Sunday, 7 February 2016

A Naked Intrepreneur’s Ambitions Revealed?

I am just in from celebrating Doug (66) and Lisa (70) getting married. Its a wonderful thing for 2 people to find love and happiness and it felt a privilege to be part of their great day. My legs and hips are telling me that 4 hours  eating, drinking, dancing and making merry is possibly not a good thing to be doing at my age. But having raised a glass to their future, I am also raising one to mine! Welcome to the new look first blog, posted after the initial week in my new role at the University. 

It was an interesting week. For the first time in a long time, I had momentary pauses in my working day, pauses where I have sat and wondered what it was I should be doing next. There were busy moments however, and I got to meet lots of people, many for the first time, something I am reflecting on as I slowly acclimatise to a new role in what should have been a familiar institutional environment. Pleasingly many of the conversations have been constructive, with much enthusiasm and interest in what the plans might be for taking forward the ICZ programme of work.

Everyone I've met, without exception has asked how I would best describe what an ICZ is and how would this programme be any different from the kind of things we had been doing in the 7 Schools across the University up to now. It’s a fair question and good question to ask. ICZs are the number one (and only) University strategic priority, so it’s a question that needs to be answered. For me, and at one level, it’s a relatively easy question to answer. An ICZ can be both a tangible organisational entity and a heuristic device. This is a place I have been before.

Way back in 2007, one of the first things I had to do as a newly appointed Head of School was to produce a Self Evaluation Document (SED) as part of a quinquennial review process. In the Executive Summary I proudly declared that our 10 year ambition for the School was to create an Institute of Nursing. The assertion caused great consternation in the ranks of the very conservative, traditional, largely nescinet and performance orientated university managerial hierarchy of the time. Cries of ‘it can't be done’, ‘it won’t be allowed’, ‘it shouldn’t be allowed‘ and ‘who does he think he is’ grew into a raucous cacophony of condemnation and derision.

In response I drew upon the Kejserens nye Klaeder defence in declaring the Institute to be a heuristic device. Back then the Kejserens nye Klaeder defence worked as my challengers and detractors didn’t know what a heuristic was and such ignorance was hard to admit to. They also came from a generation where a Google search was equally meaningless. So eventually there was a great deal of enthusiastic agreement with my assertion and the review was praised and passed with flying colours. By the time a metaphorical little child observed that the Institute of Nursing was naked, the School was already motoring at speed and we never looked back.

Of course that was nearly a decade ago and my reasoning in using heuristics as a way of beginning to unpack the concept of ICZs is different. But, way back in 2007, the Schools ambitions were used to support and guide our creative approaches to learning, support the professional development of colleagues, and increase our research scope and capabilities. We were able to do so against a contextual backdrop that was recognisable and meaningful to others across the University, and to colleagues and stakeholders on the national and international stage.

Likewise our 4 ICZs will have their own contextual backdrop: Sport; Health and Wellbeing; Creative and Digital; Engineering and Environment. Each ICZ will provide a physical and or virtual place and space for our University colleagues and students to work, play and simply be with others from a wide range of external organisations. The only criteria is that all those who come together in these spaces, take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation, and are relentless big thinkers, dreamers and doers.  

Last week, I started the process of assembling a group of people to help shape, support and facilitate our ICZ strategic ambitions. This is a group who will form the Programme Board. They won’t be the usual suspects - I will find other ways to engage with such people. No I have someone different in mind. I am after the intrepreneur, the thought leader, and those comfortable with promoting disruptive change. Thankfully, there are many such people across the University and I am really looking forward to working with them in co-creating a very different future.