Thinking beyond the narrow

Thinking beyond the narrow

At a leadership conference in Westminster, Michael Barton, chief constable of Durham, commented: “I would give every person in this country a year of national service. But this would be national service with a difference. For 12 months, people would have to become entrepreneurs, use their initiative, solve problems and learn how to fail.”

What Barton, who leads the best-performing constabulary in England, was driving at is the importance of practical intelligence. It was a recognition that while school equips young people with the ability to solve closed problems with clear-cut answers, success in the real world is about dealing with uncertainty, taking risks and having the character to adapt when things go wrong. As Barton put it: “The initiative of the workforce is probably the single greatest asset of any organisation.” It is an insightful comment as boards across the country and asking why new leaders are not breaking through and the challenge is that we need to adapt the way people think.

Some thoughts to consider:

–          The school system today is all geared towards exam results, arguably over teaching life skills and how to be a rounded character. The system is both pressuring the young to achieve the highest grades plus learning in lines rather than the importance of being a full character. The Victorian age promoted team sport to teach character but this has arguably declined too.

–          Success is rarely just about results but about people skills and a breadth of vision. The system arguably is not nurturing these skills. The structure is hindering the development of leadership.

–          Many top experts will note that the best leaders are strong, determined characters but also understand that business is more than just about the product and the company. It is a sum of many parts and leadership is about adapting to the moment. The great England 2003 RWC team were arguably one of the best of how to adapt their game plan to a referee in the heat of the moment.

–          The Saracens team today are European Champions  for a reason. The way they behave and are encouraged to look at life beyond rugby. Brad Barritt started a coffee company after completing an MSc in business management at the University of Hertfordshire and devotes his evenings to nurturing it. Chris Wyles created a brand of “Wolfpack” lager while at the club, which is now available in 50 London pubs. Jim Hamilton has themed restaurants in Fitzrovia and the City. Alex Goode has started a leadership training company while Owen Farrell is about to complete a business degree.

–          The key leaders of Industry do far more and are involved in far more than just their businesses. They contribute to the Industry and Society through a number of channels.

–          70% of emails are often from internal company sources rather than from companies. Is this alone a barrier?

There is a need to think and operate beyond one’s own company.

This sits at the heart of EP’s own agenda. It is rightly argued at times that we strive to do too much. It is true but our belief is that this is a time of change and there is a need to facilitate real debate and discussion; for us to challenge business thinking and understanding. It is both our weakness and strength.  But our belief is that great debate and greater understanding will help lead to better business solutions. People are important in business and the challenge is to free up thinking and to encourage thinking beyond one’s own business.

In the last few months, we have launched “reinvention” which is basically designed to help support executives to think beyond the day to day, to think differently and to explore a wider narrative. We have also launched Think Tanks to help explore ideas and concepts from the broader market.

Come and join the debate

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