Archive for February, 2010

Dear all,

This month, I wanted to talk to you about Learning Journals. As Programme Director, I get email alerts each day to tell me whether there has been any activity over the last 24 hours on all the HenleyConnect MBA intake areas. If I’m waiting for a daily deluge, however, I appear to be waiting in vain as, apparently most of you are reluctant diarists, and in some intakes an outpouring of reflection looks unlikely.  That’s not the case for some of you, and I know that the process and habit of vocalising your thoughts can become an MBA routine (even the occasional, but timely, record of an insight, event or thought begins to pay you dividends in others way, on the MBA and beyond).

However, for the silent majority, there may be a blockage. Now, although I thought I would talk this month about the art of reflection and of writing Learning Journal entries as part of your personal development, it occurred to me that perhaps the reason for taciturnity is because you feel a little self-conscious about voicing your thoughts in public, or maybe you lack the confidence to write. My going on about it would, in fact, be counter-productive and would send you further into your shells. 

For those of you who have not got the writing bug,  I’d like to invite you to turn inward – grow even more taciturn – with the question of how you feel about expressing “you and the MBA”, or you and your work/career, or, for that matter,  you and the world you’re in.  If, after doing that, you really feel there’s nothing to say, then I urge you to carry on not saying it, your secret’s safe with you. If you feel that thoughts do occur to you, but (for whatever reason) you object to writing them down, then I encourage you to hold on to that objection as hard as you can and, in as unchanging a way as possible, don’t let it go.  After all, you have paid for this, so who are we to tell you otherwise?  As for me, I’ll just carry on praying for rain.

Now, on with the newsletter and no more about Learning Journals. Honest.

Henley on Linkedin

I’m always keen to start with news of the Henley group. We’re about to hit 5,000 members, and so there’s a tremendous amount of potential there for you to maintain a profile and make good and collegiate contacts with fellow members and alumni around the world. The Special Interest or local alumni subgroups are growing, albeit slowly, and we’ll see whether the model is viable. That will depend, I think, on whether the technology enables something you’d do anyway.

Right now, there’s a second wave of discussions about the Henley merger and the MBA brand reputation, and several others have posted requests for assistance with their dissertation or management challenge research projects, too.

Research Corner

No items here this month, but don’t forget that if you’re looking for people to respond to your Dissertation or Management Challenge questionnaire or survey, then you can also ask me to advertise it here.

MBA Student of the Year Award 2010

You’re an impressive bunch and I am often amazed at the jobs you are doing, and occasionally of the lives you are managing to lead side by side with the MBA study. AMBA, the Association of MBAs is again launching a campaign to find the MBA Student of the Year, and is asking Henley to nominate one strong candidate.  Shortlisted candidates get invited to interview in London and get whittled down to four finalists. I don’t know if swimsuits are involved, but it would be great to have someone from Henley represented. So, if you’re interested, and if you think you meet AMBA’s selection criteria of a strong academic record, a contribution to group dynamics and leading groups, as well as commitment to the School and the MBA programme, and also (there’s quite a list) that you have demonstrably benefited from the course in your career and/or you have overcome a significant challenge to get to where you are, then please let me know and we’ll look at the rest of the criteria together.  Closing date for nominations is 21st April, with judging and interviews in May and awards presented in November.


Amanda Proddow writes the following: “can you please ensure that all your current programme members are aware that they are very welcome to join the Henley Sailing Team to compete in this year’s MBA Regatta.  Please note the event has been renamed from the BSAR (Business Schools Alumni Regatta) to the Cranfield MBA Regatta 2010  and encourages current programme members, staff and alumni to take part. Paul Bennett and Richard Steele from Henley are members of the team!

Cranfield MBA Regatta 2010 – 9th to 11th July The Cranfield MBA Regatta website has been updated with a bit more info on the event. See http://www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/som/mba/regatta . The event is slightly changed on last year with an overnight stop in Cowes on the Saturday and four races. The entry requirement is described as “The Regatta is open to all Business Schools MBA students and alumni”. As before, they also include Business School staff and partners in the teams. Tim Lawson, (DL MBA 2001) is the team organiser and has scheduled 2 practice weekends in April and May.  If anyone is interested, I need to firstly register their interest and then will put them in direct contact with Tim for full details. There is a page on the alumni website advertising the event:


Advanced notice now of this year’s Henley Golf event, which will take place at Sonning Common Golf Club in September. More details to follow, apparently.

Also, there are quite a number of other events being organised in March, and here are some of the details and contacts. I know that many of you are living or working outside the reach of these, and it would be good to know what’s been going on with you in your regions, so please do let me know:


I’ve mentioned this site before, and my tip for a good video to watch this month is Jamie Oliver, speaking about his mission to change America’s eating habits. He looks a little out of place on the stage at first, but stick with it and you’ll end up rooting for him. This clip is especially important for anyone working in food or health related industries. View it here.

New Intake

Today we’re running the opening day of the latest Henley-Based Flexible Intake, HB43. There are 49 members of the group and as I type they are sitting in their syndicate rooms getting to know each other. Easily the most rewarding part of Day One, I always think. 

Good luck to anyone preparing to sit for their exams in March.


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This week I was fortunate enough to be able to have a go on one of the RAF’s

Puma Helicopter flight simulators at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. The occasion was a talk being given by Chris Bones to the officers and personnel from the squadron, and my host, Steve McCann, was kind enough to organise some valuable time (trust me, these things are not cheap) inside the “sim”.

Probably this would every gameboy geek’s dream, but I have never really been a video-game junkie, so I didn’t know what to expect. The first thing to report is how relaxed and friendly everyone on the base was – although it was a well practised, punctual and disciplined relaxed kind of friendliness.  Steve took me into the simulator building, which houses six massive virtual Disney rides on computer-controlled hydraulics, and after a brief health and safety talk (and a really good tip from an old pro on how to stop from getting sick), I was sitting in the (real) cock-pit of a Puma looking out on a simulated wrap-around view of Afghanistan.

Flying a helicopter is both remarkably simple and incredibly complex. You’ve got to be using all four limbs, but once you get the hang of which limb is doing what, and how each complements the others, it’s actually quite straightforward. Taking off was really smooth (because Steve was doing it), and when I was given control mid-flight, I thought, well, this is a piece of cake.

However, the cake crumbles as soon as you upset the delicate balance of controls and allow one of your four limbs to go too far. However, I did manage to land (with a bump, and then a long sliding stop, foot hard down on the brake, into the dust) and a rolling take-off (very cool!), as well as dodging being shot at from the ground. I crashed only once. Mind you, in real life, that would be it!

I can report that there is no Wagner button. There are buttons, for sure, and lots of them, but as Steve (possibly jokingly) pointed out “you just switch them all on before you take-off, then switch them all off when you land”, so I barely glanced at them.

Chris spoke well and held their interest, speaking around the topic of Inspiring Leadership, and we were given a tour of the Merlin helicopter, which is what the RAF is using in Afghanistan at the moment. At one point in the simulator, I asked whether I was flying as low as they did in Iraq (thinking, heroically, that I was), but then he took the controls and showed me how fast and low they fly in combat zones. Believe me, there’s no room for error, so I’m left in awe of the skill.

The photo is of me and my young co-pilot in the Merlin. I had just opened the side window, having been warned “whatever you do, don’t touch the black and yellow button”, which, to be honest, I thought was what you opened the window with…

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In terms of PhD, my reading habits seem to swing to and fro between books and journals. For the second half of 2009, where before I had been amassing (mostly by raiding reference lists) very many peer-reviewed journal articles, the pendulum moved back to books, many of them seminal. Bateson’s own works of course – including a copy of Naven – and books about Bateson, but also a more diverse collection embracing cultural anthropology and evolutionary theory.  Now in the last couple of weeks, I again am collecting journal articles from a variety of sources I would not have predicted a year ago and with titles that should perhaps make me (or my supervisor) concerned.

All this flurry of activity is leading to is a presentation in March at Lancaster of my thinking to date, followed by an up-grade meeting in front of a panel.

Apart from communicating the kernel of my idea (below), I will need to show what I’ve done in terms of pilots. To that end, next week I shall be engaging some kindly volunteers from our full-time MBA cohort in Narrative Inquiry, built around interviews of career, learning points in life, and family-of-origin. There’s still a big piece of what I want to do missing, but this is progress.

As for the crux of the research, which revolves nicely around the question “what is learning?”, I now feel that the two productive (i.e. unexplored, relatively, in the context of Management Education) are:

a. the necessary connection between evolution and learning

b. how learning is a stochastic process

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