation management, and awarding the prize for the best paper as voted by the editorial board

Use of Social Media in Inbound Open Innovation: Building Capabilities for Absorptive Capacity

Authors: Ward Ooms, John Bell, and Robert A.W. Kok

This study investigates the effects of the use of social media in inbound open innovation on capabilities for absorptive capacity of companies. Seven explorative case studies were conducted in an R&D and business context of two large global high-tech companies. The results suggest that if the necessary conditions are met, social media usage increases the transparent, moderational and multi-directional interactions that in turn influence four capabilities for absorptive capacity: connectedness, socialization tactics, cross-functionality and receptivity, a hitherto overlooked capability. Hence, we observe that social media are boundary-spanning tools that can be used to build and increase companies’ absorptive capacity

The new editors of the journal are into brilliant problem-solving mode with the hundred and one duties for the workshop, including fire-fighting. Just to illustrate the point, a banquet in an historic palace is cancelled, after a fire breaks out in the kitchens. Within two-days, an excellent substitute is found for the dinner, in a local Italian ristorante.

Each presenter receives a chocolate image of Frederick the Great. Susan and I decide to save ours for our return, as emergency rations in Post Brexit Manchester.

The bridge of spies

Conferences are often full of ‘what might have been’ opportunities missed such as visits to tourist sites outside the conference hall.

We managed to fit in the latest tourist attraction, a walk across the Lange Bruche, location of one of the memorable scenes as the Bridge of Spies in the eponymous movie.

Back in Manchester. No riots in the streets

No sign yet of rioting in the streets, as the price of Marmite takes it beyond the reach of hungry and angry consumers at Tescos. I can report that eating an effigy of Frederick the Great was a curious experience, (Bring me the head of Frederick the Great, with or without Marmite).

The Trespasser, by Tana French

October 16, 2016


Book review

The Trespasser, a superior procedural detective novel, passed this critic’s first test.  I rated it four stars on the domestic suitability scale for mutual consumption

Why I liked it

The writing is intelligent, the characters engaging, the story ticking all the boxes for enthusiasts of crime fiction. The story is set in Dublin, with hard-boiled Irish cops, villains, and a beautiful young victim, done and battered in the first few pages before the detective duo arrive. There is a nailed-on suspect, and assorted enemies to justice, mostly inside the precinct.

Another big plus. The author avoided the maxim ‘a murder a chapter means readership capture‘ and eschewed the increasingly over-used device of a mad mass murderer.

A bit long?

As I began it, the book felt a little lengthy (the currently fashionable 400 plus pages). This turned out to be ungenerous judgement, as I found myself page-turning without skipping to the last, then eager to read the next available book by the author as soon as possible.

New York or Dublin?

One slightly discordant note:  the background felt closer to New York or Chicago Irish than to Dublin Irish. Was that my own indoctrination from a hundred American detective stories, or was the author up to something?

There was more than the pot-boiling detective yarn, although I missed a great deal of sub-textual stuff, because I had not been following earlier well-received books by author Tana French. A deeper indication of her intentions is found in a recent interview with the New York Times.

Hillary, Donald, you owe me a good night’s sleep

October 10, 2016


I did, I listened to the second debate between you both. It was not worth the loss of sleep

Why did I do it?  It was, possibly, a politically important event [October 10, 2016].

The latest of the seemingly effortless dramatic revelations coming up about you, Donald, last weekend, that video about your sexual urges, was a zinger.  A game-ender.

I admit, I wanted to hear how you would deal with it in the so-called town-hall style debate.  How would you, Hillary, deal with the Donald defence, probably a counter-attack, to use a chess term, perhaps risky involving a sacrifice of some material?

The more responsible side of me wanted to learn how either of you could demonstrate you were the more suited to be President. How Hillary was not a crook, lucky to have stayed out of jail, married to someone with enthusiasm for extra-curricular hobbies which landed him in creative linguistics (not a euphemism). How you Donald had a grasp of the mechanics of political workings required of a President of the United States.

So there I was, hanging on your every word.  Both of you sadly disappointed me.  Have you both been trained in that public speaking school of ‘answer the question you wanted to be asked, not the one you were actually asked‘? I seem to remember the trick is to reply and move on  reasonably quickly, perhaps with a link to that carefully chosen point you had been coached to get in.

Donald, you did pull out another strategy, to talk at length in a highly confusing way. I understand Nigel Farage was in with your other advisors.  I’m sure he would have warned you not to confuse your audience in such a way.

And what was all that grumpiness at the moderators? Donald, you did seem more spontaneous in your combustion.  Hillary, you sort of sounded as if you had to show you could be as ornery as Donald.

I missed a lot of the real show-biz stuff, the parade of women Donald arranged just before the debate, who, he claimed were seduced or worse by Bill, and pursued in very nasty ways by Hillary.

You both spoke your minds, so I will too.  For whatever reasons, you had a chance to say something interesting and therefore something which could impress a hundred million listeners. Don’t know what the others thought, but I felt I had been cheated out of a good night’s sleep.

Sleepless in Stockport

Big Game Hunting

October 6, 2016

By Paul Hinks


A reflection on the demise of Sam Allardyce as England manager

The slaying of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe on or around the 1st July 2015 brought dismay and outrage around the world. Cecil the Lion had been tracked and killed by an American trophy hunter. Wounded initially by a bow and arrow just outside the boundary and protection of a national park, Cecil’s fate was unfortunately a formality. A tragic tale.

There was a strong negative response to the killing of Cecil – an easy target, seen by many as a completely unnecessary act. The debate around the ethics of big-game trophy hunting was well and truly set alight. In some sad way, Cecil’s demise and legacy may have brought some good.

The Guardian captured the sentiment well:

The outrage associated with Cecil reflects a shift in values that could be used to mount public support not just for lions, but also for wildlife conservation more generally. “This is a moment,” the researchers write, “not to be squandered, and one which might have the potential to herald a significant shift in society’s interaction with nature.”

Hyenas turn on Big Sam

Change of context, and fast forward to 27th September 2016.  Newly appointed England Manager Sam Allardyce is 67 days in to the job.

Big Sam had previously achieved relative success at less fashionable clubs such as Bolton Wanderers and West Ham Utd, using scientific and creative methods.

Sam had delivered results that exceeded the expectations of most followers – now Sam had landed his dream job. He was the manager of the England Football team – the perennial underperformers.

Then disaster struck. With one victory to his name, and 67 days into his tenure, Sam’s fate was also sealed. As the BBC reported, Sam had made a catastrophic error of judgement:

Sam Allardyce has left his post as England manager by mutual agreement with the Football Association after one match and 67 days in charge.

It follows a newspaper investigation claiming he offered advice on how to “get around” rules on player transfers. Allardyce, 61, is also alleged to have used his role to negotiate a deal worth £400,000 to represent a Far East firm.

Perhaps like Cecil, Sam was an easy target

Sam was the victim of an elaborate journalistic sting where Sam unwittingly compromised his position by ‘speaking off the record’ – suggesting he had knowledge of how FA rules on player ownership could be circumvented. Sam was captured on film using hidden cameras speaking openly of ways to sidestep the FA’s rules and governance. A breach of trust and a betrayal of confidence by Sam in his new employers. In brief summary – a serious error of judgement on Sam’s behalf.

In any senior leadership position there is simply no such thing as ‘off the record’. Communication of any type, with anyone, in any context must be viewed as if it’s going to be broadcast everywhere and anywhere. Sam had been trapped, the game was over – or in his words “entrapment won”.

Ethics and Public Interest

The English press has a history of targeting those who are in the ‘hot seat’ of English football. They may claim they’re just doing their job and operating in the public’s interest – but evidence suggests the press will display dogged tenacity and traits similar to Hyenas in hunting their prey to get their prized story. For them, the England manager is fair game.

Like Cecil, perhaps Sam was an easy target for those who had personal agendas to satisfy. In some ironic way Sam’s demise may promote further reflection and reform within The FA, foster change and deliver some longer term benefit?

The FA’s judgement and risk assessment have been proven to be miles apart in their appointment of Sam in the first instance. Surely this needs to be addressed moving forward?  The FA are the gatekeepers to the global game. They have been seriously embarrassed; the reputation of the English game itself has been tarnished and damaged. The FA need to take steps to prevent the re-occurrence of similar events in the future.

The England Manager is the symbolic leader of English football, and ambassador to the values endorsed by the English Football Association. Uncompromising integrity and verifiable strong leadership must become mandatory criteria for the selection of future England Managers.

Sure the Hyenas eyed their prey, snared Sam and displaced another England Manager. We must now hope that the FA reflect on the situation and adapt, and learn from the experience so that some kind of benefit can be delivered out of a truly sad situation.


Acknowledgement to Tudor and Susan for their valuable thoughts, discussion and contribution.

A visit to Sheffield: City of Steel

October 4, 2016



This week I visited Sheffield, a city that is busy re-inventing itself. As ever, it had some surprises for me. Starting with the brightly coloured elephants outside the rail station

Sheffield lies about forty miles to the east of where I live. Using public transport, it takes me roughly two hours to reach my destination, an indication of the pressure for a Northern transport system fit for the Northern Powerhouse.

The visit might never had happened. I filled in the date of the meeting on the page in my planner (old fashioned kind) as 3rd November not 3rd October. A blunder. Later in the day, I had a little guilty pleasure when I received a note from someone using a new-fangled electronic diary which had managed to invite participants for an event on 11th November which actually should have been for 11th October. Make what you will of that.

Sheffield, city of steel. Also of two fine Universities I am always pleased to visit. Today I was at a brand new-building on the Sheffield Hallam site. New enough for the DBA students to be sheep-dogged into the high-technology meeting room. I adjust to plasma screens on the walls, and the absence of flipcharts. Another fine old piece of communication hardware being consigned to the museum of pre-modern technology.

We discuss the foundations of leadership and management (not my title, and perhaps a little ambitious for a morning of contact time). Decide to start from the student’s interests, connecting them with my favourite foundation texts on leadership and creativity, (not exclusively my own), and management, (exclusively not my own).

Time left to explore the leadership lessons emerging from two current ‘living cases’, The EU Referendum in the UK, and the Presidential Campaign in the USA. What sense might be made of a system which results in two candidates each deeply unpopular not just with the general electorate, but within their own parties? Forget to mention the various posts here in LWD.

Declined what is always a pleasant lunch (get well soon, Murray, your contributions in session and as lunch host were missed). Instead, I tried the fare at the railway station, just past the last of those coloured elephants.

“Any onions in that toastie?” I asked

“Don’t know, love I don’t make them, I only sell them.” The motherly server replied.

On the train home I sat opposite a student studying a course manual on individual and organizational creativity. Discovered he had been learning the same sorts of things which we had been discussing, but on anuther course, elsewhere in the University.

Synchronicity or coincidence? Discuss.

Confusing the elephants

For reasons unknown, my images of elephants came out upside-down. Readers accept apologies if my favourite green one remains inverted while rescue work continues.

Sleepless in September. The debate that kept giving

September 28, 2016


An Insomniac watches the Clinton/Trump debate but fails to gain respite

In the early hours of Tuesday September 27 2016, in down-town Woodford, England, your editor tried to overcome insomnia by watching the Clinton/Trump shoot-out.

It didn’t work. Confused, and more awake than ever, I stumbled to bed at around four am in our time zone (we have built a time wall around our British borders. A beautiful magnifisplendous wall).

The Pinocchio count

Eighty million people watched the debate in America.  Maybe they were looking for enlightenment.  Or entertainment. For me there was more of the latter.  It was cage fighting, with referees monitoring the truth count. One referee marked it as Donald 34 Pinocchios, Hillary 4.

I know the significance attributed to the event by those who were once regarded as experts.  But who knows in this so-called post-truth, experts are dumb, trust me I’m not an expert, world? So I’m just confused.

The Cage Fight

If I hadn’t been told, I would have had trouble figuring out what was happening. A rather gentle and serious referee tried to get a good clean fight, no gouging, hair grappling, no personal abuse. To little avail. The one in red, the neater more clinical fighter sliced and diced her opponent.  The larger fighter was more aggressive, but seem to leave his opponent unscathed as she smiled in a slightly scary way at his flailing efforts.

Some web-based referees marked the fight a technical KO for the fighter in the red corner.  Others had it for the one with the unique grasp of the English language and more creative hair. He also had a near knock out with a move in which he cried “I’ll show you what’s in my lunchbox if you show me what’s on your iPad.”

Fascinating, dramatic, but the millions wanted a knock-out. In that they were disappointed. For me, the fighter in red was closer to what I thought a winner looked and sounded like. But as a complete outsider, what do I know?

Post Post-truth

The Guardian, that well-known unbiased source of news, spoke much sense (i.e. agreed with me), the next day [September 27]:

By traditional standards, the first televised US presidential debate on Monday night produced a clear result. Hillary Clinton’s experience, grasp and temperament proved superior qualities to Donald Trump’s forcefulness, rambling and egotism. Fears that Mrs Clinton’s recent bout of pneumonia would cause her to stumble proved unfounded. Instead, Mr Trump’s sniffing caused more comment on the night. But the question, in this most unpredictable of elections and in a new media world, is how far traditional standards matter any more.

The Guardian Editorial [September 27 2017]