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


Alibaba’s Jack Ma goes down the Bill Gates charitable route

May 5, 2014

Alibaba’s Jack Ma and the company’s co-founder Joseph Tsai are following the path taken by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in creating a philanthropic trust.

An article entitled China’s Carnegie in The Economist, [May 3rd, 2014. P12] outlined this further example of creative capitalism.

The article traces the philanthropic ‘conversion’ of business pioneers and wealth generators from the days of Andrew Carnegie to today’s Jack Ma who has recently [April 2014] announced the formation of a $3 billion trust.

A cynical view of giving

The Economist is suspicious of altruism if a self-interested explanation comes to hand. It tests the ethical orientation of Ma’s actions and implicitly those of Bill Gates by suggesting that a cynical view that might be ‘straight out of a Silicon Valley public relations play-book ahead of Alibaba’s expected public offering this year which could value the company at $150 billion.’ Regardless of such imputed motivation, the initiative could add impetus to China’s efforts at environmental sustainability.

The Gates Foundation

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have been leaders in a movement for the wealthiest capitalists to pledge sizable proportions of their assets for charitable purposes. The Gates foundation is admirably led by Biil and Melinda Gates.

From Silicon Valley to Shanghai

The movement has spread into other parts of the world including India. Jack Ma is overcoming reluctance of the wealthiest Chinese entrepreneurs to reveal their wealth as the country develops its new mixed socialist/capitalist political economy.

Three interesting facts about IBM today

November 15, 2011

Three interesting facts about IBM. It has shifted away from reliance on marketing computers. It has appointed a female insider as leader. And Warren Buffett has invested heavily in the oldest of technological giants.

Although this is a story about IBM, it is also one about Warren Buffett, pictured here, arguably a very atypical business leader. (Maybe there is no ‘typical’ business leader, but that’s a digression).

Decline of the heroic leader

The decline in news stories about successful leaders has been noticeable since the heady days when I began collecting them for LWD some five years ago. Even the BBC has spotted the trend, identifying recent research which adds to suspicions of the hero-worship approach to studying CEOs.

That old war horse rides again

So it give me some pleasure to mention that old war-horse Warren Buffet, and IBM a company once lauded as the world’s biggest technological giant and now re-inventing itself as a software house. Buffett, who bought a railroad in his biggest acquisition, turned to a century-old technology company in the third quarter to help guard his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. against economic slumps.

Business Week outlines the developing story [15th Nov 2011]:

Buffett has [recently] spent more than $10 billion buying International Business Machines Corp. stock, his biggest investment in the period. The stake gives Berkshire 5.5 per cent of a company that has moved from competition with Apple and Dell to focus on providing business clients with software and services. IBM sold its personal-computer business in 2005 and has beaten the Dow Jones Industrial Average each year since.

Buffett, 81, [An ‘ageist ’ comment? But I would have mentioned it, too… ED, LWD] has built Berkshire to withstand recessions and market declines by seeking firms with lasting competitive advantages, or what he calls “moats.”

Buffet bucks leadership fashion

One endearing aspect of Warren Buffett stories is the manner in which he avoids fashion in his investment decisions and in his leadership style. It is hard to fit him into the mould of the corporate CEO identified with a great vision. His charisma is that of reputation rather than idealised influence.

Warren as a thought leader

It is easier to see him as a thought leader rather than a transformational figure. His company goes on succeeding as safe rather than innovative. His reputation is as a safe pair of hands, which places him in the category of ‘manager not leader’ according to one way of distinguishing between the two labels.

IBM’s revival

He has now become interested in IBM which has long passed through the stage of being labelled a technological innovator. It grows its own leaders internally, risking remaining within its famed IBM culture while failing to bring in the brightest charismatics that money can buy…

On the other hand

On the other hand, IBM is about to appoint as leader one of the few females in Corporate America’s boardrooms. Insider Virginia Rometty will take over from her mentor Sam Palmisano in January 2012. In an earlier post LWD covered her appointment


The image of Warren Buffett above is from Reg Trembley’s insightful blog The Director’s Cut.