Red Glory. Manchester United and Me, by Martin Edwards

February 7, 2018

Red Glory. Manchester United and Me, by Martin Edwards

Book Review

I learned about this autobiographic story late last year  through an event organised through Simply Books of Bramhall. For personal reasons, I went along to meet the author. It had been nearly thirty years since we had last met. We had both attended a dinner at Manchester Business School. The main guest of the evening was Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister who was a life-long Huddersfield Town supporter. We both vaguely remembered the event.
In Red Glory, Martin Edwards writes as a former chairman of Manchester United Football Club over the golden period of the club’s sporting success. As Peter Schmeichel put it in his foreword to the book, it was the period when United ‘became the biggest and best club on the planet’.
The book covers ground much of which will be familiar to MUFC fans, as legendary in this footballing city. I already knew how Matt Busby escaped death in the Munich air disaster to go on and rebuild the broken team. But nuggets in the book are new. I did not know, for example, that Sir Matt was later granted rights to what became the famed Superstore at Old Trafford. Edward estimates Busby’s assets from these arrangements amounted to a hundred million pounds market value by 1998.

One anecdote describes the negotiation between the young Chairman of Manchester United and the chairman of Leeds United. The style was firm, but not blustering. Schmeichel confirms it matches Edwards’ typical approach to dealing with negotiations.  I like it as a counter illustration to the mythology of deal-making according to Donald Trump.

Without doubt, the book will appeal to fans and historians of Manchester United Football Club. I have no hesitation in recommending it to students of football for insights into how a seriously competent leader thanks and acts, written in such a readable fashion.

Acknowledgement: To Simply Books, for organising the book-signing event, and providing the image. [Your Editor is the somewhat shorter figure on the left.]



November 25, 2017


Creativity has often been associated with chaos and disruption. In this respect, Schumpeter’s economics of creative destruction comes to mind. His insights have influenced much of the work on innovation theory for economists.
But we can go back in history to find creativity as a disruptive force. In the philosophy of Plato, we are warned of the dangers to stability of the state, or republic, in the creative work of the poet. Plato, of course, always requires careful treatment. He intends us to work out for ourselves the ideas he is interested in.
The American creativity scholar Stein traced the origins of the adjective ‘Creative’ in a different way. The creative artist, he suggests attempts to imitate the features of the natural world as they were created by the first creator. We might chose to see in this an echo of Plato, again, with his idea of human perception being a poor distorted reflection of reality.
I want to explore the inter-relationships between creativity, innovation, and change, with particular emphasis on contemporary events in business and society. The post is based on a presentation to ISSEK from Manchester to Moscow, November 2017
In part my presentation draws on studies by myself and colleagues over nearly forty years at The Manchester Business School, (now renamed The University of Manchester Alliance Business School). Over that period, research into the nature of creativity has flourished with journals and international networks bringing together scholars and professionals. Yet many unresolved issues remain, which I consider as challenges, or dilemmas to be addressed.
One widely accepted view today comes from Teresa Amabile, one of the giants of the field, and is found  in the title of her book, Creativity in Context.
Creativity reveals itself when considered in its social context. Amabile’s  ‘Creativity in context’ is a good ‘lens’. It encourages us to look for the uniqueness of each example of creativity, as well as seeking its connectedness with other examples.
Rickards’ rules for understanding creativity
In an hour of gentle grilling recently in Buffalo, New York, by Professor Gerard Puccio about my views on creativity, I suspect I had not got further than a modification of  Warren Buffett’s famous laws of finance:
Rickards Rule no 1: There are many ways of understanding creativity
Rickards Rule no 2: never forget Rule no 1.
The age of chaos
The contemporary era has its own particular brand of chaos. If we are to make some temporary sense of it, we need to be constantly reviewing and revising our understanding. The information, though still partial and filtered, (as Plato taught us) is more widely available than ever before. So our individual challenge is to make sense of the ‘maps’ we come across, and from them create our own interpretations.
The workshops at Manchester Business School were designed to provide opportunities for   ‘Learning through doing’ using contemporary cases.  Over the years, I have found this a skill which can be developed with practice.
I believe creativity will become recognized as core to effectiveness in an age of chaos.

Creativity and Leadership Moscow 2017

University suffers from attack by smart lampposts

February 21, 2017

Overwhelmed with news

On April 1st , I would have shrugged off this story as fake news. Maybe even today.  I was already suspicious after a week when accusations of the crookedness of media stories rained down on me, not least from the new POTUS

The crooked lampposts

I came across a fascinating story about how hackers turned lampposts into smart points of attack. The (unnamed) university found itself obeying its own computer system in accepting requests to re-fill its vending machines due to unprecedented demand for sea-food products.

This is yet another scare story about the malign consequences of The Internet of Things.


Poorly secured internet of things (IoT) devices have become gold mines for hackers looking to launch DDoS attacks to take websites and services offline. But this latest case, detailed in Verizon’s Data Breach Digest 2017, is the rare example of gadgets attacking their own network.

The devices were making hundreds of Domain Name Service (DNS) lookups every 15 minutes, causing the university’s network connectivity to become unbearably slow or even inaccessible.

The firewall analysis identified over 5,000 discrete systems making hundreds of DNS lookups every 15 minutes. Of these, nearly all systems were found to be living on the segment of the network dedicated to the IoT infrastructure.

With a massive campus to monitor and manage, everything from light bulbs to vending machines had been connected to the network for ease of management and improved efficiencies. While these IoT systems were supposed to be isolated from the rest of the network, it was clear that they were all configured to use DNS servers in a different subnet.

Luckily for the guys at the university, there was no need to replace “every soda machine and lamp post”.

To solve the massive hack, the university intercepted a clear-text malware password for a compromised IoT device and then used “that information to perform a password change before the next malware update”.

Overall, it doesn’t look like this problem is going away anytime soon. There are more than 6 billion IoT devices currently running, according to Gartner Research. That number could reach more than 20 billion by 2020.



To Susan Moger at Alliance Manchester Business School for encouraging my interest in The Internet of Things and alerting me to the BBC article.

To go more deeply

A top-level conference on the Internet of things is to be held in London this April. Don’t miss a chance to protect your organisation from attacks from very smart lampposts.


Boots as we still think of it is no more

April 21, 2016

Boots, one of the UK’s venerable and iconic companies, has been the subject of two takeovers since 2007. The company appears to have retained public perceptions of its brand on the high street. Recent allegations against the parent company, Walgreens Boots Alliance, may be threatening its corporate reputation

The breaking story in the US concerns subpoenas concerning the corporate relationship between Walgreens Boots Alliance and a blood-testing company Theranos.

In the UK, the news focus is quite different. The Guardian broke the results from an investigation of mis-use of government funds by the Boots pharmacy operations:

Managers at Britain’s biggest pharmacy chain were found to be directing their chemists to provide medicine-use reviews (MUR) to customers who didn’t need them, in order to claim public money from the NHS (National Health Service) which pays £28 for each MUR, which is carried out by a pharmacist and intended to give patients professional advice on health, diet and how best to manage their medicines.

The Guardian has also seen a recent unpublished survey by the trade union, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), to which more than 600 Boots chemists – more than one in 10 of the entire company’s pharmacists ­– responded. Asked “how often do you believe financial cutbacks imposed by your main employer have directly impacted upon patient safety”, over 75% of Boots chemists said that was true “around half” or more of the time. A number volunteered complaints about being “pressurised into conducting MURs whether or not patients are eligible to receive the service” and “Boots keeps asking me for more MURs”.

As subscribers to LWD will know, we have followed the fortunes of the iconic company over two takeovers in the last decade.

The first takeover (2007)

The first takeover in 2007 was seen as a bloodless coup:

Cherished British Drug company Boots merges with European partner, whose wealthy owner, Stefano Pessina, becomes deputy chairman in the new company, Alliance Boots.

The amicable arrangement suggested that in any leadership transition, Mr Pessina would be a cuckoo in the nest. In short order, chairman Sir Nigel Rudd resigned. further friendly discussions were followed by a takeover by private equity firm KKR. The move was presented openly as a vehicle which would install Pessina as its main driver.

KKR and Stefano Pessina had made it known that they wanted to keep the top team intact. But for all the continuing expressions of good will, the inevitable was to happen.

Thursday July 12th 2007, Richard Baker decided to accept a severance deal that would be worth some £10 million. It seems as if they made an offer for him to stay, or decline with honour

The second takeover (2014)

The second takeover is far from complete. This time it is with the mammoth American firm Walgreens, and was initiated in 2014


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.

The change had more executive bloodshed on the Walgreen side. The veteran Stefano Pessina of Boots Alliance again 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.

National and International Issues

In the UK, liberal regulations encourage international takeovers, where investment and efficiency gains are prized until collateral damage to employees becomes contentious.

Only then is the rhetoric of corporate social responsibility really tested.

The case of Tata steel is still rumbling on. The Indian conglomerate Tata, hailed as a saviour of the aging British Steel Industry, announced closure of its UK operations. Tataa became the scapegoat for closures resulting from the global over-production of steel.

So far, ‘Boots the chemist’ has retained its positive image in the eyes of the public, long after Boots as a corporate identity exists as little more than a convenient product brand.  (Compare the national standing of Cadburys, another mythical beast masquerading as a much-loved national manufacturer of chocolate goodies).


I still think ‘Boots’ not ‘Alliance Boots’, just as I think ‘Manchester Business School’, when the new name is the ‘Alliance Manchester Business School’.

Ideas and cultures hang around a lot longer than brinks and mortar.