From Manchester to Moscow: A tale of two visas

June 18, 2018

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“We would like to invite you to Moscow this May, to address our students on creativity and leadership.”
I accept the offer to swap Manchester for Moscow for a week in the late spring as a great deal. The attraction of the assignment fades, as relationships between the two governments cool after the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury. I discover later that even Roman Abramovich is having similar visa problems, but from the opposite direction.

An announcement on the Russian visa website makes the official position clearer:
“As a result of the irresponsible actions of the UK Government, which lead to an expulsion of 23 diplomats of the Russian Embassy, the consular service for applicants has been seriously affected.This leaves us no option but to temporarily limit the number of all visitors. The Embassy is doing its best to reestablish the ordinary workflow.”

Days before the proposed visit, I am seriously considering a fallback position. I find myself muttering that nothing is decided before everything is decided. My fall-back is to walk away. They need my goods more than I need their visa, I argue with myself. Withdrawal means withdrawal.
As in all good dramas, there is a final twist. After two journeys from Manchester to London, and with one last bound, I am free to travel. The visa page in wonderful Cyrillic characters is pasted into my passport. It now offers a conversation point with border guards on my next visit to the land of Trump.
The journey to Moscow is eventful. A fifty minute transfer at Frankfurt proves as impossible as it always seemed, and I arrive at my hotel at 2am.
Later that morning, I blearily discuss my proposed lectures. More like workshops, really, I explain. We will work together collectively to explore a living case of the creative options open to a leader.

With some trepidation, I choose Brexit and its leadership choices as my main theme for discussion at the workshop. To my pleasure, I find that the students are remarkably well-informed about the topic. Without prompting, they quickly home in on the most intractable problem, that of the Irish border. We examine the possibilities such as a technological fix, and even the impossibilities such as a virtual border and abolishing the border completely . I feel I am more engaged in authentic discussion than after all the ersatz debates I have suffered for over a year on Newsnight (bad), Question Time (worse), Peston, (frenzied) and Daily Politics (unspeakable).

I learn a lot about the way a country can take control of its borders. During my visit, I surrender my passport around a dozen times at various checkpoints. The ritual is almost identical. Each page is carefully scrutinised. I am also carefully scrutinised.

Back home, I am not surprised to see that the Government is still persisting in its public assertions of the vital importance of a granite-hard Brexit. I witness the unedifying sight of Jacob Rees-Mogg reading ‘evidence’ from his smartphone (surely a blow against his carefully-crafted victorian undertaker image). He is facing reasoned arguments from a distinguished Cambridge lawyer. “Experts” he sniffs, “I had to listen to nonsense from an expert just last week”.

The Mail continues its hysterical headlines, adding to its list of traitors. This now includes high court judges, unelected peers trousering their daily expenses for blocking the will of the people, communist agitators led by the evil Corbin and the Svengali figure of McDonnell. All are plotting for the downfall of capitalism. I retain a hope that I might also be elevated to that band of brothers and sisters. Maybe by drawing the Mail’s attention to my role as, at best a useful idiot, and at worse a sleeper preparing for my defection to Moscow. Jeremy Corbin consciously or otherwise clings to the Blairite idea that a creative fudge may be possible.
The slightest of contacts over a week in Moscow suggests to me that the young people in the capital there have much in common with those in London and Manchester. There is an openness to change, and a willingness to see beyond platitudes expressed as universal truths.

I live in hope.

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Brexit remains mired in political incompetence

June 6, 2018

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After my recent visit to The State University of Moscow I return to find Brexit still mired in a morass of political incompetence.

Theresa Villiers as Northern Ireland Secretary in the run up to the referendum insisted nothing would change after a Brexit. Nearly two years later, The Government persists in its public assertions of unity over the vital importance of a granite-hard Brexit.

On the Daily Politics programme, I witness the unedifying sight Jacob Rees-Mogg reading ‘evidence’ from his smartphone (surely a blow against his carefully crafted victorian undertaker image) against reasoned arguments from a distinguished Cambridge lawyer. “Experts” he sniffed “I had to listen to nonsense from an expert just last week”.

The Daily Mail continues its hysterical headlines, adding to its list of traitors, which now includes High Court judges, unelected peers trousering their daily expenses for blocking the will of the people, communist agitators led by the evil Corbyn and the Svengali figures of McDonnell.

I retain a hope that I might be elevated to that band of brothers and sisters, maybe by drawing their attention to my role as, at best a useful idiot, and at worse a sleeper preparing for my defection to Moscow.

For what it is worth, I have no valuable insights into ‘the evil empire’ (copyright, America’s last celebrity president Ronald Reagan. Nor have I returned with a message “I have seen the future and it works.” Unless the future I have glimpsed is one in which it becomes widely realised that Brexit as it is being defined is ta fantasy, a Unicorn, an uncreative idea unconnected with any assessment of its feasibility, or if achieved its consequences.


CREATIVITY IN AN AGE OF CHAOS

November 25, 2017

CREATIVITY IN AN AGE OF CHAOS

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


Creative Leadership: From Manchester to Moscow in the new Trump era

November 21, 2016

Donad Trump

A scheduled lecture via Skype from Manchester to students in Moscow took place in the week of Donald Trump’s victory in the election campaign. Here are the lecturer’s notes of the lecture content

Professor Gershman developed the course ‘Managing Creativity and Innovation’ for the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK) within the Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

ISSEK is a well-known research and analytical centre in Russia, specializing in science, technology and innovation studies. ISSEK is collaborating closely with the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (Prof. Ian Miles is the head of ISSEK’s Laboratory of Economics of Innovation, Prof. Luke Georghiou is a member of ISSEK Advisory Board).

Monday 6 November 2016

Introductory remarks:What is creativity. Many theories.

My background: A scientist, chemist, studied worked in UK and New York

Creativity background:

The Creative act that had me fired for insolence. When ‘permission was not granted’.

Definitions are ‘contingent not universal‘.

Consensus has formed around creativity as a process generating new, relevant, useful outcomes.

Creativity and Policy:  Not my strong area: My research has been more at level of individual, team.

Educational policy in USA after ‘Sputnik’: the creative initiative 1957, Dawn of space age.

Guilford’s earlier speech to The American Psychological Association: Was said to have drawn attention to the potential in studies of creativity for educational advances (pedagogy). Torrance tests, also later sent into space with other artefacts

Education policy in Venezuala: via Minister of Education to stimulate creativity through De Bono’s models (lateral thinking) Information processing (Cognitive) model. Escape from fixation via contradictions, randomness, fantasy. His work supported by recent neurological studies.

Creativity theories: Support Kahnman’s biases in economic theory.

The technology hotspots model: Richard Florida’s controversial creative city model. Three factors of Talent, Technology, Tolerance, resulting in economic hot spots

Questions:

Creativity ‘past present and future’ [PowerPoint]

Psychological approaches to creativity in Heath service [PowerPoint]

Questions:


Creative Leadership: From Manchester to Moscow in the new Trump era

November 17, 2016

A scheduled lecture from Manchester to students in Moscow took place in the week of Donald Trump’s victory in the election campaign. Here’s the content of the Skype arrangement

With some trepidation, I accepted an invitation to address an international course on the topic of creativity from my home base in England. The inevitable teething troubles with technology were solved in a somewhat tense day prior to the first of two lecture sessions, which took place [Monday 6 November 2016] a few days before the conclusion of the American Presidential election.

Professor Gershman developed the course ‘Managing Creativity and Innovation’ for the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK) within the Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

ISSEK is a well-known research and analytical centre in Russia, specializing in science, technology and innovation studies. ISSEK is collaborating closely with the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research  (Prof. Ian Miles is the head of ISSEK’s Laboratory of Economics of Innovation, and Prof. Luke Georghiou is a member of ISSEK Advisory Board).

Here are the outline notes I had propped up in front of me, and also visible to the students

Introductory Remarks

What is creativity: Many theories.

My background: A scientist, chemist, studied worked in UK and New York

The Creative act that had me fired for insolence

Definitions: ‘contingent not universal’.

Consensus around creativity as a process generating new, relevant, useful outcomes.

Policy and creativity:

Policy is not my strong area: My research more at level of individual, team

Educational policy in USA after ‘Sputnik’: the creative initiative 1957, Dawn of space age.

Guilford’s earlier speech to The American Psychological Association: Was said to have drawn attention to the potential in studies of creativity for educational advances (pedagogy)

Torrance tests, were later sent into space with other artefacts

Education policy in Venezuala: via Minister of Education to stimulate creativity through De Bono’s models (lateral thinking) Information processing (Cognitive) model. Escape from fixation via contradictions, randomness, fantasy. His work supported by recent neurological studies.

Creativity theories: support Kahnman’s biases in economic theory.

The technology hotspots model: Richard Florida’s controversial creative city model. Three factors of Talent, Technology, Tolerance, resulting in economic hot spots

The USA election: Say it may be worthwhile taking a look at the election for the next session, after the result is known.

Questions:

Creativity ‘past present and future’ [PowerPoint]

Psychological approaches to creativity in Heath service [PowerPoint]

Questions:

To be continued


Face to face in Moscow: Facebook’s founder meets Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

October 2, 2012

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg met Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow to discuss intellectual property issues.

Zuckerberg was beginning his quest for new global markets, as the leader of the newly floated Facebook organization [May 2012]

The Voice of Russia reported:

On Monday [1st October 2012] Dmitry Medvedev and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had an informal meeting at the Prime Minister`s residence outside Moscow.

Since Mr Medvedev has his personal video blog, not to mention accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LiveJournal, his meeting with Zuckerberg, whose social networking site already has over 995 million users, has become a hot topic for the media.

Mr Medvedev was reported as saying

“The social networking sites have become extremely popular worldwide. And Facebook`s contribution to this is obvious. If I am not mistaken, some 10 million Russians are on Facebook. Of course, it is not that much compared to the US, where there are about 30 million Facebook users. Still, these figures are impressive. We also have our national social networking sites such as Odnoklassniki (Classmates) and VKontakte (Staying in touch). Besides, everybody is using Twitter. This is a kind of a different reality. And you personally have contributed to this”

Mr. Medvedev and Mr Zuckerberg discussed copyright protection on the web.

“As a lawyer myself I am very interested in this issue. I used to do research on it in the past. I believe that if an object of intellectual property is not listed on the web as requiring special protection it could be used freely” Mr. Medvedev said.

Friends or not?

When the meeting was over, Mark Zuckerberg presented Dmitry Medvedev with a T-shirt printed with the address of Medvedev`s Facebook page. The Voice of Russia report did not say whether Dmitry and Mark had friended each other, and if so, when.

The IP challenge

The conversation ever-so-politely introduced the challenges of intellectual property rights facing Facebook and other Western organizations as they seek to work globally.

The bonds that tie

It occurred to me that for all the differences in culture, America and Russia have been parts of the world which have seen the rise of self-made entrepreneurs cum billionaires. In that sense Zuckerman has a head start over the more traditional Fortune 100 CEOs in doing business there.

Acknowledgement

Image from biz Russia. IP rights as indicated by Mr. Medvedev