Cameron is “Napoleonic” ?

July 30, 2010

David Cameron is labelled “Napoleonic” by a former political opponent who later joined his coalition Government. But the term was used to convey the strengths and weaknesses of the great General’s leadership style

Nick Robinson of the BBC [JUly 29th 2010] tells of conversations he had in the run-up to the General Election [May 8th 2010]. David Cameron, he was told, was the only leader in European politics who could be described as “Napoleonic”. Robinson interpreted this to mean he was the only leader who could successfully make policy decisions confidentially and unilaterally.

Neil Sherlock, an adviser to this and many previous Lib Dem leaders, rang to remind me of what the Tory leader had said in a Radio 4 documentary I had made about Disraeli. Cameron had praised Dizzy for outmanoeuvring Gladstone on the issue of political reform and quoted a historian who said that the former Tory PM had “taken a leap in the dark and then leapt again”. Neil’s view was that anyone who could appreciate Disraeli’s bold risk-taking was capable of replicating it. Chris Huhne told me and his party that Cameron was the only Napoleonic leader left in Europe. In other words, whatever the Tory leader said became Tory policy. Both were proved right.

It is tempting to push the analogy a little further. A Napoleonic leader might be expected to

charm would-be opponents into becoming faithful followers

make bold unexpected tactical moves which enhance his reputation

make bold strategic moves which risk his entire venture, and

acquire “nodding donkeys” around him rather than colleagues who influence his plans

This week the Prime Minister has been particularly Napoleonic. He has been accused of media blunders and political naivity. In America he stated that Britain had been a minor partner to the US in 1040, at a time when America had not entered the war (regardless of Hollywood interpretations which suggest otherwise). In India he remarks which were seen as ill-judged regarding Pakistan’s dealings with terrorism. Napoleonic, but are they bold tactical moves or evidence of a dangerous stategy?


Now its the Michigan oil spill. Will the President’s sleep be disturbed?

July 28, 2010


A leak of 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo river causes a public health scare. Will President Obama react in a re-run of his BP Oil-spill anger?

According to press reports

Crews were working Tuesday [27th July 2010] to contain and clean up more than 800,000 gallons of oil that poured into a creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan, coating wildlife. Battle Creek and Emmett Township authorities warned residents about the strong odor from the oil, which leaked Monday from a pipeline that carries about eight million gallons of oil a day from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. The pipeline company, Enbridge Energy Partners, said the oil spilled into Talmadge Creek. As of Tuesday afternoon, oil was reported in about 16 miles of the Kalamazoo River downstream of the spill. Representative Mark Schauer, Democrat of Michigan, called the spill a “public health crisis,” and said he planned to hold hearings to examine the response. The spill’s cause is under investigation.

Public sensitivity to the words oil and spill in the same sentence runs high. The story almost writes itself. President Obama will have to show his awareness and empathy to those affected. The story broke within 24 hours of Tony Hayward being removed as CEO of BP after the Gulf Oil-Spill disaster. It will be interesting to see how the CEO of Enbridge Energy Partners reacts to the Kalamazoo spillage. And will his fate be influenced by the events thousands of miles down-stream?


BP’s Hayward goes: How we get the leaders we deserve

July 26, 2010

Tony Hayward, BP’s CEO has been dubbed the most hated Businessman in America in the wake of the Oil Spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. His removal was inevitable. But does it make much sense, beyond being a symbolic gesture of a leader falling on his sword?

There is little surprise in the news that Tony Hayward is to be removed as CEO of BP. The BBC’s Robert Peston among others felt that Hayward’s days were numbered from the earliest days of the Deepwater Horizon fatalities. Peston reveals that the BP board had decided that its future would require a new CEO:

Directors also felt that the sacrifice of Hayward should not happen until serious progress had been made on staunching the oil leak and until it was possible to quantify the financial cost of fixing the hole, providing compensation and paying fines. In the last couple of weeks, there has been such progress. And if the moment has more-or-less arrived for BP to start building a post-Macondo future, then it also needs a new public face, a new leader.

The most significant charge appears to be his ‘PR gaffes’.

The demonization of Hayward

Since the Oil-Spill a storm of adverse publicity has been sustained against him. President Obama joined in with remarks in a television interview that Mr Hayward “wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements”.

Mr Hayward has been demonised as being responsible for the world’s worst environmental disaster – and, let’s not forget, for the deaths of 11 men in the rig explosion that preceded it. Critics argue that, as the man in charge, it is Mr Hayward’s job to take the heat. Nor has he helped his cause with some misguided remarks about wanting his life back and optimistic comments about the clean-up operation. Other public relations own-goals included his refusal to answer questions put to him by a Congressional subcommittee and his decision to participate in a JP Morgan yacht race around the Isle of Wight. END

Leaders we deserve has followed this story closely. The background to Dr Hayward’s appointment in 2007 suggested that he had demonstrated top leadership potential, and had been selected for one of the most challenging of CEO positions with any global organization.

Growing stale in the saddle

CEO tenure remains a complex area for study. Danny Miller’s work is much quoted. He suggests although CEOs may ‘grow stale in the saddle’ that for many organizations, a change of CEO is most likely to take place only as a consequence of catastrophic performance. By generally accepted organizational criteria, Tony Hayward had appeared to making a good start in his job at BP. He declared intentions were to address issues to deal with unsatisfactory operational practices. But should he have been able to put enough changes in place to have prevented the specific errors that contributed to the catastrophe which led to the deaths of eleven people, and environmental disaster

What makes a good leader? How heroes become zeroes

Research into leadership has moved away from universalistic theories. We have stopped looking for presence or absence of a set of properties which differentiate a good leader from a bad one. Even success or failure of itself is insufficient to reveal a simple answer, because all leaders deal with uncertainties and make judgment calls.

In times of crisis, orchestrated anger against a leader builds up. His statements are analysed as evidence of his or her callousness, stupidity, duplicity. The symbolic significance of speech-acts are just as important as physical actions. Sound-bites become replicated in headlines and become elements within a dramatic narrative.

Psycho-analytical models of human behaviour suggest that social groups seek ways of dealing with fear and uncertainty which address inner phobias rather than practical means of overcoming unpleasant circumstances. Under stress and distress group members react as if a leader has betrayed them. According to one text-book such reactions draw on a basic assumption of dependency: a world in which

“The leader is the all-providing and all-knowing saviour who may also become another hate figure”

Lessons to be learned

Under such circumstances it becomes a social imperative to change the leader we have to the leader we deserve. There are lessons to be learned here, about leaders, dilemmas of leadership, and the social processes which result in complex issues being reduced to a leader’s incompetence.


Big Society and Transformational Leadership

July 21, 2010

In the UK, one of the big ideas of the new coalition government is that of Big Society. This concept favoured by Prime Minister David Cameron can be tested against the principles of transformational leadership, originally attributed to President Kennedy

In a launch speech in Liverpool this week, [July 2010] The Prime Minister was reported by The Guardian as saying that Big Society was

“..about liberation, the biggest, most dramatic redistribution of power from [Government] elites to the man and woman on the street. This is a powerful idea for blindingly obvious reasons. Micro-management just doesn’t work. It has turned able, capable, individuals into passive recipients of state help with little hope for a better future. It has turned lively communities into dull, soulless clones of one another. So we need to turn government completely on its head.”

Liverpool, Windsor and Maidenhead, the Eden valley in Cumbria, and Sutton in London would be in the vanguard, getting help to set up local projects, ranging from transport to improved broadband provision. Cameron said these places would be big society’s training grounds. Proposed initiatives include relocating community centres, building renewable energy projects, community buyout of pubs, spreading broadband access, giving the public more say over local spending decisions including parks budgets, and further powers to parish councils; increased volunteering at museums, developing neighbourhood media and digital content; working on sustainable transport services, developing youth projects, and creating “green living” champions.

The three strands of the big society agenda include social action (for which the government had to foster a culture of voluntarism and philanthropy); public service reform eliminating centralised bureaucracy “that wastes money and undermines morale” – and community empowerment, “creating communities with oomph”, the neighbourhoods being “in charge of their own destiny”.

Reactions to the Speech

Reactions to the speech were mostly predictable. Political opponents reacted not to the idea but its implementation.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell called Mr Cameron’s speech “a brass-necked rebranding of programmes already put in place by a Labour government. We welcome the [Government’s} decision to continue our work in partnership with local communities, but these projects are dependant on funding and resources being put in place. It is therefore highly unlikely that civil society will become ‘bigger’ due to the large public spending cuts that are being put forward by this government.”

Norman Smith, Chief political correspondent, BBC Radio 4 noted that

The ‘big society’ is David Cameron’s Big Idea. His aides say it is about empowering communities, redistributing power and fostering a culture of volunteerism. Perhaps it is no wonder that Tory candidates during the general election found it difficult to sell the idea to voters. So why is David Cameron returning to this theme?

In part because he does view it as his answer to Big Government – but there are also more basic political motives. First, it’s about providing a different agenda to the day by day litany of cuts, cuts and more cuts. Second, it is – as his aide Eric Pickles has acknowledged about saving money. If people are doing things for free then you don’t have to pay public servants to do them for you. So beneath the grand-sounding philosophy there is hard-nosed, practical politics behind the ‘big society’ message.

Leadership Theory

One of the so-called new leadership theories of the 1980s was that of transformational leadership. This developed from studies of leaders such as John Kennedy. Such leaders who were often but not necessarily charismatic, were able to transform society by transforming the individuals within society to aspire to less selfish ends.

The theory has an appeal to idealists of all political colors. It was associated with vision and idealized influence. Although retaining its popularity on leadership courses, it also attracted critics who felt that it retained too much of earlier charismatic principles which seemed to require the intervention of ‘The Great Man’ to achieve desired social uplift. This suggests a leadership dilemma: transformation in this way is believed to require empowering, but the agent of empowering is the highly empowered and charismatic leader. Students of leadership may find it instructive to examine the big society proposal as a map for transformational change, and test it against such theoretical dilemmas.


BP Oil-Spill Battle Update July 2010

July 19, 2010

As the BP Oil-Spill story unfolds, Leaders we Deserve analyses and updates the leadership stories emerging in the last weeks of July. The notes are provided for students of business and leadership.

Friday July July 30 Up-date discontinued as month and the well-capping story draw to an end. First accounts emerging of blatant exaggeration of the environmental consequences of spill.

Tuesday July 27th. Tony Hayward goes. Weather conditions improving. BP says it has been given permission to prepare for a “static kill” – pumping mud into the top of the well through the new cap – a step viewed as an intermediate measure. The firm would then need final approval from the US to carry it out.

Earlier Posts:

Monday 19th July

Overnight came news from Reuters. The U.S. government released a letter to BP Chief Managing Director Bob Dudley from retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen that referred to an unspecified type of seepage near the mile-deep (1.6 km-deep) well along with “undetermined anomalies at the well head…I direct you to provide me a written procedure for opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed,” Allen wrote. His concern was backed up with chilling evidence from the sea-bed.

Latest developments

Publically-available information reveals more enthusiasm for opening the restraining choke-valve by the Admiral than by the BP leadership. We have here a typical situation in which leaders have to take decisions in the absence of all the information they would like to have.

BP and the US Government would both like to minimise the damage to the environment. Where they differ is concerns for damage to BP’s future , the importance of being seen to be doing the right things for important stakeholders, avoiding possible criticisms of ‘doing the wrong things, not acting decisively enough and so on.

BP prefer to leave the well capped. US Govenment sources may agree to some degree but also feel the need to avoid risks of being accused of tardiness, and of weak leadership.

In a further Reuter’s press release, we learn:

Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said the company now hopes to keep the damaged well shut until the relief well is completed in August and the leak is sealed off with heavy drilling mud and cement. “We’re hopeful that if the encouraging signs continue that we’ll be able to continue the integrity test all the way to the point that we get the well killed,” he told reporters before Allen issued his statement. “Clearly we don’t want to reanimate flow into the Gulf if we don’t have to.” Suttles’ statement could indicate diverging viewpoints between BP and the U.S. government on plans for the well integrity test. It prompted Allen who will ultimately make the final call on the test to issue a statement that “nothing had changed” in the joint plan going forward.

There is apparent willingness from the US side to permit a further highly visible oil-spill in to the environment to protect against a possible hidden leakage in the future. BP, without such influence, would favor treating the capping as a stage reached, and from which attention can be focussed on the more permanent plans of sealing off the well completely.

Tuesday July 20th 2010

The broad story remains uncertainties over the capping procedure. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-10692360. Seepages on the sea floor have been detected near the leaking Gulf of Mexico oil. But Thad Allen, now named as the government’s incident commander suggests they may be unrelated to the oil-spill, or even to the entire drilling operation. The BBC report provides figures for the low pressure at the well-head. The pressure inside the cap is currently at nearly 7,000 pounds per square inch and rising at 1 psi per hour, while the expected reading was 8,000-9,000 psi.

Two side-issues

[1] Drilling of one of the two relief wells has been ‘temporarily suspended’, some 2000 feet above its target at the base of the original well.

[2] Estimates of another kind suggest that the big leakage will be into the bank accounts of the lawyers who will be gainfully employed for years

Thursday 22nd July

Cap remains in place. Weather forecasts suggest bad weather may disrupt plans of progress. There is a 50% chance that a weather pattern currently over the island of Hispaniola will turn into a cyclone by Friday, the National Hurricane Center says. It is currently moving west-northwest.

Friday 23rd July

Weather pattern firms up and heads for the Gulf. Possibility of delays to plans ‘a judgement call’ Allen says

Saturday July 24st 2010 Weather conditions worsen. Ships withdraw from the area, and the entire operation may be left unmanned for up to 48 hours. ‘Hurricane Bonnie’ seems to be making a beeline for the area (do Hurricanes travel in beelines?). Little more news overnight [7am GMT]


Can we learn much from Brian Clough’s leadership style?

July 18, 2010

My leadership students this week chose Invictus as a book or film worth studying. Would they have voted for Brian Clough, if they had seen The Damned United, screened by the BBC this week-end?

A case can be made for studying leadership in its widest variety of forms, including the actions of dictators as well as saints. Can we learn more from studying Nelson Mandela, or Mother Teresa or Ghandi than from studying Hitler, or Stalin. And what about sporting leaders such as Brian Clough?

The Damned United, [released March 18th, 2009], concentrates on one of Clough’s few managerial failures, who after less than two months managing Leeds United Football Club, was fired for a combination of bad results and an abrasive style which extended to the club’s board of directors.

It was rescreened by the BBC [10.30pm, BBC2, Sunday July 18th, 2010].

Brian Clough is fondly regarded nowadays, not because he was ahead of his time but because he was very much of it, despite upsetting football’s authoritarian old guard with his cocky contempt for them. He would never have got away with his genius in today’s world of agents and multimillionaire egos. With copious footage, this documentary traces his rise from a dazzling young centre-forward scythed down in his prime, turned brilliant, self-assured manager, to the ruddy-faced figure he cut in his sad decline.

When the film was first released, Prof Szymanski of CASS Business School told the BBC “It was socialism if you like …You do see this idea in business sometimes. The focus was on the needs of his players. These were his frontline staff – they’re the ones under the pressure, they’re the ones who deliver, so you need to meet their needs whatever it takes. …[however] he was a very overbearing employer, incredibly paternalistic – like Stalin and just as frightening.”

Clough himself never over-analyzed his management technique.
“They tell me people have always wondered how I did it” he once said. I’m told my fellow professionals and public alike have been fascinated and puzzled and intrigued by the Clough managerial methods and technique and would love to know my secret. I’ve got news for them – so would I”

Would Clough make a good business leader? In one of his teasing philosophical dialogues, Plato has Socrates ask a similar question: ‘would a military leader be a good director of a theatrical chorus?’ But in Plato’s account, Socrates was too cute to suggest that there was a simple answer to that question.

Acknowledgement

Image from The Tactician


BP Oil Spill: Encouraging signs of more collaborative leadership

July 15, 2010

As BP prepares its crucial tests of the capping procedure, there are signs of a more participative leadership style between BP and the US government authorities

Reports [July 15th, 2010] suggest a less combative stance is being taken by the US government representatives dealing with the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although great technical problems and dangers surround their efforts, the collaboration is a welcome sign that rhetoric is taking a second place to problem-solving. This is at odds with other news that BP faces a ban on deep-water exploration in American costal waters. In this post we examine the more positive story.

Scenario planning

“Upon completion of the tests, the federal government will possess valuable data regarding both the condition of the well – important when action is taken to ultimately kill the well with the relief well efforts – as well as an understanding of our capacity to shut the well in for brief periods if needed to prepare for a hurricane,” the White House said in a statement.

This suggests encouraging efforts at serious worse-case scenario work going on by US officials and BP technical executives.

According to the BBC

According to the BBC, Admiral Thad Allen reported that: “When BP is ready, we will start to increase the pressure in the capping stack”

During the test process, BP will monitor the pressure of the oil in the well. High pressure will mean the oil has been contained inside the wellhead. But if the tests show there is low pressure, this may indicate that oil is leaking elsewhere in the well. BP officials said that if the pressure proved to be low, the cap would not be kept shut and ships on the surface of the Gulf would continue collecting oil. BP has temporarily suspended work on drilling its two relief wells – which offer the only prospect of permanently plugging the leaking well – because of the planned test.

The steps in the testing are reported as

1. The middle ram regulating the oil flow out of the big valve on the top of the new cap is closed
2. The kill valve is closed off
3. The choke is closed; this takes a couple of hours and once it starts the pressure test can be said to have begun
4. Once the well is shut in, BP and government experts will assess progress every six hours
5. But if low pressure is detected they will open the well up instantly
6. Other precautions include extra monitoring, such as by remote vehicles on the sea bed


Participative leadership

The BBC report explains the technicalities of the capping in its usual lucid style. For me, the most powerful point was not technical but behavioural. For the first time, the message coming out is of joint BP/US efforts and a sharing of responsibilities. [But who are the persons referred to as “they”? BP? BP with US Government advice/control?] This is a nice example of a rather old theory, namely that of participative leadership. A rather more grown-up approach than blamestorming, I would say.

Good news, bad news

It is rared to report on a ‘good news’ story that does not have a down side. Around the time I noted the more positive collaborative efforts above, the news was also breaking of a severe blow to BP’s prospects in America. Plans are moving ahead for legislation which will effectely ban BP from deep water drilling in American waters.


“If you knew the difference between managers and leaders what would you do with the information?”

July 12, 2010

“Leaders and managers. What’s the difference?” The question is posed in management textbooks, and answered in some of them. But a more interesting question is “If you knew the difference between managers and leaders, what would you do with the information?”

Tudor Rickards

The following is written for students of leadership although professional managers and others with leadership responsibilities may also find it useful. Before addressing the more interesting question, let’s look at the apparently simpler one. “What’s the difference between leaders and managers?” It turns out that the question has been answered in different ways.

Yukl’s view

Gary Yukl, who has written a best-selling multi-edition textbook on leadership, provides one of the crisper of analyses of the issue. He notes that in writings about leadership, there is general agreement that the concepts of management and leadership are not identical. There is also considerable controversy over the degree of overlap of the two concepts. Yukl is among several leadership scholars who quotes Bennis and Nanus to the effect that “managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing” (p 21 in Yukl’s 1985 edition).

Yukl then identifies a modified view. He lists a range of scholars including Henry Minzberg, Bernard Bass and John Kotter, all of whom conside that “leading and managing are distinct processes but they do not assume that leaders and managers are different sorts of people”. Yukl expresses his own conclusion that “defining managing and leadership as distinct roles, processes, or relationships may obscure more than it reveals if it encourages simplistic theories about effective leadership” (p6).

Northouse’s view

Peter Northouse, another author of an influential leadership text, follows Yukl, but gives more emphasis to the differentiation perspective, citing Zaleznik as an important example. Northouse identifies John Kotter as holding the milder view of differentiation between processes not persons. He notes that in his textbook “we will treat the roles of managers and leaders similarly, and not emphasize the difference between them.” (p10 in Northouse’s 2004 edition).

Confused?

Confused? There are differences in the perspectives of what might be called the extreme differentationists such as Bennis and Nanus, (and Zaleznik before them) who consider leaders and managers to be distinctly different types of people; the milder form of differentiation (of processes but not necessarily people) supported by Kotter; and the view that there is a considerable degree of overlap in both the processes and the people (Yukl).

In the text-book Dilemmas of Leadership, http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/0415355850/ these perspectives would be characterized as different maps. Note that they are not completely different, but retain shared features derived from earlier and well-respected maps of the terrain of management and leadership.

So does it matter?

The difference between leaders and managers seems to have been of importance to the distinguished authors mentioned above. They offer their particular perspective on the subject early in their text books, as if to get an important issue clarified or at least addressed (or in some cases as the theme of the article) they were writing. We can learn something from the writings of the authorities on leadership, but the issue remains unresolved, as we are offered differing answers. Some are clear-cut, distinguishing different kinds of people as managers and leaders (Bennis & Nanus; Zalenik). Others, such as Yukl, warn against the presumption of any clear-cut answer which risks over-simplification of underpinning theories of leadership and management.

Students of leadership will have to get by without a definitive answer to the question “what’s the difference between a leader and a manager?” And that brings me to my proposed different question. “If you knew the difference between managers and leaders what would you do with the information?”

This suggests that each leader, and each student of leadership, has to work out the answer based on personal circumstances. Earlier maps will need to be tested for relevance. Maybe it matters if you have to sit an examination on leadership. Or perhaps it matters if you believe you have a professional need to identify cohorts of people for two types of job, the one labelled jobs for leaders and the other jobs for managers. I have come across organizations whose recruitment process operates in such a way. It comes with a belief that people’s traits are more important than people’s capabilities to develop into roles they find themselves in.

To go more deeply

The various references and leadership authorities cited in this post can be found by reference to any of the three key texts mentioned: Yukl; Northouse; and Rickards and Clark (Dilemmas of Leadership).


Peter Drucker, Baseball, and a Manga Heroine

July 6, 2010

The leadership text Dilemmas of Leadership presents one exercise set in an airport departure lounge. A young MBA is shown a book by the CEO of the company who intends to apply it throughout the organization. How might the MBA quickly evaluate the value of the book? The exercise introduces the concept of assessing the virtues of any text by ‘map-reading, map-testing and map-making’. A real-life example occured recently in Japan

An example similar to the Airport Lounge exercise can be found in the leadership actions in the Japanese company Zoff. Its CEO Takeshi Uono had been captivated by the story told in a best-selling management book in Japan “What if the female manager of a High –School baseball team read Drucker’s ‘management’?”

A Japanese Perspective

Blogger Eugene Woodbury came across the story while following a Japanese TV programme which mentions the book: もし高校野球の女子マネージャーがドラッカーの『マネジメント』を読んだら」 and its author Natsumi Iwasaki (岩崎夏海). Woodbury points out that Drucker, like Deming before him, was less accepted as ‘ a prophet in his own country’ than in Japan.

The Economist’s review

According to the Economist, [July 3rd, 2010]

“Mr Ueno told his staff to read it. Satoko Osanai, his sales manager did ..and became an instant fan of the late management guru, Peter Drucker. After reading the book, she says, she started treating colleagues and customers differently… The book, complete with a picture of a gamine schoolgirl on the cutsey manga cover… topped 1 million sales as news travelled from office to café to home.. what’s more, sales for Drucker’s original works have soared.”

In the book, Miname, a fictional teenager, discovers Peter Drucker’s ideas and applies them to her high-school baseball team with all the trials and tribulations to be expected before eventual triumph for Miname and her team.

How the book encouraged more ‘map-testing’

Mr Ueno and his managers had encountered a book whose map is based on one of the most influential of all management writers. The choice of guru was a good one (although Drucker disliked being called a guru: he said the word was used because it is easier to spell than the word charlatan). The subsequent rise in sales of Peter Drucker’s books in Japan suggests that some readers of the popular tale of the teen-age Minami went on to additional ‘map-testing’ and possibly to better-informed planning for the future (‘map-making’).

In the spirit of romantic fiction (and of many popular ‘how to do it’ management books), Minami’s leadership results are spectacular. However, most management theorists are suspicious of any book which promises an easy recipe for success. The map-reading, map-testing, and map- making approach avoids the dilemma of accepting the basic promise in a book unthinkingly, or rejecting it in its entirety.


Creative in Paris: but where was the Général?

July 5, 2010

Tudor Rickards and Susan Moger

June 2010. The University of Paris hosts a creativity conference. In fact it hosts two at the same time. Buy one, get one free?

We stayed at the Place du Pantheon. How appropriate. We were able to pay homage to the ‘Grands Hommes’ of France, (and rather fewer Grandes Femmes it must be said) of the last two hundred years. Pride of place to Voltaire and Rousseau, resting in state in the cool basement of the vast edifice. At ground level, the pendulum of [Leon] Foucault still gently demonstrating the rotation of the earth, as it has done since the 1850s, give or take the odd period of malfunction such as when its 67 meter wire snapped after a century of service to science education.

But where was the Général?

Grands Hommes de France. But where was Napoleon? Moved to an even more majestic tomb. …and Charles de Gaulle? An attendant sniffily reminded us that the Général had opted for his famous little village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises as his last resting place. Mais oui, merci madame.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile, half way across Paris, two conferences were swinging into action, even sharing a registration area. ‘Our’ conference was termed a community workshop organized through the editorial board of Creativity and Innovation Management Journal, and hosted from several faculties of the University of Paris. There was a strong representation from MBS, with the keynote address on creativity and leadership from doctoral alumnus Gerard Puccio, director of The International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY, Buffalo.

Margaret Bruce also presented, sharing a workshop on the value of design, with James Moultrie, Cambridge University, and Gerda Gemser of Delft University of Technology. James was, in addition, winner of the annual best paper award of CIM with co-worker Alistair Young. His workshop topic was a fresh estimate of he contribution of design activities within the UK economy (in the region of 5%). His paper demonstrated an ingenious method of comparing the factors from two major theories of creativity (by Teresa Amabile and Goran Ekvall) in empirical studies of organizations within the so-called creative industries.

What’s Hot in creativity studies?

So what’s hot in creativity studies at present? The relationship between creativity and leadership. Identifying creative talent and its contingent factors. Organizational creativity, and the special nature of the creative industries and their role in economic recovery. Creativity and design, entrepreneurship and innovation.

The themes are familiar ones, but a renewed vigour might be detected as more traditional means of designing social and economic change have been found wanting in an era of financial meltdown.