Interdisciplinarity and external partnerships: components of revenue generation and public value in higher education

By Martin Vogel

library

Over recent years, we have developed a focus on supporting academics and managers in universities who are trying to foster greater interdisciplinary working and greater engagement with external partners. This series of blog posts reviews our learning in this area and explores how our counter-consultancy approach is especially suited to resolving challenges that higher education institutions encounter in pursuing interdisciplinary objectives.

Interdisciplinarity and external partnerships are distinct but closely related areas for universities. While disciplines represent communities of practice that transcend the boundaries of any one university, the idea of disciplines also serves as an institutional heuristic that facilitates internal ways of organising. But in their pursuit of research outcomes that deliver tangible value to society, universities are finding that questions that range across disciplinary distinctions are increasingly salient. This is largely driven by the complexity and pace of change of the modern world. Governments and other funders of research are searching for solutions to big global challenges that are best approached through joined-up interdisciplinary enquiries. Funding is increasingly focussed around themes such as demographic change and wellbeing, food security or climate change. External partners too, caught up in this complexity, are bringing research questions that range across disciplinary distinctions.

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Trust is not a message, it’s an outcome: the lesson for leaders from a defector from PR

By Martin Vogel

Trust
Trust is an outcome.

In Trust Me, PR is Dead, Robert Phillips has ostensibly written a book on the bankruptcy of public relations. It’s more interesting, though, as an insider’s guide to the bankruptcy of much corporate leadership – and, more importantly, a cogent call to arms for leadership that can inspire trust. I say “call to arms” since this is not a manual for leaders of the kind that sells at airport bookstands. It’s more a citizens’ manifesto – stirring us from neoliberal slumber so that we may realise our distributed leadership and haul conventional corporate leaders into the service of a fairer form of capitalism. It’s a foretaste of how leadership must surely evolve to meet the challenges of our more transparent, networked society and the expectations of the Millennial generation who will soon inherit the workforce.

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How all organisations tend to the dysfunctional in their own way

By Martin Vogel

Taylorism: not without its ethical claims.
Taylorism: not without its ethical claims.

Book review: A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Organizations by Chris Grey.

A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Organizations by Chris Grey took me back to my roots in sociology. It was a welcome, if disconcerting, journey which made me question whether, even from my critical perspective, I’m too complicit with the orthodoxy of our age.

The book deconstructs the managerialist consensus that construes organisations as being somehow apart from society, and amenable to direction in whatever way managers consider to be “efficient”. Efficiency, in this worldview, turns out to be the right of senior managers/shareholders to optimise the running of the organisation in their own interest. It does not lack an ethical claim. Taylorism, for example, freed factory workers from the tyranny of the gang leader and offered a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. But it led to a perverted extreme by which, to quote one of Grey’s contemporary examples, it can seem rational and legitimate to require machine operators to urinate on the spot in their clothes on the grounds that allowing lavatory breaks is too costly.

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How should executive coaches respond when the role of business in society is contested?

By Martin Vogel

Indignant, in any language.
Indignant, in any language.

I’m looking forward to the APECS symposium on the future for executive coaching on 18th June. As part of a group working on the social and business context for coaching, I’ve submitted a discussion paper. I found it a useful opportunity to pull together the themes I’ve been developing at this blog over the past few years. I’ve been receiving a number of requests to access the paper even ahead of the symposium, so I’m posting it here with the following caveat: my thinking on this is a work in progress rather than my last word. Feedback, critical or otherwise, most welcome.

Anglo-Saxon capitalism is experiencing a shift in the socio-economic paradigm by which we organise ourselves. In the period after the Second World War, a consensus was established around social democracy, with its emphasis on welfare, corporatism and mitigating inequality. As this became dysfunctional, it was replaced by a consensus around free markets, managerialism and shareholder value which, itself, is now being called into question by systemic failure. What replaces it will be contested. It could be a more benign form of capitalism in which organisations accept responsibility for greater stewardship of the public realm or it could be something much closer to fascism or something else again. What role, if any, should coaches play in helping executives both to recognise the shift and to play a role in shaping a constructive outcome?

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From Valoro to Vogel Wakefield

 

Vogel and Wakefield
Vogel and Wakefield, looking up

From today, Valoro becomes Vogel Wakefield, the counter-consultancy. We see this as more than a change of name. We’ve been in business for nearly three years now and we have a much better appreciation than when we started of how we add value for our clients.

When we founded the business, we were spent some considerable time defining our company and our distinctive approach. In retrospect, this was more useful to us as partners than it was to customers. It helped us clarify the common ground that enabled us to work together. But all our clients wanted to know was who we were.

In fact, one executive, demonstrating refreshing plain-speaking, told us the Valoro thing wasn’t making much sense. “You’re Mark and Martin, aren’t you?” he said.

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The limits of leadership

By Martin Vogel

Mandela: too exceptional to be a leadership role model?
Mandela: too exceptional to be a leadership role model?

It may seem perverse in the week that we have commemorated the impact on the world of one man, Nelson Mandela, but I feel the need to cast a sceptical look at our obsession with leadership.

We live in an age which has made a fetish of leaders. As you squeeze into a rush hour Tube train, consider that probably 50 per cent of the people packed around you consider themselves to be on some kind of leadership mission at work. The other half are most likely being harangued by their organisations to step up more forcefully to the leadership plate.

Like the self-help books that offer the promise that you can achieve whatever you dream, the idea of leadership holds out the possibility that there’s no problem in organisations that can’t be resolved by a visionary and driven individual. Yet we’re regaled routinely with stories of mediocrity, organisational failure and leadership shortcomings. Ours is a tired post-industrial culture, in which the complexity of organisations and the myopia of short-term perspectives conspire to frustrate the realisation of visionary outcomes. The veneration of Mandela is testimony to the fact that, as a leadership role model, he was exceptional.

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Co-operative values: missing in action

By Martin Vogel

Spinning in their graves? The Rochdale Pioneers, founders of the Co-operative Movement
Spinning in their graves? The Rochdale Pioneers, founders of the Co-operative Movement

Last week, I ended a 30-year customer relationship with the Co-operative Bank. The move was precipitated initially by financial caution as a gaping hole was revealed in the bank’s balance sheet but cemented by dismay at the catalogue of mismanagement revealed in recent weeks.

While I feel a litte sad as a customer, I’m also discomforted professionally as the collapse of the Co-op Bank raises questions about my advocacy of values-driven leadership. I believe the problems of the self-styled “ethical bank” stem not from an excessively values-driven approach but from a disconnection from its values. But – and here’s the sting – the complacency generated by its intent as an ethical business may have played a role in the bank’s undoing.

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The counter-intuitive way to achieve results

By Martin Vogel

Happily

In a previous article, I discussed how personal development occurs through connecting “the doing self” and “the being self”. Here I’m going to look at some of the interesting things that happen when we bring the being self into the equation. We often think of coaching as concerning the task-focussed, doing self that wants to bring about change. Paying attention to the being self actually disrupts the doing self’s action orientation by creating a pause for reflection.

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Dysfunctional banking cultures: what they need is servant leadership

By Martin Vogel

How do you set right a corporate culture beset with “systematic dishonesty” – as Barclays has been described by its former chief executive, Martin Taylor?

The scandal at Barclays over its rigging of financial markets seems to represent a turning point which will require all banks to take a long, deep look at how the ways in which they operate may contradict the public interest. Were we not already in the worst financial crisis in living memory, the computer failure at RBS – which has prevented customers accessing their money and is still ongoing at Ulster Bank – would count as a monumental banking failure in its own right, evidence itself of the incompetence, negligence and greed that over many years has overwhelmed an ethos of stewardship at the major banks. On top of that, came news last week that the big four banks had committed serious failings in their mis-selling of interest rate hedges to small and medium-sized businesses

Small wonder that the Governor of the Bank of England has described the banks as “shoddy” and “deceitful”. Or that the Director-General of the Institute of Directors has said the banks “should feel deep shame for the damage they have done”.

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The role of business schools in society

By Martin Vogel

business school
Business school lecture: a force for good or harm?

Book review: Confronting Managerialism: How the Business Elite and Their Schools Threw Our Lives Out of Balance by Robert R. Locke and J.-C. Spender

One of the striking characteristics of the debate about the economic crisis is the ease with which the epithet “anti-capitalist” is used to describe even the mildest critique of the status quo. Even David Cameron (a fleeting champion of “moral capitalism”) was at it last week, condemning as “anti-business” people who argue that the bosses of large corporations should restrain themselves from accepting obscene pay awards when the performance of their companies has been poor.

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