Words to rock the boat

Web technology and the influence of dotcoms on business were the
developments that fuelled much of the speeches in this year’s conference,
writes Noel O’Reilly. The biggest name on the programme was Charles Handy, the
UK’s celebrated prophet of the new entrepreneurialism and of the shift of power
from big employers to talented individuals. Here is a round-up of the other
management thinkers on show.

Shirley Jamieson
Director, Cambridge Centre for Entrepreneurship, and
Shailendra Vyakarnum
Professor of enterprise, Nottingham Business School

The message here is that corporate entrepreneurialism would be the
management theme of the new decade after "efficiency" in the 1980s
and "innovation" in the 1990s. "There’s a new brain drain you
should recognise from big companies to start-ups," said Jamieson. The
Government is ploughing money into science enterprise centres and Alan Sugar is
taking to the road to deliver the message to educational institutions.
Disruptive Richard Branson types are in. Business planning and putting the word
"strategy" in front of everything are out.

Thomas D Williams
Vice-president, Booz Allen & Hamilton

Talking about high performance leadership, Williams’ robotic delivery was
either hypnotic or soporific depending on how much you had to drink the
previous evening. When a delegate asked him where passion fitted into his
analysis of the systems needed to support leadership, he said, "There’s
more to it than waving your arms."

Williams’ key point was that organisations had to strike a balance between
how far HR practices are aligned throughout the corporation and how far local
teams are encouraged to be adaptable. The deciding factor was the business
context. He praised Renault and Enron for breaking away from stodgy hierarchies
and introducing cross-fertilisation between departments and more departmental

Dr Jim Scholes
Professor of Management Science, Lancaster University

Not afraid to look at the big picture, Scholes put the recent collapse of
high-tech shares in the context of the whole history of civilisation. His
message was that the rise in e-business failures, or dotbombs, was a mere blip.

"The new capabilities are speed, experimentation, imagination and
diversity," he said. Strategy isn’t about market share, it is about
intellectual leadership, which means developing a "proprietary point of
view" of the market and "deep differentiation" with competitors.
"Strategy and innovation are interdependent," he added. The challenges
for HR include being a credible partner in mergers, recruiting entrepreneurial
types, outsourcing and alliances and taking a lead in knowledge management.

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