Dissecting Creativity: Interview with Tudor Rickards

March 10, 2015

Professor Gerard Puccio interviews LWD editor Tudor Rickards for the 2014 Alex Osborn memorial event at Buffalo State University

Gerard Puccio is chair and Professor at the International Center for Studies in Creativity [ICSC] at Buffalo State University. The memorial celebrations honoured the life and work of Alex Osborn who did much of his pioneering work on stimulating creativity there, with Sid Parnes. Sid’s wife Bea also attended and give a further key-note address.

The interview [47 minutes duration] covers Tudor’s association with ICSC, his personal history, growing up in a mining community in South Wales, [in Treforest, home of Tom Jones], developmental influences and how he became involved in creativity, moving from a career as a research scientist at New York Medical College and then Unilever on Merseyside,to his academic base at Manchester Business School where he helped build a network of European practitioners and academics.


Ben and Jerry’s brand of activism survives its Unilever takeover

May 24, 2012

The folksy Ben & Jerry ice cream outfit seemed an unlikely fit for the global Unilever Corporation. But their activism and social values of the smaller business seem to have survived the takeover

When a global Corporation acquire a smaller brand, there is likely to be a clash of cultures. Recently, Coke’s acquisition of Innocent, the pioneering manufacturer of healthy Smoothies drinks comes to mind. Another instance is that of Sony acquiring the tiny Hawkeye operation ahead of its own interests in Hawkeye’s technology being developed in sports such as tennis and cricket (with the greater market for football looming).

The Anglo Dutch giant Unilever likes to acquire brands with enough global potency to retain identity within the Unilever family. One BBC article recently asked whether its brand and corporate actions were becoming more like that of Ben & Gerry’s.

When Unilever bought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in 2000, there was talk of Unilever becoming more like Ben & Jerry’s and not the other way round. The quirky American ice-cream maker certainly does not appear to have abandoned the principles of its founders.

Ben & Jerry’s publicly supported the Occupy Wall Street movement and, according to co-founder Jerry Greenfield, nobody got fired.
“I am pleased that Ben & Jerry’s is able to continue its innovative mission,” he says. “We get a lot of support – sometimes I’m a little surprised at how supportive Unilever is.”

“I think Ben & Jerry’s was a tipping point for Unilever – they learned a lot from the culture and learned that it made business sense,” says Paula Widdowson, former head of social responsibility at Northern Foods who is now a consultant on the subject.

The Corporate plan

When Unilever unveiled its plans for putting sustainability at the heart of its global operations [in 2010], CEO Paul Polman publically committed to to reducing the environmental impact of its products by 50% while doubling sales, in the coming decade to 2020. He noted that the new model was “the only way to do business long term”.

The Ben & Jerry website

The Ben & Jerry website retains a powerful sense of the historic quirkiness of the company. Its activism and commitment to social values shines through. [I was reminded a little of the core identity of Mattel, when I looked at the site: Ed].

Ben & Jerry’s is founded on and dedicated to a sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity. Our mission consists of 3 interrelated parts [social, product and economic].

Underlying the mission is a determination to seek new and creative ways of addressing all three parts, while holding a deep respect for individuals inside and outside the company and for the communities of which they are a part.

At the time of the takover the news was described in these terms

Unilever is to buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company in a deal worth £203m ($326m).

Started in an old petrol station in Vermont in 1978, the [Ben & Jerry] company grew into a quirky business with a strong social dimension.
But lately differences have arisen between Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield about the direction the company should take, although the old schoolfriends deny they have fallen out.

“While we and others certainly would have pursued our mission as an independent enterprise, we hope that, as part of Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s will continue to expand its role in society,” they said in a statement.

Leadership lessons

Ben & Gerry cases have become a favoured topic for business school study. A range of case studies can be found (together with a range of not-always-model analyses).

This post has been written to introduce the potential dilemmas facing the Tom & Gerry brand within its wider responsibilities as part of a global operation.

Follow-up

Ben and Jerry has thrived as an autonomous part of the mighty Unilever global Corporation. Its employee-driven foundation backs community initiatives with millions of dollars.


Developing global leaders: the 21st century corporate challenge

February 27, 2012

Professor Bill George

Harvard’s Bill George argues that too many multinationals are still ignoring the need to identify and develop global leaders equipped for the challenges of the 21st century

Tudor Rickards

Professor Bill George suggests that a new era for global leadership is developing which requires greater focus on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empowerment. We examine and test his ideas as published in Harvard Business Review and compare them with experiences from a major exercise developing such leaders within the Manchester Business School’s executive programme.

Synopsis of the article:

Too many multinational still concentrate vital decisions in the hands of a small group of trusted leaders from their home country. They rarely promote [local staff] Instead, they groom future global leaders from the headquarters. In order to adapt to local cultures and market needs, companies must shift to decentralized, collaborative decision-making. That requires developing many leaders capable of working anywhere. Rather than concentrating on the top 50 leaders, global companies need to develop hundreds, even thousands, of leaders comfortable operating in a variety of cultures. Developing such leaders with cultural sensitivities and collaborative skills requires greater focus on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empowerment than on traditional management skills.

Coke’s global leaders

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is one such pioneer in geographic diversity. Since the 1960s Coca-Cola has had South African, Cuban, Australian, Irish and its current Turkish-American CEO Muhtar Kent.

Nestle & Novartis

Over the past decade, Nestle and Novartis have made dramatic shifts from Swiss-dominated boards and executive leadership to a diverse set of nationalities.

IBM’s revival

Samuel Palmisano reorganized IBM into an “integrated global enterprise” based on leading by values and collaboration, using special bonuses to empower leaders. Its former chief learning officer recently estimated that the company will need 50,000 leaders in the future.

Unilever

Unilever has undertaken a major initiative to develop 500 global leaders in intensive leadership development programs to prepare them for expanded roles. According to CEO Paul Polman, “Unilever’s Leadership Development Programme prepares our future leaders for an increasingly volatile and uncertain world where the only true differentiation is the quality of leadership.”
Such global roles require experience working and living in multiple countries. German chemical maker Henkel insists its executives live in at least two different countries before being considered for promotion.

More than international experience

Developing global leaders necessitates a shift focusing on helping leaders increase their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience. It’s not [even] enough just to work overseas. To process and learn from their experiences, individuals should utilize introspective practices like journaling, meditation or prayer, and develop support networks of peers. There they can consult confidentially with people they trust about important decisions and have honest conversations about their dilemmas, mistakes, and challenges. These methods are still in their nascent phase, but there is little doubt that they will have a profound impact on developing global leaders in the years ahead.

The Global Events and Leadership module

The Global Events and Leadership module (GEL) introduces the Manchester Business School’s executive MBA programmes around the world. Its basic messages chime with those suggested by Bill George, and his Harvard colleague Teresa Amabile, studied as part of GEL.

Ten thousand leaders and more

It is worth noting that the point about the need for ‘tens of thousands of leaders’. This implies a major rethink in many corporate boardrooms on the nature of leadership and the further split between traditional modes of top-down cultures and structures.

Dilemmas, mistakes, and challenges

GEL, like Bill George, emphasises the dilemmas of leadership through its course textbook, and its ‘learning through doing’ project-based workshops. global leadership is inherently a process
requiring what has been described as a Yes And approach to challenges. This involves an openness to change and a commitment to ‘authentic’ ethical values.

Acknowledgements

To an increasingly diverse and skilled group of associates dedicated to facilitating global leadership through exploration of its practices.


Pringles, acquired by Kelloggs, is a product of creative leadership

February 16, 2012

Pringles has been acquired from Proctor & Gamble for a figure reported as nearly $3 billion. The product may be one of the early examples of deliberate efforts at harnessing team creativity

Proctor and Gamble (P&G) is a company that has encouraged creative leadership for over four decades. A possible outcome of its creativity is the Pringles stacked potato product, valued this week at 2.7 billion dollars by Kelloggs its new owners .

Official histories of Pringles suggest that like many inventions it can claim several inventors. An early unsuccessful product had been around since the 1930s. Other accounts suggest that an army engineer had a patent for an easily-transported potato product in which he could not interest the army, and which he brought to P&G.

A different story

I want to offer a different story which I had assumed to have some truth to it for many years.

Some forty years, ago a small number of pioneering corporates in the US and Europe, including Proctor & Gamble (P&G) and Unilever, were experimenting with so-called structured techniques for stimulating creativity. Advocates liked to relate successful outcomes of such approaches. I can recall that claims were made at the time that Pringles had been one such success story.

My recollection is that the teams which involved extended flights of fancy, directed by a team facilitator or creative leader. The leader’s task was, among other things, to direct the creative process without concern for his or her own ideas regarding the topic. Charged with developing an easily transportable product, the team, according to this account, put together the ideas needed to go from concept to supermarket offering.

It would be typical of such a group to play around with a metaphor for a product with improved stacking features designed in. So the team, prompted by a facilitator or creative leader may have speculated on the metaphor of easily stacked chairs, arriving at the idea of an easily-stacked food product which was to become Pringles.

Did this really happen?

I have failed to find any confirmation for this interesting story. Maybe someone will be able to confirm it or provide a better-documented suggestion?


Much More than Marmite: The Unilever Strike

January 18, 2012

One popular newspaper has been running stories about ‘Marmite workers’ going on strike. For Unilever’s employees it’s much more than that

To associate Unilever only with one of the manufacturer’s more quirky products is an oversimplification. Unilever is a modern global organization founded by the entrepreneur and social welfare pioneer William Hesketh Lever.

The strike last month and continued today [January 18th 2011] is over the 21st (as well as the 19th century) issue of pension rights. It is believed to be the first in the company’s century of operations.

The Guardian describes the background to the strikes:

Before Christmas, Unilever, which produces goods such as Dove soap, Wall’s ice-cream, PG Tips and Marmite, was hit by the first ever national strike involving its UK operations after revealing plans for a pensions shake-up.
The firm, which employs around 7,000 workers, is looking to move 5,000 staff to a less generous career average scheme by the middle of next year. The remainder are already signed up to the new scheme, which was closed to newcomers in 2008.
On Saturday, leaders of the Unite, Usdaw and GMB unions said they would call for a series of strikes from 17 January, claiming new pension arrangements could cut retirement income for staff by 40%.

A personal view

Unilever recruited me as a technical manager in its Port Sunlight laboratories on Merseyside at the start of my professional career in the late 1960s. Even in proximity to the militant culture of the shipyards of Birkenhead and with Liverpool across the Mersey, Port Sunlight retained its paternalistic but cosy ethos. The laboratory and manufacturing sites were in walking distance from Port Sunlight’s model village built for the workers, with its Art Gallery, Bowls green and (open-air) swimming pool.

Later, as a management researcher, I retained memories leaving me with a largely positive view of big company culture and sensible employee relationships with ‘management’. Today, Unilever employees are facing up to changes to a century of tradition.

[Image is not of your editor protesting for pension rights]