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Archive for December, 2007

December e-newsletter

Dear All,

This month’s newsletter is being delivered a little earlier than usual (and in time for Christmas). I have learnt that you really have to be careful how you say what you say in emails because a version of last month’s e-newsletter was bounced back undelivered, unread and unloved from several corporate inboxes for containing objectionable content. The offensive word was one for obvious reasons I now cannot repeat because the same thing will happen again, but trust me it was part of an, innocent, legitimate and well-intentioned idiomatic phrase. Perhaps this is just a by-product of the information age, with its insatiable need to be connected rubbing up against the equally insatiable modern demand not to say anything that could be construed the wrong way.

December is an interesting month in a Business School. On the one hand, it’s when managers are fully engaged with their world of work or study and are conscious of needing to complete the year, finish up, polish off or set in motion things ready for the year to come (as we are doing now in our campaign to recruit for the February DL MBA intake). Alongside this sense of urgency – and in fact also part of it – there is also a focus on the personal, on celebration, tradition and on winding down. Many of you will never have been busier, never have been moving and thinking as fast as you are now – and all at a time when you also need to keep an eye on all the other halves of your lives, the one in which you and those around you are growing up.

I don’t think these demands are mutually exclusive, but they are very hard to balance if you haven’t answered the fundamental question of what it is that you really want in life. Taking on a venture such as the Henley MBA is a great chance really to ask yourself that question. And celebrating Christmas (or any other end of year festivity) while taking on the Henley MBA might feel like hell – particularly if you have deadlines looming. However, if you take the view that these varied and apparently contrary demands are all part of the same thing, then you can’t really make progress in one without the other.

So don’t feel guilty about stopping to enjoy yourselves in the next couple of weeks, because at the same time you will be making sense of your development by getting perspective on why you are doing this MBA.

News from Henley around the world

Part of the charm of Henley when you visit is that quintessential Englishness of the house, grounds and surrounding countryside, but we shouldn’t forget that the College reaches out to many other parts of the world, and there have been a few developments recently which it might please you to know about.

The first of these involves the re-organisation of Henley in Sweden with IHM and rebranding of the new operation, managed from Denmark, as Henley Nordic. Nordic now covers Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Greenland (yes, we have MBAs there, too!!) and the Faroe Islands. We were also very pleased to announce arrangements to launch MBA intakes in Hong Kong and Malta later in 2008. Actually, re-launch might be more accurate, since Henley has a long history in both places. I hope that there will be other exciting news to give you in 2008 about the MBA in other locations.

Possible Dissertation topic

Dr Susan Rose writes: “I have recently been contacted by a someone who works with the Scottish Enterprise Board. He is working with a company developing a new software that enables online recommendations for products (such as those you get with Amazon, only better). He is looking for some work to be done and it could be something for a Dissertation. If you have any students who are in search of a dissertation topic and interesting in one in the marketing area it may be a useful contact.”

Home Straight Community news

Nothing concentrates the mind quite like an immoveable deadline, and for some of you December 31st may be looming like a huge registration ice-berg about to hit the MBA Titanic. As was my own case in the wilderness years of Part Three on the Henley MBA, the time when I was most adrift was the time I really should have been reaching out to Henley and managing my time. It will be no different for you if you have fallen behind or are otherwise struggling to get to the end of the MBA.

The good news is that help is out there. The Home Straight Community is one port of call, and so is the life-raft of re-registration time. The College will write to you when you approach the end of your normal registration period, but it really is up to you to respond. If you need help, guidance, assistance or just information about when your registration is due to end, please get in touch with a Home Straight Tutor or your course administrator where you are studying.

Similarly, if we don’t have your current address and contact details, we won’t be able to find you, so please make sure you let us know if it changes. Tracing undeliverable emails when sending this newsletter is one way of keeping the database up-to-date, but don’t allow something as important your MBA to slip just because you move.

Don’t Miss the Bus…

Whilst I’m on that subject, this is a quick reminder to any of you who are working at Part Two of the MBA that as we move across to the delivery of the new curriculum, you will need to make sure that you complete your Part Two assignments within registration and, vitally, that you book to sit the Part Two exam no later than September or December 2008. The December Part Two exam will be the last.

And finally…

The last piece of news is about me. I’m pleased to tell you that I have received a promotion from Programme Leader to Director of Studies for the Distance Learning MBA, taking over from Professor Jane McKenzie.

So with best wishes from all the staff and faculty at Henley, we look forward to seeing you in 2008.

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The Campaign for Slow Learning

This morning I attended a one-day workshop/conference/seminar (terms which seem increasingly interchangeable these days) co-hosted by Microsoft at their Campus in a leafy edge of Reading. It’s interesting how Microsoft, purveyors of software programmes almost always labelled ‘Office’, use a different word to describe their own premises. Perhaps it’s the proximity of Reading to Slough that makes them want to move away from the office mentality. Anyway, I have to confess that I lasted only about 90 minutes at the conference, which was about Knowledge Transfer between University and business.

My early departure was partly down to the evident inability of the academics lined-up to speak during the opening session to engage the audience on the topic of knowledge. Additional irony was provided not just by their reliance on Microsoft’s (Office) PowerPoint to speak in our sleep, but by their juxtaposition with the speaker from Microsoft, who did not use slides in his address.

Another reason for hitting the road at the first break was the simple realisation that the topic of this conference, and the audience in tow, was going to add nothing to my journey, nor was I going to add anything back; I was at the wrong conference. So, I cut and ran and came in to the College to do some work.

However, there is opportunity for learning in everything, and a thought did occur to me during one of the opening slots, during which someone else from Microsoft was describing work trends. We do have an obsession for trends, don’t we? We’re always trying to predict where we’re going, though it usually ends up being a view of what’s next based simply on where we’ve been. What’s more, trends are apparently outside our control, and we stand before them powerless in their majesty.

Nevertheless, as we heard about how busy we are all becoming, how fast everything is and how much, much, much information we have to deal with now (as well as making information just about the only thing we deal with now), I couldn’t help feeling that we’re missing something.

I have noticed (in hindsight, of course) that the trend in Management Education and Training is for things to be delivered in ever shorter times. Two-year MBAs become one-year. Five day trainings need to be done in two. It might tick the convenience box, but does anyone really enjoy anything lasting as a result?

The thing I like best about the Henley Distance Learning MBA is that it takes over three years to complete. For many people, grown up in the information age, when everything we do is a solution, and where every solution should be instant, this doesn’t seem like a plus. However, if you take the mindset of the Slow Movement , and apply it to Adult Learning then a whole new facade is revealed. The process of learning at this mature level can have many unexpected benefits and really does taste better when left to mature. As distance learners you have the luxury of time; of applying, testing and reflecting on everything.

So, I would like to start the Campaign For Slow Learning. It will draw upon the same desire to slow down and enjoy life that many other sections of the slow movement profess. So take control and join me, but make sure you take your time…

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Well, that’s Handy

With a little idle time on my hands, I was browsing second-hand books in Oxford the other weekend and thus combining two things I have learnt to love as an adult. In Oxfam in Summertown I had looked over, with head in permanent tilt, the spines of all the books. The very last one caught my eye. It was “The Empty Raincoat”, by Charles Handy.

I’m now a believer that our thoughts focus what we do and do not see, and what we do and do not do. Since words such as complexity, ambiguity and paradox are very much on my mind at the moment, and since this book talks of paradox, I immediately thought it would make an interesting read, despite its age (it was published in 1994).

I haven’t yet finished it, and there are passages and sentiments which I don’t think have really been borne out by events in the world since then, but his writing is consistently approachable and much of what he is saying – I think – resonates even more soundly today, even if that is only a sounding board for other reflections of my own.

Once I get through it, I will try to sum up the essence of what I am taking away from it here…

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