“What did you do after your MBA?”

February 2, 2015

MBS 2016

MBA Paul Hinks interviewed by LWD editor Tudor Rickards

LWD Editor Tudor Rickards catches up with MBA graduate Paul Hinks and asks about personal development gains since his costly investment

I suppose a declaration of interest is called for from your editor as interviewer. I have been compiling a collection of LWD blog posts about The Manchester Method, an approach to experiential learning of which I have been a long-time advocate. Furthermore, Paul after his MBA became a regular contributor to LWD, so he may be considered a special case (or maybe a convenience sample of one). I may have asked some leading questions, but Paul’s responses have not been edited to obtain the sort of answers I was hoping for.

The interview took place over the period January 30th-31st 2015.

The Manchester Method

TR: Before getting into the wider issues I want to know if there was much mention of the Manchester Method when you did your MBA? I don’t want to claim more than it really is/was. Assuming you heard of it, was it by Tutors? Marketing? Name names.

PH: Before completing my application for the Manchester MBA I attended an information session held at the Manchester campus. I remember ‘The Manchester Method’ was referenced a number of times during the discussion with an emphasis placed on the practical element of the Manchester MBA ‘learning through doing’. At the welcome meeting to launch the programme ‘The Manchester Method’ was referenced again by the Course Director [Professor Elaine Ferneley].

As I worked through the Manchester MBA I began to appreciate that it was more than just words, or some ‘catch-phrase’. The values and ethos are absolutely ingrained in to the personality of the programme.

Reflecting back the Manchester MBA process can be quite a humbling experience. Sure, there’s the academic material, but the practical elements of the programme provoke some deeper questions. It’s really up to the individual to decide how much they want to explore those personal blind spots. If you are willing to step outside your comfort zone the Manchester MBA provides a safe vehicle to reflect and learn more about yourself.

TR:  It would be interesting if you can illustrate drawing on yourself as part of a ‘living case’. Can you draw on a specific example?

PH: Applying MBA material to unstructured, complex ‘wicked problems’ from the workplace has helped to raise my own profile in my organisation.  Earlier this month I delivered a presentation to our International Leadership Team drawing on material from several different MBA modules. The feedback I received was very positive. I felt the academic lens provided credibility to the message I was aiming to communicate.

One week later I used a slightly revised version to deliver the same message in a company-wide all-employee conference call to United Kingdom and Ireland staff. Again the feedback was positive.

I used material from the Manchester programme to highlight how people have different perspectives of the same situation – how they these offer different solutions based on how they understand and perceive their ‘worlds’. Acknowledging this premise, I worked through an academic framework to explain how I saw the problem – the framework I used enabled me to paint a picture of the situation we were all trying to understand and address. My structure helped me to deliver what you would describe as a platform of understanding.

I was pleased with the outcome. As a project team we now have some clear next steps and confirmation of commitment (I believe) from the corporate leadership internationally.

What sort of learning …?

 TR: As you mention the broader MBA I wonder what sorts of learning and change have taken place in your approach at work? And at home Is ‘leading’ a team of young children connected in any way to this?

PH: It’s worth making special reference to ‘The Reflective Manager’ module run by Mark Winters. I felt the material that Mark delivers really challenges individuals to reflect on their actions, and also to reflect in action – the concepts are powerful. It takes time to digest the deeper messages, but there is so much in this module that echo the sentiments laid out in “The Manchester Method” and ultimately helped me question my own raison d’etre.

TR: Mark’s work is much influenced by Peter Checkland, a pioneer in the use of systems theory applied to action research The   MBA was not a process for you that ended with a piece of paper?

PH: Personal growth has always been important to me – it would certainly have been easier to have taken a more reticent view, and overlook the opportunity to pursue Manchester’s MBA. I believe it’s really down to the individual to take ownership of their personal development – it isn’t the responsibility of the firm, or anyone else – it’s down to the individual.

Working through the Manchester MBA started as something of a personal challenge – the process is tough, but it becomes more familiar. You learn to adapt. I started to take time to reflect and examine my own performance. Was it what I expected? Where could I have done better? I learned more about myself and started to measure my own progress in different ways. My personal priorities changed along the way too. my understanding of what a work life balance means to me. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending time relaxing, or going to the gym more. Sure these are important, but I also found researching and reading more deeply into situations was also of greater interest to me than perhaps I’d previously realized.

The challenge is in how best to apply that learning every day in both the workplace and also with my family life.

Linking theory with practice

TR: You like to explore ideas. I notice you refer to new maps such as distributed leadership. Reading and lectures tend to focus on explicit knowledge. Might the MBS approach encourage learning through linking theory with practice. Nonaka and Teguchi have a tacit-to- explicit ‘map’ of this.

PH: I believe our experiences help shape who we are; I see knowledge as the cornerstone to understanding and making sense of those experiences. Nonaka and Teguchi provide insight into knowledge creation which maps back to the discussion about how best to capture and acquire our tacit knowledge and how we can then attempt to codify this knowledge and make it explicit.

‘Learning through doing’ takes concepts and theory and embeds knowledge and learning through practical application. I believe it’s effective. The process is pragmatic. Delegates apply their learning to case material either as an individual or as part of a group. So you are encouraged to read around the subject and more able to challenge and critique everything, before looking ahead to suggest future outcomes.

Since finishing the MBA, I’ve continued to research and read material. I’ve contributed material to the Leaders We Deserve blog. Recently I blogged about Distributed Leadership as one contemporary lens though which we can explore how social media is effective in bringing desperate groups together. I enjoy the process of applying frameworks to real life scenarios.

Personal change

TR: What sort of personal changes might you be aware of?

PH: I believe The Manchester MBA helps you to think more strategically. It provides you with the confidence and insight to defend your point of view robustly and also to be able to challenge others and perhaps build on initial thoughts and ideas in a constructive way. .

I believe I have become conscious of the traits and characteristics that other see in you – and also where your areas of development remain. Conversely you see the other people’s traits, their strengths, how they can contribute. For the record, I do not see the MBA as some guaranteed ticket to a C-level destination or another level of perceived success. It’s an education that provides you with a credible and powerful toolbox which I believe can significantly help your decision-making.

The Manchester MBA also delivered me with a trusted network of friends and colleagues only an email or phone call away. We think in a similar way, I trust and value their opinion and judgement. They’re good contacts and I know they’ll succeed and do well in their chosen careers.

Social media and technology

TR: I know that you think a lot about the emerging world of social media, technological change and so on. Any comments?

PH: I see opportunities for firms to take advantage of social technologies that are prevalent in our social communities and which leverage those technologies more in the workplace.

I’ve found myself reading around the subject and using the MBA material to explore different perspectives around Social Media – where are the gaps in current thinking? Where are the opportunities for change? Mobile Technology is now mature and ubiquitous, supporting developments into ‘big data’ generation. Data privacy is another contentious issue with potential ethical implications. But the associated commercial opportunities are huge.

Those with the ability to mine big data effectively and efficiently will soon know more about our personal preferences than perhaps we might welcome.

These are exciting times – I believe we’ll reflect on this current technology period and see the exploitation of social and mobile technology as a paradigm shift – in the same that we saw computing power move away from the mainframe in the 1970s and early 1980s to the distributed computing model. There’s huge momentum; it’s compounded by a generation that is growing up this social and mobile technologies as their preferred ways of communicating.

Personal development

TR: Looking ahead, are you thinking of more personal development? What issues interest you?

PH: I see technology as continuing to deliver advantage to firms that understand how best to use it for collaboration, team working, the creation and sharing of knowledge. Technology, Business, Leadership, Sport – these are really my main areas of interest. I remember my Managerial Economics module and the emphasis [Course tutor] Xavier placed on ‘interdependence’ – that there isn’t a binary switch that we can flick to provide a clearly defined path or outcome.

 

TR: Paul, thank you very much. I’m sure you will continue to demonstrate ‘what did you do after your MBA’ as an example of learning through doing.

EDITOR’S NOTES

Image of ‘The New MBS’ is an artist’s impression from 2011. The building work is well underway at the start of 2015.

Paul wrote as an MBS graduate, but we both agreed that the basic principles outlined apply to MBAs more generally. The Manchester Method remains a branded version of the experiential components of MBAs under various titles.

Comments are particularly welcomed for this post.


Deflate Gate: It’s just not cricket?

January 27, 2015

WG GraceIn the run-up to the Superbowl, New England Patriots stand accused of ball tampering. Cricket followers are also all too aware of the catalogue of dastardly tricks to claim a competitive advantage

American Football is shaken to the core by the discovery that match balls during a National Football League Game appeared to have been tampered with.

Shock horror. Accusations are made that The New England Patriots had deliberate deflated the balls. This gives more grip for a star quarterback like Tom Brady to make a winning throw. Cries of Deflate Gate are heard, followed by denials of wrong-doing from Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriot, Coach Belickick and players.

“It’s not Cricket”

On hearing the news, my first thought was the parallel with that most traditional sport of Cricket. Tales of ball-tampering to gain an advantage have periodically outraged the authorities, as bowlers are caught out doctoring the ball. “It’s not Cricket” is a cry which is used in England as a cultural short-hand for cheating in any walk of life. Playing cricket embodies a set of ancient and noble amateur values that are even more fiercely guarded as professionalism invades the sport.

The dilemma

The dilemma might be expressed as this: cheating in professional sport is unacceptable but necessary.

Staying with cricket, I can remember the various ways, some creative some crude, in which the bowler helps the cricket ball to spin, swerve, bounce so as to deceive the batsman. The captain of the England cricket team is regarded as the epitome of fair play, but one struggled once in recent times with accusations that he had led his team into play with a pocketful of dirt to scuff up the ball.

Dishing the dirt

A brilliant report for Hutchinson News [URL not available] starting with the NFL, goes on to dish more dirt on foul play in cricket (‘zipper gate’) rugby union, (‘Wilkigate’), Tennis (‘fluffigate’), and Baseball (‘spittigate’).

Does it matter?

Obviously it matters to those outraged or ostracized by a cheating scandal. And beyond the often pompous and self-righteous outbursts lurkc a cultural truth. Sport embodies ancient values of honestly and fairness that are tested by equally ancient human needs to win at all costs.

Update

In my research, I found the splendid image of W G Grace, an early heroic figure and superstar shown above. Gloucestershire archives tell of his blatant bad sportsmanship which seems to have been condoned.

See also the continued story of the NFL deflategate as Sunday’s Superbowl approaches.


“Cambridge v Cambridge” Obama and Cameron engage in a cyber-game competition

January 24, 2015

Paul Hinks

War GamesPresident Barack Obama and David Cameron’s agreement to conduct a cybersecurity War Game recognises the very real threat from co-ordinated online targeted attacks

In what is being dubbed as a “Cambridge v. Cambridge” hackathon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT, of Cambridge, Mass] will go head to head with the University of Cambridge [of Cambridge, England] in a multi-day cybersecurity hackathon where each team will try to outwit its opponent.

After the Sony cyber-attack

The BBC reported the background to the cyber initiative:

The Cybersecurity war games come in the wake of the recent hacking of Sony Pictures’ computers and the US military’s Central Command’s Twitter feed. This posted comments promoting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The cyber-attack on Sony Pictures led to data being leaked from its computers exposing emails and personal details about staff and its movie stars. The hackers, who called themselves #GOP or Guardians of Peace, also threatened Cinema chains planning to screen Sony’s satirical North Korean comedy. The plot of The Interview involves a bid to assassinate the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

Sony initially cancelled the film’s release after leading US cinema groups said they would not screen it, a move which Mr Obama later described as “a mistake”.

Leaderless Groups and Anonymous

The manner in which online ‘hackers’ collaborate, and distribute their powerbase deserves closer inspection. ‘Anonymous’ is one example of a self-proclaimed ‘leaderless’ group of dispersed individuals labelled as ‘hackers’ for their various well-publicised distributed denial of service attacks.

Anonymous joins the Je Suis Charlie solidarity campaign

Anonymous recently announced that they would target ISIS websites in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack, They’ve already claimed to have had some level of success. The social distribution of multiple leaders does create a powerful and cohesive force – one which can be used for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – attacking those who are perceived to hold alternative values from their own.

Improving cybersecurity

Obama and Cameron’s initiative may well provide new levels of cybersecurity research, testing current best practice while also creating debate and discussion about how best to protect against future online threats. The initiative needs to look beyond the technical aspects of cyber-attacks and also explore the social dynamics of how online distributed Communities operate.

Acknowledgements

Author Paul Hinks is a regular subscriber to LWD. He blogs on technology, innovation, and social media. His post on Apple, CSR and Leadership is regularly the most visited of the year on LWD.

Thanks and welcome also to our new production assistant Conor Glean.


Walgreens Boots Alliance and the Rise and Rise of Stefano Pessina

January 21, 2015

As 2014 drew to a close, the second stage of a merger took place incorporating the American convenience stores group Walgreens with what was originally known as Boots the chemist of England. Boots had already morphed into Boots Alliance at the time of the merger

In the new year [January 15th, 2015] the new company announced its first dividends. The histories of the brands can be found in the excellent website of the new company. It positions itself as a first global-pharmacy led health and well-being company. This strap line may not be pretty but it has a rather ponderous truth reflected in the brands of Walgreen stores of America and the revamped Boots stores in the UK. The stores also hint at shared values and reasonably compatible cultures which could go some way to avoiding the pain that accompanies any merger.

WBA is not a football club

Walgreens Boots Alliance, has the new Nasdaq label WBA. [not to be confused with WBA, aka The Baggies, or West Bromwich Albion, another venerable brand in England, and a midlands- based Football club.] The merger was suggested to have been imposed on Walgreens by impatient shareholder activists.

Winners and Losers

The change had more executive bloodshed on the Walgreen side. Unsurprisingly, the veteran Stefano Pessina of Boots Alliance became the most obvious winner, just as he was when he engineered the Merger of Boots with his own Swiss-based operations earlier . The financing of the deal cost Walgreens five billion dollars plus shares. LWD subscribers will have followed the commercial rise and rise of Stefano Pessina in earlier posts in which I noted:

In the original merger between Boots and Alliance, the new board had a majority of former Boots executives. But the Alliance side was the more profitable, and Stephano brought with him a sizable shareholding and considerable personal wealth. Pessina had enough power to be magnanimous. Mr Baker [a departing Boots executive] may not have had much temptation to stay on when the alternative was a £10 million incentive to leave, with more chances of securing a new leadership role elsewhere.

Leadership lessons

I’m not sure of the leadership lessons here. Perhaps it is that self-made billionaires are not all ego-crazed narcissists. Maybe absolute power is not always accompanied by absolute ruthlessness.

Image

The image was one taken as I was visiting a Walgreens in Buffalo, NY last year. It’s not much to do with the merger, unless you read something into the caption …


Andy Murray v Yuki Bhambri : Cave-man tactics and their limitations in sport and maybe in business

January 19, 2015

Caveman

When a qualifier meets a top seeded tennis player, sometimes caveman tactics result. We review Andy Murray’s march with Yuri Bhambri, and consider the implications of all-out aggression in other sports and in business

The start of the Australian Open, the first major of the season. Somewhat against my better judgment, I get up in the small hours in the UK to see how Andy Murray is doing. His opponent, Yuki Bhambri, is a qualifier and ranked 317 in the world.

1st set

Half an hour into the match. Bhambri’s aggression is impressive. Murray breaks Bhambri’s serve but failed to capitalise, being broken himself, ringing the first set to a tense four games all. Murray then breaks and holds to take the set 6-4.

Both players are making excellent winners, but both are rather prone to unforced errors..

2nd set

Bhambri serves first and holds. A discordant but enthusiastic chant rises up from tee-shirted Murray supporters. In the next game, good defense from the Indian draws errors from Murray, but the Scot’s resolve helps him survive; 1-1.

Bhambri continues with his aggressive style of play and wins service after more winners and errors. Murray replies with a love game bringing it to 2-2. Bhambri is still the aggressor and seems to be benefiting from winning though three rounds of qualifiers Murray breaks, then holds, making it 5-3.

Take out the errors…

Minus a few errors from each game, the quality of the match is more suited to be a second week tie. An edited film would be misleading. The commentators suggest Bhambri is playing like a top fifty player.

Defend Rally Attack

Murray continues to plays rather defensively with flashes of brilliance. I remember the coaching maxim: Defend Rally Attack. Murray too inclined to defend and Rally; Bhambri too inclined to go from defend to attack. This is evident again as Murray moves to 40-15. In returning, the all out attack opens up court, higher risk [one attacking return forces Murray to attack not rally, and he hits winner down the line. Murray wins serve reasonably easily and takes the set.

0nce the pattern is seen, it becomes clearer. Bhambri does not rally enough. I think of chess. All-out attack is the weaker player’s weapon which too often accelerates defeat, although the infrequent wins reinforces the pattern of ‘cave man’ play. [which suggests another idea: the infrequent upsets against seeds more obvious in first rounds, more chances for the cave man play to succeed.

Third set

A good example in first game of third set, when Bhambri grabs an ad point then a net point for him wins game and a break. Murray continues to rally and wait for errors. The pattern for me seems to persist but Bhambri wins and extends lead to 4-1. Murray wins own serve. 4-2. Pattern persists, and Murray breaks back. 4-4 and eventually into tie break.

Prediction for tie break

My prediction is that failure to Defend Rally Attack more dangerous in the tie break Murray goes to 5-2 then 6-2 and 6-3 but two then Murray closes it out as Bahmrhi ballons out a return.

Murray’s verdict

Opponent is a junior world champion, but injury explains his low ranking.

Notes

Caveman chess was a popular term among British chess players to refer to violent attacks often unsound but always unsettling.

Rather than show an image of one ‘caveman’ chess player I had in mind, I choose the image from Wikipedia Commons.

Also thanks to Conor for helping in the editing process.


Tennis bounces into the 21st century. Will Fifa be next?

January 17, 2015

Fast 4 Federer

Tennis has followed cricket by introducing a short format of the game using technology to support it. Football appears to be struggling to do the same

‘It will ruin the game…It will never catch on….’ Listen to the inevitable cries against sporting innovations which have echoed down the ages.

Cricket’s Big Bash

Cricket’s short form is bringing in new audiences to the format of twenty overs per team, with additional rules to permit more control of time, and so better advertising breaks. Technology reduces human errors by umpires. Gambling is promoted as heavily as the cricket. That’s the heady mix given another boost with The Big Bash competition invented in Australia. Brilliant name isn’t it?

Now for tennis, the Fast4 event

Now another Ozzie-inspired sporting innovation in marketing the fast form of tennis. One advertisement for Fast 4 tennis had Federer and Lleyton Hewett bashing tennis balls between to two fast-moving speedboats. Another great marketing image.

Here come the curmudgeons

The innovations bring out the curmudgeonly spirit.

Oliver Brown of The Telegraph was at his most elegant and nostalgic in defense of the slow.

Hitting balls from a speedboat in Sydney Harbour, Federer has been proselytising the message of his friend Lleyton Hewitt’s ‘Fast4’ tennis idea, a format where the first to four wins the set, where deuce games are resolved not by an advantage system but by sudden-death points, and where players are banned from sitting down at a change of ends.

There is much to admire about defenders of tradition. In more optimistic spirit, it might be argued that the new format offer survival chances for cricket which has already moved from timeless test matches to a not very fast five day format. Tennis has abandoned play to a finish five set matches.

Football and Fifa

FIFA is gallantly retaining its traditional administrative format, with Sepp Blatter seeking re-election as President for the fifth time. The forces of modernization are backing young pretenders with creative plans of amber cards and sin bins.

A bookmaker is sponsoring the celebrity footballer David Ginola to stand for election. But will a fighting fund of a few million euros be enough to prevent the long form of the Presidental game being played by the wily Blatter?


Paul McKenna and the search for self-fulfillment

January 12, 2015

Until last week I had never heard of Paul McKenna. Now I have become aware of his claims to help me change my destiny, which seems a bit of an oxymoron

The whole thing about destiny, I used to think, is that it’s what fate has arranged to happen to you, come what may. So I listened up, when I heard somebody called Paul being interviewed on BBC Radio Five who claimed to have cracked the destiny business.

Paul spoke with the authority and conviction of a prophet bringing good news to the previously unenlightened. He wanted listeners to buy his new book, plus assorted multi-media aids to enlightenment.

At first, I wondered if Paul was one of those callers with a bee in his bonnet, and whether the interviewer had allowed him to rant on during an afternoon in which callers were scarce. Then he said there was scientific evidence and research backing up his system of do-it-yourself destiny control. I must find out more about Paul, I thought.

It’s all in the Daily Mail

It was a simple matter to track down Paul. He obligingly mentioned the title of his new book several times during the interview.

I found that Paul had outlined quite a bit of his approach in The Daily Mail just a few weeks earlier.

A few sentences will be enough to indicate what he is about:

Congratulations — today is the day you are going to alter your destiny. In just a few hours, the entire direction of your life will change for the better.

A dramatic claim? Certainly, but with just a little input from you, I know we can make this happen.

It may seem like magic, but it’s actually grounded in some astonishing recent breakthroughs in science, psychology and spirituality.

Cynicism and rejection

A few comments on his article were from those who had begun the few hours of effort and had begun to see their destiny changing.

But as happens with charismatic thought leaders, Paul also faces cynicism and rejection. Quite a few comments were hostile to the point of abuse. But that’s the nature of denial and the right to express views on the social media, isn’t it?

How I overcame my fear of flying

Paul mentioned the influence of his training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I can offer testimony to the effectiveness of applying these principles, although that was quite a few years ago, and I have not caught up on the astonishing breakthroughs Paul mentions.

What works for me is deep breathing. There you have it. A philosophy in a phrase. Deep breathing.

Deep breathing and visualisation

Paul also mentions brain-calming through visualisation. Yes, that works for me too, even that stuff about imagining you are on a sunlit beach. Lesson two. Visualisation.

Paul’s new book is called …

The Daily Mail did not mention the title or publisher of Paul’s book. This puzzling oversight was quickly remedied through a visit to the mighty Amazon. The book is called The 3 Things That Will Change Your Destiny Today !

Paul has also written books about wonderful things to do with gastric bands, and has helped smokers to quit, losers to stop losing, and the poor to become rich.

It works

I quickly found more evidence of how his methods work. A remarkable number of reviews have been submitted to the Amazon site within weeks of publication of The 3 Things That Will Change Your Destiny Today !

There was little of the cynicism of the Daily Mail readers. These Amazonian reviewers had been compelled to write in within days (sometimes hours) of receiving their copy of Paul’s book and tapes to say how they were finding their destiny. They could not restrain themselves from sharing the good news with others.

If that’s not evidence of the powers of Paul’s message, I’d like to know what is.


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