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Archive for November, 2008

Tintin’s Adventures in Academia

Spent two and a half days blissful at Lancaster Business School this week being a student. The occasion was one of an series of get-togethers which are arranged for the disparate group (numbering a potential 30) of part-time PhD in Management Learning and Leadership candidates.

I deliberately drove up a day early to be able to spend some time in the library there doing some writing and making some last-minute adjustments to the presentation slides for my slot, on Thursday morning, during which I was due to outline my thoughts and deeds so far.

The library, like many central university libraries during term time, was full of people younger than myself, many reading, some typing, most multi-tasking study with chat. Time zipped by. This joy of retreat into library environment to think and write is a new discovery for me, and when I can I also sneak away from my office (no chance of doing anything other than admin there) and off to the library at Henley, where I have to overcome the odd looks from some of the students; it’s an odd sensation of having ‘crossed the line’ into learning territory.

The presentation went well, with a balance of counter-point opinion voiced and compliments made to make me feel that the ordeal of verbalising your thoughts to an academic audience just sharpens your thinking. Where I’m falling short at the moment is in getting through more reading and getting on with more writing. Always be writing – this appears to be a maxim for actually completing a PhD.

The whole experience continues to be good. After all, 12 months ago, there’s no way I would have been reading a book called “The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead” (which sounds like a Tintin adventure, I know).

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Talking in circles?

Sitting in a Qualitative Research workshop at Henley this afternoon and it’s a session on interviewing in research data gathering. My project will be using a lot of interviews, and a thought has struck me.

Many researchers will be able to place their interviews on a continuum that ranges from unstructured to semi-structured to structured. But perhaps there is another continuum, one which looks at the extent to which the reactions and changes to the interviewee as a result of being interviewed is part of the research.

  • At one end, the interview could be seen as simply a channel to access data (mining?) and what is transmitted in the interview leaves the interviewee untouched and unchanged and whether or not the interviewee changes is of no interest to the researcher.
  • In the middle is an area where the interviewee, indirectly but as a result of the interview, finds routes to personal change. However, that change is not germane to the research question and is not of interest to the researcher.
  • Finally, at the other end, is whether or not the interviewee finds change (at least in part) is the research question.

Is there a mix of levels in the dual purpose and circularity in the latter? 1. I’m collecting data from you and on you, and my questions are, in part, responsible for the data that I’m collecting. 2. I am interested in how you learn and how you change, and I’m starting from the position that you are limited in your current habits of learning.

More thinking needed…

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Book early for Christmas

Sales of my novel [The Messenger’s Falling] are picking up!

I can truthfully say that I have seen a 30% increase in sales in October, though I dare not tell you what that equates to in real numbers because the base number is rather low. No matter, there it sits proudly on Amazon, who also seem to be selling it via secondary book dealers and would make a ideal stocking filler.

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All present and correct

In the past week or so I have presented my thinking and ideas for my research twice – once to a research colloquium on the Henley DBA programme, and the other (much more nerve-racking) as a shorter version to the modular MBA group.

There is something very sobering in presenting to those who are themselves on their own journeys at doctoral level. It is reassuring to find that they fear the same things you do, are discovering the same dead-ends and enduring the same self-doubt. They also exude the same energy and enthusiasm for learning that can grip you when (if!) you have the luxury of getting your head down and into your project for a few days. October was a desert for my research, but I hope that November will be different – not least because I am down to present my work so far in Lancaster at the end of the month, as well as to my supervisors. The presentations have helped me order my thoughts, but they’re no substitute for time to read and space to write…

The second presentation I made, at the weekend, was to try and drum up volunteers to help pilot some early ideas and techniques for interviews. I was very happy with the response, with six people coming forward (I only needed two) to assist in December. It seems that something about the research area and idea captures the imagination.

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October newsletter

Dear all,

Rituals can play an important role in the creation of a sense of belonging. Twice yearly the graduation at Henley is such an event; a regular and reassuring milestone in the life of the school. As with all rituals, it engenders a sense of tradition and can create a feeling of stability and connection. There is also the risk that a ritual can become formulaic and formalised, hiding rather than revealing, so it’s always a fine balance. I probably wasn’t alone in feeling that this month’s afternoon graduation ceremony at Greenlands, despite the evident mix of nerves, pleasure and meaning for the individuals graduating, was in danger of becoming rather mechanical. Then the Dean announced the presentation of a posthumous award of the MBA to a distance learning candidate who died tragically just after dissertation submission. His MBA was collected on the stage by his young son, who can only have been about 9 or 10 years old. It was a task no-one would have wished on him, and he performed with quiet assurance and strong dignity – a dignity which did not diminish after he had sat down and, after a moment, the tears came.

I don’t think anyone attending was untouched, and probably in as many different ways as there graduands, guests, staff and faculty. For me, the feeling was one of a sudden shift in focus from the very immediate to extend out to a web of meanings outside the marquee.

Home Straight Community Up-date

There was another Home Straight meeting at Greenlands a day after the graduation ceremony. Roughly 35 people were in attendance and Richard and Mike ran excellent sessions identifying and focusing on some key elements of getting the Dissertation started, keeping it going or polishing it off. One of the previous day’s graduands, Neil Faulkes, gave a short presentation of his journey and Dissertation database tutor Ken Bull was also on hand to advise and guide people to some of the online resources, including the online bibliographic databases and the Dissertation Builder.

The Community continues to see successes in helping members to submit within registration and now the idea is being exported to other modes of MBA study.

Dissertation Clinic

The next Dissertation Clinic at Henley is due to be held on December 2nd at Greenlands. If you’d like to attend, please contact Sue Thomas on as soon as possible.

Research Corner x 2

Claudia Luca, from HB28, writes: “Ever wondered how your distance learning compares to full-time campus study? This dissertation seeks to validate the idea that distance learning students are more likely to gain the knowledge and skills that will benefit their future careers compared with students who choose a full-time campus experience. The online survey below will take just 60 seconds of your time and as a special incentive you can enter a free prize draw and could win £100 of high-street vouchers sponsored by my employer Resource Development International. Please click the link below to begin your survey: [link removed for blog entry] Thank you for your participation and good luck with the prize draw!”

Anthony Singer, from HB30, sent me this: “I’m hoping to have the research squared-away in November and any extra responses from my MBA colleagues would be much appreciated. My dissertation is looking at how managers rate public relations as an organizational function and the consequences of a PR department’s reputation on its ability to do its job. So I’m looking for managers across all disciplines and industries (who are not communications specialists) who wouldn’t mind sparing 12-15 minutes to take a survey of their views of public relations.

It can be found at [link removed for blog entry]. A copy of the results will go to participants on request.”

If you are in need of respondents for your survey, or on the hunt for a dissertation topic, let me know.

Course Reps Meeting

Thanks to those who attended on the 24th October. Aside from dealing with the usual agenda items, we were given a presentation about the new branding and image Henley Business School has adopted, and everyone was able to meet Professor John Hendry, Deputy Dean and Head of the School of Management. We also looked at the initial data from the 2008 Annual Survey. The scores will soon be posted on HenleyConnect in the programme support or programme information area. The next reps meeting will be in May 2009. Reading is very keen on promoting student involvement.

Wi-Fi at Greenlands

The Wi-Fi is now up and running with hot-spots in many public areas. We will be issuing logins and passwords over time, and these will allow you access whilst on-site and also wherever you come across the Eduroam-web Wi-Fi network (used on many campuses). If you are coming to Henley before you have received your login, you can request a temporary guest login from the reception. This will remain active while you are on-site.

This Wi-Fi login will also act as your access data for the University of Reading library. Liz Osman, of the Greenlands library writes, “For MBAs, borrowing rights will be granted at the same time as electronic rights. You will not have any borrowing rights etc at Reading Library until they have received their Reading username and password, after they have been added to Reading’s databases. This is the key to unlocking all the services. Alumni do not have rights at the University of Reading Library aside from reference access. Anyone can access the University of Reading Library for reference purposes, regardless of whether they have been issued their username and password.”

Henley on LinkedIn

There are now over 3,400 members of this group. LinkedIn have been adding some features to enhance the group area, including the ability to link to news stories which might be of interest to others and discussion threads. There’s a good one running now asking whether Henley was the right choice (like there’s any doubt?).
If you’re on LinkedIn, you can apply to join the group, but please remember to have your profile up-to-date and accurate about Henley first.

IBE Elective, Budapest March 2009

One for the diaries of anyone beyond either their ISP or IMP on the MBA is this week-ling elective on International Business Environment, which will run next March in Hungary. Full details and sign up are available in the electives area on HenleyConnect.

Calendar of events

Linda Thorne informs me that the following event is coming up and is open to you:

Accenture – David Mann, Managing Director of Management Consulting for the UK & Ireland
Henley Business School, Greenlands
Tuesday 11 November 2008Registration from 6.00pm, Presentation 6.30pmFree to Students & Alumni (£10-00 for Guests)

David Mann, Managing Director of Management Consulting for the UK & Ireland – David is responsible for Accenture’s management consulting practice of 1500 professionals. He is a strategy practitioner with a focus on corporate strategy specifically as regards to M&A, finance and operating model design and implementation. In addition to his client work with leading multi nationals, David is a frequent speaker on thought leadership within the firm. David was one of the 3 authors for the original Accenture High Performing Business paper which was recently named by the Harvard Business Review as one of the ten most notable initiatives in the field during the past quarter century. David is a graduate of the University of Technology, Sydney, NSW and has a Masters of Finance and Accounting from the same institution and has an MBA from INSEAD. To reserve a place please email Linda Thorne.

You can also find out other event details at www.reading.ac.uk/events.

Next month I’ll be giving you one of my occasional run-downs of numbers of assignments being presented to the Programme Examiners Meeting (which used to be called the Board of Examiners), as well as info on the average grades being achieved.

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