It’s been another varied week for me in academia. One that served to highlight the superpower of reflection, projection (picture thinking, visual thinking or just envisioning) and resulted in a flashback to the launch of the iPad in 2010! [See Steve Jobs at 08:40]
Monday – was all about reflecting on someone else’s research. I was the external examiner for a rigorous PhD thesis which was robustly defended at the viva examination. The subject was small businesses’ capabilities to manage alliances that develop international opportunities and the candidate’s ‘defence’ was excellent. Like all good viva examinations, it left me with a profound feeling that, at that moment in time, the candidate knew more about their subject than anyone else. Difficult to explain but you know it when you see it!
Tuesday – saw the successful start of our Executives in Residence initiative, which brought together a dozen senior executives from a wide range of industries and sectors – including Brian Gregory, Jackie Daniel [STOP PRESS Jackie is Chief Executive at Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust cited in this week’s Economist], Leasil Burrow and Sean McIlveen to name but four. A great opportunity for us to learn from others’ experience and help us develop our executive education and professional development programmes and think through the potential impact of our research. I’m really looking forward to working with this committed group of ambassadors for Lancaster University Management School.
Thursday – was a chance for a little more personal reflection with long-arranged leave which happened to coincide with a beautiful day of autumnal sunshine in the Lake District.
Friday – saw the recognition of months of academic and industry endeavour with a campus visit by Sir Charlie Mayfield (Chair of John Lewis Partnership and Productivity Leadership Group – bethebusiness). Lancaster University Management School has worked hard with Industry to co-develop the Productivity through People programme to help address the productivity dilemma. This programme serves to highlight the ‘anchor institution’ role proposed by Sir Andrew Witty in Encouraging a British Invention Revolution (2013).
The PhD thesis, Executives in Residence and Productivity through People are all about the ability to think big – and that’s the link to the launch of the iPad in 2010. After a decade of Microsoft promoting the concept of a Tablet PC, it was Apple that launched the game changing iPad. But, why was the iPad so successful?
I remember delivering, with a practitioner, a two-day innovation course, in early 2011, to executives of a global electronics company and asking the question, “Will the iPad be successful?” The participants were fairly evenly split. I argued that the two key differences were, iTunes and the App Store. The former provided a popular platform for accessing digital content (music and video) and the latter provided an open platform that supported the innovation and creativity of programmers. And critically both offered a revenue model which rewarded the providers of content and apps. Of course, there might be other explanations.
More interestingly, my thoughts on the iPad in 2011 demonstrate the ability, so prevalent in dyslexics, to swivel between reflecting on the past and projecting into the future. Not a bad ability to have in any organisation!