The keynote to open the second day of the ANZAM conference was delivered by Prof Jonathan West, of University of Tasmania. His talk, Are innovation theory and practice oxymoronic? Tasmania as Exemplar, provided a breath of fresh air and a reality check for those involved in innovation research and entrepreneurial activities.
West noted that, despite the best intentions of researchers, very little innovation research has any meaningful impact on practice. He suggested that this is because most research and practice is based on the myths that innovation is necessarily based on high-technology, and that "we (Tasmanians) punch above our weight". He then proceeded to dispel the myths and offer an alternative approach. Millions of dollars are spent every year, on strategies and innovations efforts that have no real chance of providing a material return. Rather than ignore existing successful industries (in Tasmania's case: wine, horticulture, aquaculture, others) and try to create whole new replacement industries (high-tech, biotech, nanotech), West asserted that stronger innovation outcomes (and the follow on economic and societal benefits) would be far more likely if innovation efforts were focussed on improving existing strong industries and sectors.
West used the example of the wine industry, and suggested that if the size of the industry was doubled—through investment and genetic, product, production and distribution innovations—then the level of unemployment and a host of other negative indicators would plummet. The natural assets of the state and the demand for premium wine suggest such growth is readily achievable. However, two serious stumbling blocks exist: belief in the myths noted above are so deeply held, and innovating within an existing successful industry simply isn't "sexy". Consequently, governments and industry are reluctant to invest for the common good, and, in many cases, innovation efforts are subverted by incumbent companies for fear of increased competition emerging. The promise of the holy grail (biotech, nanotech and information technology) is simply too compelling, even though the chance of achieving a strong return is slim, at best.
West's remit was refreshing, for it tackled what is clearly a delicate topic head on. Such candour needs to be encouraged.
A new innovation that has been introduced to the ANZAM conference this year is the Interactive Session. Whereas the format in the main conference sessions emphasises the presentation (with 5 minutes for questions), the interactive session encourages conversation, with several quick-fire presentations followed by an extended discussion. Many of the papers I heard can best be described as research works-in-progress, rather than completed studies.
- Derek Man spoke about value of moving beyond "hero" leadership, towards an alliance model, not dissimilar to that employed by companies endeavouring to form strategic alliances. He asserted that the increasing complexity of business demanded a new approach, but stopped short of providing any robust theory or evidence of how such a model might work effectively in the anglosphere. Man's ideas are not dissimilar to those discussed by Dimovski at ECMLG several weeks ago.
- Clive Boddy provided a very revealing insight, by drawing a link between the descriptions of toxic and destructive leadership in the psychology literature, and the traits of leaders in company failure situations. Boddy's noted that the behaviours and excesses of leaders in many failure situations are remarkably similar to those of psychopaths. He introduced the term corporate psychopath, applied it to the triumvirates that held power in several high-profile failures (Enron, Worldcom), and described some of the behavioural indicators that characterise such leaders.
- Kumudini Heenetigala questioned the shareholder primacy "value" that dominates governance practice, particularly in AngloAmerican jurisdictions, and noted that many "causes" of company failure can be traced back to factors commonly associated with the agency perspective of governance and the shareholder primacy value. These include a lack of accountability at the board level; unethical practices by board and management; duty of care breaches; and, acting in a reckless or irresponsible manner.
This session really caught my imagination. The three studies summarised above are a small sample of over 100 studies presented in thIn my view, sessions like this should be included in the programmes of all research-oriented conferences. The supportive, collegial style of engagement by other speakers and attendees provided a considerable amount of useful feedback, much of which should lead to more robust research outcomes as the various studies are finalised, I'm sure.
The replacement of a poor performing CEO is an important but challenging task of boards. Young Kim's (University of New South Wales) summarised recent research into factors which contribute to the speed with which boards make CEO dismissal decisions. Her quantitative study, using data from 348 publicly-listed US firms, explored the relationship between external signals of declining performance (analyst downgrades), the board's interpretation of any signalled decline, and the time to any subsequent dismissal of the CEO. The results revealed that three factors seem to be significant to the speed with which the board makes any CEO dismissal decision. According to Kim, boards made dismissal decisions more quickly when:
- The magnitude of performance drops were high/strong (gross failure to achieve performance targets)
- The performance drop represented a large variation from a previously consistent pattern of performance
- The performance drop was more extreme than prevailing industry patterns
These results were encouraging. They confirmed my intuition that most boards tend to react only when large changes or variations from forecast occur, and that the response they turn to first is to dismiss the CEO. In so doing, the larger problem—of boards operating as the "ambulance at the base of the cliff"—is brought into stark relief. The continuing failure of boards to understand the operational context within which the company operates, and to monitor performance against strategy adequately, amazes me. Kim's study provides a useful launch pad for further research, perhaps using qualitative methodology, to understand the motivations of boards, and the changes needed to move boards into the role of the top of the cliff. I intend to chat with Kim about this, because I suspect there are synergies between her work and mine.
Peter McKiernan (Murdoch University, Western Australia) presented research which explored the effect of organisational leadership systems (OLS) on leader sense-giving. This paper caught my eye because it offered a different perspective—sense-giving, not sense-making. The possible effects of contextual factors in the leadership process are not well understood. McKiernan's longitudinal study sought to address this gap in the knowledge, by analysing qualitative data collected from interviews with leaders in 37 multinational firms, in order to discover whether the OLS is a trigger, enabler or barrier to leader sense-giving. The results showed that a degree of inherent complexity and ambiguity are triggers for sense-giving, and that objective (external) factors appears to have the biggest impact.
I asked the "so what?" question after the talk, and McKiernan said that this is the next step in his work. To understand implications for practice. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this work, because it is likely to be helpful to enhance leadership effectiveness in high change environments.
The 27th Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) conference got underway this morning. The opening keynote was delivered by Dr Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Green Party. His talk, Why Global Democracy is on its Way – Australia's Key Role, explored the issue of effective and sustainable management of the biosphere. Brown noted that we humans—all 7.5 billion of us—are dependent upon the biosphere, but it is not dependent on us.
Brown's talk was interesting, in that it highlighted many relevant and important issues relating to sustainability. However, the rather thinly-veiled anti-business tenor of Brown's talk was somewhat naive. He appeared to ignore the societal well-being improvements achieved by high performing businesses over many generations, and necessity of interconnects between business sectors. For example, Brown opposed mining (citing environmental impact and limited employment opportunities) and promoted tourism (limited environmental impact and greater employment opportunity). These industries are actually connected, in that hydrocarbons are required to power the vehicles (planes and ships) needed to transport tourists to a given location. Brown's submissions would be considered extreme by many. Notwithstanding this, Brown set the scene and theme for the conference well.
The 27th Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management conference starts this morning, in Hobart, Australia. If the registration process and pack is any indication, the three day conference will be a well-run, high quality affair. This year, papers have been categorised into 15 subject streams:
- Managing on the Edge
- Critical Management Studies
- Entrepreneurship, Small Business and Family Enterprise
- Gender, Diversity and Indigeneity
- Human Resource Management
- International Management
- Leadership and Governance
- Management Education and Development
- Marketing and Communication
- Organisational Behaviour
- Organisational Change and Development
- Health, Public Sector and Not-for-profit
- Strategic Management
- Sustainability and Social Issues in Management
- Technology, Innovation and Supply Chain Management
With about 340 papers on the programme, and several plenary keynotes, the logistics exercise of paper and stream selection has not been without challenge. Today, I'll be concentrating my attention on two streams: Leadership and Governance, and Strategic Management. I will post reflections and comments as time and wi-fi access permits.
The task of exposing the twelfth and last page of my desk calendar, in a couple of days' time, signals the arrival of the Christmas season in our household. As happens each year, my mind moves to the prospect of spending time with family and friends; to BBQs; to warm weather (as happens when one lives in the Southern Hemisphere); and, to the books that I'd like to read over the holiday period. This year, there are just three titles on my list. Hopefully one or more of them finds their way under the Christmas tree later in the month!
The Victorian City, by Judith Flanders.
Flanders has written several books about Victorian London, none of which I've read. This particular title caught my eye when I was browsing in a local book store, perhaps as a result of my heightened awareness of the great city following my recent visit there.
The Men who United the States, by Simon Winchester.
Winchester ranks amongst my favourite story-telling authors. I've enjoyed The Surgeon of Crowthorne, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and The River at the Centre of the World in the past. If this new title is comparable, then I suspect that I'm in for a treat.
Strategy: A History, by Lawrence Freedman.
This newly published title has received critical acclaim from several well-regarded reviewers. It offers an expansive view of strategy and strategic thinking, from ancient military strategists (Achilles, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli) to modern business strategists (Drucker, Sloan). At 768 pages, I may take a while to get through this one!
I will be attending the 27th Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Conference, in Hobart, Australia, next week. The three-day gathering, from Wed 4 to Fri 6 December, is the premier conference for management scholars and practitioners in this part of the world, with over 340 research papers and several keynote presentations on the programme! Papers have been grouped into 15 topic areas, with up to eight streams of papers being presented at any one time. Consequently, delegates have the challenging task of deciding what papers they want to hear—a not insignificant logistics exercise for sure.
While I will not be presenting a paper this year, I will be sharing observations and insights during the conference, as I have done with other conferences. Please check back here later next week if you like to hear about the latest developments in the management field.
I will be visiting the USA in March, to present a paper at the International Conference on Management Leadership and Governance, at Babson College, Mass., on 20–21 March. Currently, I have up to three days available (Fri 14, Mon 17, Tue 18) for meetings in or near San Francisco or Boston (my travel route) to provide assistance with, or speak into, any corporate strategy or governance matter that may be of interest to you or your organisation.
If you would like to take advantage of this, to have me speak, consult or provide some other contribution, please contact me
to let me know how I can help.
are an interesting lot. They typically invest in start-up or early-stage companies, but such investments can be risky. Folklore suggests that, for every ten investments that an Angel makes, four will fail to provide any return, three will return the original investment, two will do reasonably well (2–5 times return), and one will do very well (5–10 times return). Sometimes this approach works (in terms of providing a positive overall return over a five to ten year period), and sometimes it doesn't
Without wishing to sound cynical in any way, what motivates an angel? Generally speaking, they are wealthy individuals who have worked hard to build a capital base. Why would they risk eroding their base by making risky investments? I suspect many Angels are adrenalin junkies—gamblers even—where the possibility (and thrill) of high returns are simply too great to ignore. However this is not the case for all Angels. Some see their investments as philanthropic donations, to assist the next generation of entrepreneurs. Others are well-informed, astute and shrewd. Regardless of their motivation, Angels provide a much-needed source of capital for entrepreneurs—to test their ideas and try to get them off the ground. Bill Gates, Rod Drury
and Sam Morgan
are all beneficiaries, and look at them now!