Dilemmas for Doctoral candidates

October 4, 2014

Doctoral candidates face the two challenges of making a contribution to knowledge and of defending their claims against the toughest of scrutiny. The methodology of conceptual mapping and examination of dilemmas offers an additional research approach

The principles were outlined in 2006 in the first edition of the book Dilemmas of Leadership, a post-graduate teaching text. An earlier LWD post gives a brief overview.

The approach

The approach draws on a social constructional treatment of knowledge generation and validity testing. In its initial use, it was offered to business executives to assist in their evaluation of leadership texts. In this post, it illustrates a way of simplifying the epistemology offered on doctoral courses in business and the social sciences. In its earlier application, executive MBA students are encouraged to study emerging leadership news stories, deriving a conceptual map from each. This ‘map reading’, like any life skill, improves with active and regular practice. ‘Map-testing’ includes processes found in research methods courses for investigating the reliability of the information and its validity. These two processes feed into the third, in which the derived and tested maps of a story are examined and compared with the personal map of the student. This process permits personal and experiential learning. Termed ‘map making’ this is the revised map of the student beliefs about leadership for personal reflection and class discussion.

Beyond the basic system A range of additional procedures are introduced to support the basic system. These include a search for dilemmas as significant hard-to-resolve decisions confronting the actors in the stories, these include the personal dilemmas for the student (‘the most important leader you study is yourself’).

Extending the process to doctoral research The process offers possibilities for modification for direct application in research studies even at the level of doctoral investigations. A workshop opportunity has arisen which will be reported here in a future post.

Update for Doctoral students The brief for the doctoral workshop was The Evolution of Leadership and Management and its links with Theories of Organisation: Bringing it all together. The syllabus indicated that the workshop follows the student’s journey through different perspectives on organisation and management theory (modernism, scientific management & Bureaucracy); neo-modernism (human relations and culture management); critical perspectives; postmodernist organisation theory). Students were advised to revise these topics to be prepared for discussion at the workshop.

Further updates

Further updates will report on the workshop and add discussion points from subscribers.

October 24th 2014

An illustration of the mapping approach applied to a leadership text which asks the question ‘are managers sacked for breaking the rules and leaders sacked for not breaking them?’

November 1st, 2014

Bridging the gap between the empirical and the social

One substantial difficulty for doctoral students is the gulf between the methods of enquiry in the empirical sciences and the social sciences. The former retains the methodology of the dominant rational model. This perspective is one I acquired in my schooldays and have retained as a technical manager trained to examine technical and economic problems through the methodology of scientific inquiry.

My attraction to a second approach involving the methodology of the social sciences grew, as I became familiar with the ideas of the social construction of reality. Nevertheless, I felt that moving completely from a scientific to a social scientific approach was likely to be switching from one horn of a dilemma to another.

November 3rd 2014

Two authors helped me find a way of bridging the gap.

The first was Professor Gail Fairhurst in her book Discursive Leadership in which she shows how social constructionist approaches are able to co-exist successfully with the more dominant model of cognitive psychology.

The second insight came from the work into what Jim Collins called ‘the  Genius of the And’.  Fairhurst and Collins had in quite different ways addressed a way of dealing with dilemmas. In each case, the approach was a form of creativity to escape from ‘either-or’ thinking.  The outcome is a bridging of the gap between the dominant rational model of the sciences and the social constructionist approach of the social scientist

January 5th 2015

This leadership case is a nice way to test understanding of ways of applying a qualitative analysis


How should we read a statement by George Soros? Carefully.

March 13, 2014

George Soros If I could outguess George Soros I would be very clever and perhaps very rich. But I can offer a few observations about his history which may help interpret his recent comments about a new financial crisis

When George Soros speaks, the financial world listens. He has been speaking in the UK this week [March 2014] of the next financial crisis that he says will come about in part a consequence of weak financial leadership in Europe, and in particular in Germany.

He is particularly remembered for an enormous financial coup as the pound Sterling crashed at the time of Black Wednesday [16th September, 1992]. His success then was through a daring short-selling operation which can be admired for its daring or condemned for its contribution to a global economic crisis. Since then, his espousing of various social causes has led him to be pronounced ‘a dangerous leftist’ by Human Events’ readers, who in an online poll, recently voted him “the single most destructive leftist demagogue in the country.”

Soros is a big player

George is a capitalist superstar or a dangerous leftist supervillain. He may be speaking as an old man and a noted philanthropist concerned only to warn us that Europe is heading for yet more financial trouble. He may be speaking to avert or reduce such a crisis. He may be speaking with no personal agenda.

Or he may have the motives of a inveterate speculator

Or he may have the motives of a inveterate speculator, the gamester whose actions always designed to “tell” what he wants to reveal.

Or he may be plugging his new book

Or he may be plugging his new book, The Tragedy of the European Union, which was published this week, and which itself aligns with his libertarian political philosophy and his altruistic efforts.

Putting lipstick on a Rottweiler

To rephrase a term expressed by the American politician and folk philosopher Sarah Palin, you kin put lipstick on a Rottweiler but underneath it’s still a goddam Rotweiler .

Note to my students

I am not a supporter of either/or logic in assessing complex socio-economic issues. George Soros needs to be studied as a successful thought leader who shows consistency only in his skills of revealing what he wishes to reveal.


A Blog is Born: Advice to a new blogger

January 10, 2014

Tudor Rickards

You have started a business course and you have to write a blog post based on a current news story. Here’s one approach based on experiences of writing and publishing over a thousand such posts

I write two leadership blog posts each week for Leaders we deserve. In six years, I have never failed to find suitable news stories. Here are some tips which have worked for me as I clocked up over a thousand posts for Leaders We Deserve.

The Mapping principle

I think of what I am doing as map reading, map testing and map making. You can find a lot of posts if you search for map making on this Leaders we deserve site. A fuller explanation is to be found in Chapter 1 of Dilemmas of Leadership.

Map reading refers to your examination of the primary source or sources of your news story.
Map testing is when you look more carefully at the news story to assess its credibility. That is why looking at more than one source of the same story is valuable. Here I like to use my imagination by trying to guess the most urgent dilemmas facing key decision makers.
Map making is ‘getting personal’ by relating the news stories to your own experiences. If you understand the post you can change that map and comment on what you have done. Even more important, you may have made some change to your own personally important knowledge. For example, a story may show you a new interpretation about a piece of information or of your belief. The map making refers to changes in your maps or to your version of the original news story.

Here is a post with a three minute test with ten questions. You can take it to test your understanding of the mapping principle.

Active search

Each day I search actively for a breaking news story which has an easy to understand main point often expressed in its headline. If I see such a story with a leadership implication. I become more interested, and test if it is attracting social media interest on Twitter.

Writing your post

Stage one is reporting your map reading in your own words.I cut and paste the core of the story, always with the source acknowledged, I hope. However, if you are working on a student assignment, check with your tutors and with examination regulations if you are worried about word limits, citation style, and acceptability of cut and paste efforts.

Beyond factual reporting and IMHO

The post becomes more interesting and will gain more approval and ‘likes’, even from examiners, if you add something new. Map-testing is one way. Introducing interpretations or personal judgement is fine, but make sure you indicate that you are not mixing beliefs with assertion of accepted facts. On the Internet this is still sometimes signaled by IMHO which stands for In My Humble Opinion.

An example

This week I carried out my active searches as usual. On Monday [January 6th 2014] I reported on on typical story about the future of Hollywood blockbusters. You can read it as an example of my mapping approach. My map reading showed the debate about the future of blockbusting films in face of new technology. My map testing suggested to be that there was plenty of evidence to suggest that Hollywood faced dilemmas of escalating costs of movie making and risks of trying out original story lines.

Map-making suggested that I had seen something similar in a quite different context, namely in the pharmaceutical industry, and this gave me a hook for the story. Maybe leaders in Big Pharma face similar dilemmas to those facing movie makers. The old models are failing: should they work harder to fix them or change to new business models? Can they risk the company on one or two as yet undiscovered innovations?

Summary

If you want to try out this system, to help you write a blog, start today. Look at the breaking news stories. Try to capture their core point or headline. Test the assertions in the reported stories. Look for tough decisions or dilemmas facing leaders. See if the process links with your personal beliefs, the O in IMHO.

And revise thoroughly

And for most people, thorough revision pays off.

Good luck in your future blogging.


Trial of leadership and map-making quiz

November 29, 2013

LWD subscribers are invited to test-run a short [three minute, ten item] quiz. It is being designed for use by tutors on courses using the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership to reinforce the materials in chapter one [2nd edn] on the map-reading, map-making, and map-testing concepts.

Try your knowledge/intuition by clicking here

Improvements to the test could include more feedback on true/false answers, although there is a benefit from leaving an incentive to encourage students to take the test ‘before and after’ reading the required chapter of the textbook.

Tutors may keep records of class averages, also on a ‘before and after’ basis.


Global reach: Does Manchester United Football Club have five hundred million ‘followers’?

February 18, 2013

MUFC red devilTudor Rickards

A market research firm claims that Manchester United Football Club is followed by approximately one of every ten people in the world. This figure has prompted much suspicion.

The claim was made by Kantar Sport, and is featured within promotional material by the football club which also has claims to have the greatest following world-wide.

The story was reported by the BBC [February 18th 2012]

Even the most ardent opponent of Manchester United would acknowledge that the club has fans right around the world. But the statement that the club has a global following of 659 million adults – out of a total five billion adults in the world – is still quite staggering.

The work was carried out earlier, and had already appeared on MUFC’s official website which stated:

The largest global football follower survey ever conducted has today [29th May 2012] named Manchester United the world’s most popular club, with 659 million followers worldwide.

The survey was carried out by leading market research agency, Kantar, and gathered 54,000 respondents from 39 countries. The club that Forbes recently named the most valuable in world sport was identified as the favourite team of 659 million followers around the world. Kantar found that football remains the world’s most popular sport, with 1.6 billion followers globally, reinforcing the results of a recent FIFA survey which produced a similar figure.
Richard Arnold, the club’s Commercial Director, commented on the long-term strategy that has made Manchester United the number one club in the world’s number one sport.

The BBC was more skeptical:

Even the most ardent opponent of Manchester United would acknowledge that the club has fans right around the world. But the statement that the club has a global following of 659 million adults – out of a total five billion adults in the world – is still quite staggering.

When an advertising agency makes statistical claims, it is a good idea to carry out a few simple tests to understand the degree of marketing speak behind the statement.

Schrank’s analysis

The advertising guru Jeffrey Shrank has compiled a list of the methods behind advertising claims in The Language of Advertising Speak. The Schrank article ‘does what it says on the can’ to borrow another advertising claim. Schrank lists ten ways in which advertising claims seek to imply more than the words claim.

The Manchester United Claim

In the case of Manchester United, this will be the owners, The Glazer family. It is worth asking: What part might the ‘one person in ten’ claim play in the strategic thinking of the owners of the club?

Note to students of leadership:

Can you apply the processes of map reading, testing and making to understanding more about the claim? What do you make of the statistical methods applied by Kantor? [intelligent assessment if you are not experienced with stats] How would you advise a competitive club on the significance of the claim for their own strategic considerations?


Political Mannequin Helena Torry in Prison Exchange Scheme

January 14, 2013

Helena TorryA bizarre story from Aberdeen in Scotland tells of a life-size dummy “arrested” and its creator released in what has been called a prisoner exchange scheme

In a recent Aberdeen City Council election, [April 2012] a creative protest saw a mannequin entered as a candidate with the name Helena Torry. Its purported election agent was Renee Slater, in real-life a political activist.

The authorities were not pleased, and began legal procedures against Renee for election fraud. At some stage Renee was incarcerated in a police cell briefly. When the dummy was recovered by the police, it was “held in custody” and Rene released.

Prisoner exchange

The “facts” of the case were taken and turned into the story of a political exchange between a dummy and its creator. Fact: the name of Helena Torry was entered on the electoral role. Fact: its purported agent Rene Slater was charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983. Fact: Slater claimed to have spent some time in a police cell and was released after the dummy was held by the police [Habeas Corpus act, 1649 to apply]

Renee Slater, who put the name Helena Torry forward to stand in the elections in protest against the candidates and their parties, won the case which had been brought by a council returning officer under the Representation of the People Act 1983. From these facts a story was constructed which is told with relish on the BBC politics show, where you can also find a U-tube of the interview, in which Renee tells the interviewer Andrew Neil [Jan 2013] that she had been in a police cell and was initially exchanged for the dummy.

It had been suggested that the dummy had shown more charisma than any of the other candidates.

You say Torrey I say Torry

The BBC is favouring the spelling Torrey. Other earlier stories and election posters have the spelling Torry.

Scotland the brave

There is a wit and vibrancy in this gesture which auger well for the forthcoming referendum on the possibility of an independent future for Scotland outside the United Kingdom.

Note to MBA students

You may find it instructive to apply the map reading and map testing approach to examine this blog post.


Church of England struggles with single-sex marriage proposals

June 14, 2012

Bishop Tim Stephens

A discussion on gay rights from a mute eavesdropper

I was listening on breakfast-time radio [Jun 12th 2012] to the latest episode of a long-running story concerning the rights of gay people in the United Kingdom.

I caught only two snippets of discussion. The same presenter first interviewed a Bishop, and later someone representing a gay rights organisation [Stonewall].

First snippet:

Interviewer: You seem to be discriminating against the rights of gay people to marry?

Bishop: Not at all. If you read the document from start to finish you will see we do not discriminate”

ME [Mute Evesdropper] Thinking aloud]: What document? Doesn’t matter. That’s the ‘map’ being tested by the interviewer. The Bishop rejects the authority of someone who hasn’t read the whole document.

Interviewer: But you are discriminating. You reject the rights of gay people to be married in your Church.

ME [thinking aloud]: Nice one. She’s denying she needs to read whole document to explore the point she is making.

Bishop: We are not discriminating, we are distinguishing between people.

ME [thinking aloud]: Maybe the same way the Church is ‘distinguishing’ between the rights of males and females to become bishops.

Snippet ends

Second snippet:

Interviewer: The Government seems to be offering more rights for gay couples

Spokesman: It’s still a discriminatory document proposed by a minority of noisy clerics

ME: Reminds me of the ‘noisy neighbours’ remark about a certain football club…

Interviewer: The church says it’s not discriminatory.

Spokesman: They would say that wouldn’t they.

Interviewer: The bishop says it’s distinguishing not discriminatory.

Spokesman: He would say that wouldn’t he.

ME [thinking aloud]: Spokesman ‘reads’ the document as discriminatory. Avoids semantic debate. Implies that the Church is arguing from a special interest position rather that a rational one.

End of snippet.

Map testing

In legal debate, the snippets would have to be carefully examined, applying skills and knowhow which accompany legal training. You do not need that level of sensitivity to legal subtleties to examine and interpret what is being implied within a discussion. It’s testing the map you are reading.

In digging more deeply it is useful to consider the dilemmas that might be most urgently occupying those involved. The Bishop faces the dilemma of accepting the universal right to the Church’s care and the theological objections to homosexual practices.

I don’t find it as easy to read the map offered from the STONEWALL representative. He clearly rejects the ‘map’ proposed by the Bishop as scaremongering. He may be uncomfortable about the relationship between Church and State as inappropriate for non-Christians, and for Christians who are non-Anglicans. However, maybe he is aware that the Church will be able to collect support in the media if he appears to be undermining their theological position.

Dialogue of the mute

There are many aspects of this complicated story which I can’t pretend to understand. But I hope I have indicated how it is possible to ‘tune in’ even with limited information. With respect to Bishop Tim you don’t have to ‘read the whole document’.

Having a ‘mute dialogue’ (also called talking to yourself) also has its merits. By active listening you may well figure out aspects of your own leadership beliefs and actions.

To go more deeply

The Guardian takes its customary libitarian position