Strategic Leadership

for Leaders in an Uncertain World

People are noticing we were wrongly led – who and what now?

While various pundit produce a growing number of articles and papers on the causes of the world economic problems, one things is becoming very clear. We were led into the credit crunch and crisis of confidence.

I know this is a bold (!) statement. A very short explanation will suffice for now.

First, while we were led this leadership was not of the kind we currently recognise as such. The leadership was blind through sheer lack of the awareness among those at the top of various organisation. They simply failed to recognise that the multinational corporations they may be running or an ever increasing number of G-type groupings (G8, G20, EU etc) they belong to mean one thing – world is strongly interconnected! This matters far more than anyone has recognised so far. Some commentators are thus calling for systemic solutions or looking for systemic approaches. Surprisingly, these voices are still in great minority. They also seem to be coming from non-anglo-saxon world.

The failure to understand the need for a systemic perspective permeates the regulation as well. Basel I and Basel II are clear examples here from the banking sector.

The second characteristic of the crisis is easily explicable by Darwinian evolution. A growing chorus in the press, including the Financial Times, and in the UK Parliament is bringing up so far un-sayable fact that our corporate Boards are highly inbred and lack vigour, real talent and true diversity. In other words these large companies as they are now are a dying breed as much as dinosaurs were.

Add to this the third circumstance – that of the steadily declining education and bonus systems rewards for failure, and we have truly serious situation. Decisions are being made by people caught in the stampede of the press and TV stations hungry for instant action. Politicians make pronouncements about initiatives and policy changes that take far too long to start. When they are implemented, sheer complexity of the systems to be introduced (IT as well as human) overwhelms the capabilities of those charged to make it happen. Long standing dumbing down of education coupled with lack of transparency of the conditions for progress up the organisational ladders and supported by a totally warped reward system, make for a real witches brew!

However, the solutions proffered by our Governments do not appear to show that the politicians or their advisers have grasped these simple truths. They show little inclination to engage in serious thinking. All the summits in the world are no substitute for taking the strategic leadership stance to explore the situation for what it is – a mess of our own making that requires a different approach and totally different group of people to solve it! Same goes for HR Directors, for all their optimism and expanding role!

We are not talking about the whistleblowers. We are advocating leadership by Mavericks and Contrarians. It is clear that HR Departments and their function are very much behind the times. New skills and approaches that handle paradoxes, dilemmas and dynamic situations as well as people with capabilities to build relationships are needed and yet in very short supply! However, even under the conditions of threat, current powers that be along with those who put them there continue to follow the lemming route of more of the same just bigger.

This is neither desirable nor necessary. We need a new party and people with real courage. What next and how to go about it is the topic of a future post.

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February 19, 2009 Posted by | diversity, Leadership, Strategy, Systems | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More calls for wisdom and integrity- Wall Street Journal and Peggy Noonan

As the time for inauguration of President-Elect Obama draws nearer, there are more reflections on the state of the nation in America and his task ahead. So, in her recent article in WSJ, columnist Peggy Noonan says:

The reigning ethos seems to be every man for himself.

An old friend in a position of some authority in Washington told me the other day, from out of nowhere, that a hard part of his job is that there’s no one to talk to. I didn’t understand at first. He’s surrounded by people, his whole life is one long interaction. He explained that he doesn’t have really thoughtful people to talk to in government, wise men, people taking the long view and going forth each day with a sense of deep time, and a sense of responsibility for the future. There’s no one to go to for advice.

He senses the absence too.

It’s a void that’s governing us.

She finishes with saying:

What a task President-elect Obama has ahead. He ran on a theme of change we can believe in, but already that seems old. Only six weeks after his election he faces a need more consequential and immediate. In January, in his inaugural, he may find himself addressing something bigger, and that is: Belief we can believe in. The return of confidence. The end of absence. The return of the suit inhabited by a person. The return of the person who will take responsibility, and lead.

Much as she seems to think that these are new challenges, they really are not. Though UK is by no means as large as USA, the scale of the undertaking faced by the incoming Thatcher Government in late 1970’s was much larger than that now laying ahead of President-Elect Obama. One of the main reasons for the difference is that almost all major countries in the world are affected by the current economic downturn in similar ways. So far it would appear that they have followed very similar routes to trying to find ways out. Yet, none seems to have taken on board the lessons that have been so successful in turning around UK economy and bringing the much needed ‘return of the person who will take responsibility, and lead’ Miss Noonan seeks above. What is required is neatly summed up by Norman Strauss in his article appropriately entitled “State of Mind that can Stop Decline”.

How do we make sure that leaders pay attention to the lessons of the past?

What sort of leadership across the society do we need now?

December 22, 2008 Posted by | Business thinkers, Government, Leadership, News, Strategy, US Elections08 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Guardian 20 Jan 1984 – Why this Applies now to the Financial Crisis

Sometimes it requires a long time and a really deep crisis to get a previously unacknowledged practical proposals to gain currency in a new light. We suggest that the article Norman Strauss wrote in January 1984 provides just such example in the current global financial crisis. It specifically indicates:

– typical distinction between GOOD GOVERNANCE and GOOD Government

– more subtle distinction is between Systems as currently understood and the system dynamics over time = as they really are

– Trust is a Systems Issue which has to be treated as such.

In addition, it raises some fundamental questions like:

– How does governance relate to the dynamic  of the governing system?

– Is consensus system equilibrium and/or stasis?

– What is the relationship of breakdown and consensus/governance?

Incidentally, even high quality financial daily like Financial Times did not wish to recognise the root causes of the impending crisis nor engage in the discussion about ways to address it before it becomes as serious as it is now. How do we know? Well, by the enclosed letter remaining unpublished in spite of being submitted twice (first in January 2008 and then in April 2008). The point of the FT Au Contraire letter is that it was starting to apply at the frequency which regularly displayed the cracks that were beginning to undermine the current system and were accelerating it towards breakdown.

December 18, 2008 Posted by | Government, Leadership, Strategy, Systems | , , , | 1 Comment

The case for live wires in Whitehall- how far has it happened 25 years on?

Above we relate why The case for live wires in Whitehall is relevant today in the financial crisis. Simply, it would appear that little has changed in the Civil Service from those days almost 25 years ago! One needs only read Sue Cameron articles in FT, like Can-do civil servant in a world of wait-a-minute men and Tory cleansing of clipboard men to see that this is still a far of goal.

Yet, we are now in the grip of a crisis that affects UK at large and requires decision making capabilities in the Government and within Civil Service that far exceed those available. We do not have years to get this into place. And external consultants per se would not do. Ray of hope is that some Ministers like Lord Drayson recognise this you can hear his specific suggestions stated at NESTA on 4th December 2008. He emphasised the need for fast decision making, ability to take risks and need for taking responsibility by civil servants working in his Department.

May the real reforms begin.

December 18, 2008 Posted by | Civil Service Reform, Government, Innovation, Leadership | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FT 11th Nov.2008 Leadership Lessons from 55 Years ago_Stephen Stern

Suddenly, history and leadership are being intimately linked.  Whether it is when refering to Barack Obama victory in US elections and looking for parallels with previous presidents or on BBC Radio 4 where Anthony Roberts explores the links between historians and leaders, military in the first program and political in the forthcoming one.

However, the best and simplest is the recent article by Stephen Stern in Financial Times Leadership Lessons from 55 Years ago. Here are a few quotes:

No wonder historians are worried about the disappearance of documentary evidence now that everything is being e-mailed and text-messaged. These typed pages, with all their blotches and imperfections, summoned up the past….

…I have rarely read such clear, purposeful and persuasive thoughts on leadership, delivered in only a few sentences.

Leadership is “the art of influencing a body of people to follow a certain course of action”, the notes state. “The art of controlling them, directing them and getting the best out of them.”…

(skip)

The notes contain a special section on “man management”. Some of this stuff feels quite radical, a) for 1955 and b) for the army. See what you think: “The business of man management takes time and it requires the taking of infinite trouble … you cannot deal with material you know little or nothing about. Your men are your material; you must know all about them …You must give each one individual study and be prepared to make an individual approach to each. You must be something of a psychologist.”

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Leadership | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Times Archive – what does the lecture from 10th January 1984 have to do with NHS Reform and constitution?

When I was doing my PhD in Artificial Intelligence it used to be said that ‘it takes 17 +/- 3 years’ for ideas or research to move from academia to marketplace.  It would seem that the same equation holds for the advanced ideas to be revisited again in the public life.  Trouble is that while in technology and IT we can see the impact of their implementation from the results in the marketplace, when it comes to UK Government (Labour as well as Conservative) and Civil Service of the day (Central / Whitehall as well as Local Government) it remains at the level of rhetoric.

So, the enclosed article summarises Norman’s ideas from as long ago as early 1980’s.  Now, almost 25 years later, one can quote major parts word for word and the reader could be forgiven for thinking they are newly written.  Try the two excerpts below:

Mr Norman Strauss behaves similarly with ideas, packing more into one lecture than others would use during a year. On occasion, there is a need for interpretation. That is, I believe true of his recent speech on constitutional reform.

It starts from the well-worn, but topical, theme that the complexity and difficulty of modern government are setting a task clearly beyond the current system. He therefore identifies, as I would, what is essentially a management problem in the broadest sense. “Productivity and efficiency can apply just as much to ideas about improving central government as they can to say, the health service.

and immediately after:

Norman Strauss’s worry is that information and technology seem to be outgrowing the competence of governments to manage them and at the same time to provide adequate satisfaction for citizens and maintain their trust. This is happening in an age when demands for information for knowledge and for participative democracy are becoming strident. Here is the first new twist in the argument. Mr Strauss believes that “some issues are now so complex that leaders must no longer be allowed to monopolise facts, knowledge and resources. This is especially true when higher standards of education coupled with the information revolution make it possible for those with special expertise, interests or insights to comment on what is happening and to do so for the wider benefit of society”.

In Mr Strauss’s view, this goes beyond freedom of information legislation, in suggesting a fundamental change in structures and organization. He sees the new technologies as giving the possibility for the government to make available not only the facts it possesses, but also insight into its thinking, analysis. decisions and strategy.

So, compare the above with the rather simplistic NHS Report changes and the laughably pedestrian, actually downright dangerous measures and one-dimensional, targets still applied for measuring progress in spite of the unprecedented technological advances. Yet, the powers that be are closed to listening. This applies as much to the professionals with vested interests however good their intentions, as it does to politicians in Government. Worse still, the Opposition is even more blinded having learnt nothing from the Thatcher years!

Any ideas?

And now, enjoy the full article.

Times 200184 Thatcher critic_Sir Douglas on Norman

One can only hope that Lord Darzi does not take Yes Minister he is bringing with him to Desert Island as the way things have to be!

July 3, 2008 Posted by | Civil Service Reform, Leadership, Strategy, Systems | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FT 4th June 2008 – Good Leadership is a team sport and that team has to be ‘whole-minded’ says research

FT.com | Management Blog | Column: the myth of the lonely leader

June 3, 2008
by Stefan Stern
Stefan Stern
Column: the myth of the lonely leader

It used to be the Ewings who livened up the boardrooms (and saloon bars) of Dallas, but these days the Rockefellers provide all the dynastic entertainment on offer. At ExxonMobil’s annual shareholders meeting in the Texan city last week, descendants of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Exxon’s forebear Standard Oil, lobbied hard to force the company to split the joint role of chairman and chief executive – currently held by Rex Tillerson – in two.

Most shareholders demurred. They seemed happy enough with the company’s performance. As well they might be: ExxonMobil had record pre-tax profits of $40bn (£20bn, €26bn) last year, far outstripping all other leading US corporations. The share price, up by 10 per cent in the past 12 months, has shaken off the bearish sentiment that has afflicted other industrial stocks. It has not been a bad time to be in the oil business, of course. But management must be getting something right.

While the dispute over ExxonMobil’s strategic direction centred on the environment, in effect it constituted an attack on the current boss. Now, you might expect a Rockefeller to subscribe to the great man theory of history. But this theory, when applied to the leadership of businesses and organisations, distracts us from what we should really be thinking about. The personality of Mr Tillerson, and whether or not he should combine the roles of chair and CEO, is not the central point. The quality of the leadership team that surrounds him is what counts.

All of us – business people, financiers, analysts, journalists and PRs – are guilty of perpetuating the myth of the lonely leader, struggling single-handedly to drive the business on. I can only speak for my own trade here. As journalists we are taught to “tell the story through people”. So, if we want to report what a company is doing, who else should we write about if not the boss?

But as Lee Scott, chief executive of Wal-Mart, was honest enough to explain to this newspaper earlier this year: “I don’t run the company…as a CEO if you have to get up every morning and tell them what to do, then you’ve got the wrong people in the jobs.” Nor can Mr Tillerson simply over-ride the entire ExxonMobil board: 10 out of the 11 directors elected last week are non-executives.

Now there is new evidence that it is top teams rather than top bosses that matter most. Research commissioned by the UK-based consultancy Cognosis has shown that the effective development and execution of strategy has more to do with what senior executives succeed in conveying to the rest of the organisation than what leaders do and say alone.

Just over 1,000 senior managers from large businesses were asked by the research company YouGov to give their views on the strategic effectiveness of their organisation. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the verdict was not all that positive. Under half felt that their leaders, leadership teams and organisational culture supported the effective development of strategy.

More surprising was the evidence, drawn from “regression analysis” of the survey findings, that leadership teams were four times as important as leaders in that process of developing strategy. “Leaders have only an indirect influence on creating a more strategically effective culture,” says Richard Brown, managing partner at Cognosis. The leader’s job is to “catalyse and orchestrate his or her top team”. It is then up to that team to influence the rest of the business.

So how, if you are the boss, do you make this process work? Try to build what Cognosis calls a “whole-minded” team around you. That is, balancing four key personality types (and approaches to strategy) as identified in a Myers-Briggs style analysis of your colleagues: those who are predominantly creative, collaborative, rational or practical.

According to the survey data, “whole-minded” teams are seen as significantly more effective. But there is good news for the leader who may be an essentially rational or practical kind of person. “Leaders don’t have to be whole-minded to assemble and lead whole-minded teams,” Mr Brown says. Getting buy-in from the rest of the business will be a lot easier, however, if the top team contains that mix of qualities that will help create a more convincing, and possibly even inspiring strategy.

The alternative is all too familiar: one-dimensional teams of executives all hired in the leader’s image, people who have got on in their careers by trying to be as much like their boss as possible. There is no mystery how this happens. “Leaders do tend to build leadership teams in their own image,” Mr Brown says. But this reinforces narrow-mindedness instead of building the “whole-mindedness” you need.

Do not expect to see any sudden or dramatic changes in the way we talk about business. The glossy magazines will not run out of CEOs eager to be photographed for the front cover. But, with their smart covers, those magazines are really reporting the myth and not the facts about how companies are run. Leadership, it turns out, is a team sport. Its tasks and duties are distributed far and wide among the ranks.

June 3rd, 2008 in Corporate governance, Leadership | Permalink

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Leadership, Strategy | , , , , | 2 Comments

HBR Editors blog, March 24 – How to Crack Companies’ Class Structure

How to Crack Companies’ Class Structure – Harvard Business Online’s HBR Editors’ Blog

How to Crack Companies’ Class Structure</blockquote
Posted by Steve Prokesch on March 24, 2008 9:01 AM

An invisible class structure is preventing companies from making the most of their employees’ talents.

By class structure I mean there’s a function or profession that considers itself and is perceived by all others to be the one that the organization values most. Everybody else is a de facto second- class citizen or worse.

By invisible I mean that everybody just accepts the class structure as a fact of life. Leaders do not consider either the price it exacts or how they might get rid of it.

What a shame! In an age when solving increasingly complex problems requires not just the input but also the robust interactions of multiple disciplines, a class structure is a formidable competitive disadvantage.

I first became conscious of this problem about 10 years ago, when I had the misfortune of becoming a second-class citizen for the first time. I was hired by an extremely affluent company, where one group indisputably ruled the kingdom: the salesmen. Even though this firm insisted on hiring “the best” for every function and paid everyone obscenely well, the vast majority of the salesmen had the attitude that they were the experts on everything. Everyone else, including yours truly, was “support staff”—or, as some of us dubbed ourselves, “window washers.” I felt I came nowhere close to making the contribution I could have made and plenty of others felt the same.

Admittedly this firm is an extreme case, but I’ve observed that organizations with class structures are the overwhelming norm. (Were Darwin still around, he undoubtedly would respond, “Duh! What did you expect?”)

Given that organizations need the best ideas of everyone and cross-disciplinary teamwork, leaders must do whatever they can to create classless organizations. Here’s a first crack at what the basic steps should include:

Perform a diagnosis. Go ask people in different disciplines which functions they perceive to be first and second class. I know of CEOs who have been shocked at what they’ve discovered.

Define a classless society: Make sure everyone understands that it means a meritocracy, not a democracy. People should know that they can talk to anyone in the organization and that their ideas will be welcomed and seriously considered but not necessarily accepted. There needs to be a decision-making hierarchy and advancement through its ranks obviously must depend on the possession of specific skills and experience and proof of talent.

Practice what you preach. Continually demonstrate in every setting that you personally value all functions and cross-disciplinary teamwork, that you respect anyone who offers constructive ideas, and that it’s okay for people to stick their noses into others’ businesses.

Don’t tolerate bad behavior.
Punish repeat offenders—even senior executives. Nothing gets the message across better than a few public hangings.</blockquote

March 26, 2008 Posted by | Leadership, Systems | | 1 Comment

Management Issues, 14th March 2008 – Interview with Howard Gardner (re. introduction to Ethical Mind)

Common Voice: Howard Gardner

Common Voice: Howard Gardner
14 Mar 2008

Renowned worldwide for his theory of multiple intelligences, Howard Gardner was ranked #39 in the latest Thinkers 50 ranking of global business thinkers.

Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and adjunct professor of psychology at Harvard University.

Moving on from his multiple intelligence work, Gardner is now focusing on the future and “the cognitive abilities that will command a premium in the years ahead.” In the new technological and information age, he offers an insight into the qualities of thinking that will allow people to survive and prosper in the 21st century, both in work and life generally.

Des Dearlove talked to Gardner about his new book Five Minds for the Future.

There is a different approach to your subject material in the new book?
Yes, in the book Five Minds for the Future I’m writing less as a psychologist and more as a policy maker. All of these minds would have been important at other times, but I argue that these five are particularly important going forward.

You say these five ways of thinking will be even more important in the future. What’s changed?

There are three significant trends in the modern world which establish the background for these kinds of minds.

Number one: the importance of technology, particularly computers. Computers can do almost everything that human beings can, so the things we are going to value human beings for will be very different.

The second thing is globalisation. It is about understanding the interconnectivity of the world and the kinds of things that you need in order to be able to function in a world that was not nearly so interconnected 50 years ago.

And the third big change?
The third change has to do with diversity. We evolved as a species having contact with about 150 people, most of whom looked like us and were probably related to us.

Today, diversity stares you in the face in a way that was inconceivable when I was growing up. I hardly need to say this in a place like London, where you have millions of people, many from non-English backgrounds, and many with different religious and cultural backgrounds.

So there is a sense that we can be in contact with, and have influence on, everybody around the world and vice-versa.

And the five minds in the book are the ways of thinking that are best suited to this new world you are describing. What are the five minds?
Well the first three are the kinds of things that I have been talking about for a very long time: the disciplined mind, the synthesising mind and the creating mind.

The last two, though, have more to do with the human sphere: the respectful mind and the ethical mind. Over the last decade a lot of my research has focused on these two.

Could you explain a little more about each mind?
The disciplined mind is knowing something very well, being an expert in an art, or craft, or profession and keeping it up. That means being disciplined. If you don’t have a disciplined mind, you really don’t have a job at all, or you end up working for somebody who does.

The synthesising mind stems from the fact that we all are deluged with information. How do you decide what to pay attention to, what to ignore, how to put it together in a way that makes sense to you? How do you communicate your synthesis to other people? That’s probably the most distinctive mind, because I’ve given a label to something that people haven’t really talked about much before.

And the creative mind?
The third kind of mind, the creating mind, is basically coming up with something new that eventually affects how other people are and think. If it is “thinking outside the box” then the disciplined and synthesising minds provide the box and, for many people, that’s enough and you wouldn’t want everybody to be creative or the world would be too chaotic.

But for some cutting edge or eccentric few, it’s thinking and doing stuff that really ends up affecting a lot of other people.

And what of the remaining two minds, which your recent work has focused on more closely?
The respectful mind is very simple, and certainly goes back to pre-biblical, pre-literate times. Basically it means giving other people the benefit of the doubt, trying to know them, trying to understand them, not being too judgemental and being capable of forgiveness.

It begins at birth. Infants notice how other people treat one another and how they treat themselves. The reason it’s so acutely important nowadays is because of the diverse society we live in. My belief in the importance of the respectful mind has caused me to change my views about issues like whether women students in France should be allowed to wear the hijab.

Which leaves the ethical mind.
The last mind, the ethical mind, is one that I’ve been working on intensively for a decade plus, and it’s a little bit more technical to define.

The ethical mind is a mind that is capable of abstraction. And the ethical mind basically can think about oneself abstracting. So I’m not just Howard Gardner, but I’m Howard Gardner who is a journalist, an author, a lawyer, an engineer, whatever. I have a role occupationally and I’m also a citizen; I’m a citizen of my community, my city, my state, my region, my nation, the world.

The ethical mind asks, what are my responsibilities as a journalist, what are my responsibilities as a citizen of London, the UK, of the planet?

What relevance does the five minds concept have for organisations in the future – and does it apply more broadly than business?
My work has an ‘is’ aspect- what are the minds that will be at a premium in the future? It also has an ‘ought’ aspect – what sorts of minds should be cultivated?

Individuals involved in management need to think about their own minds, and the extent to which those minds embody discipline, synthesising capacity, creativity, respect and ethics. If they are lacking on these dimensions, what might they do to enhance them? How should they assemble teams, and can one person’s strength compensate for the weaknesses of others?

Could you give some examples with reference to some of the individual minds – and how they relate to a non-business organisation such as the UK’s National Health Service, for instance?
Respect and ethics are good examples. The NHS needs to understand and know how to deal with its diverse populations. Here, both respect and ethics become vital. Unless there is an atmosphere of respect, individuals will not trust one another and relations will deteriorate.

Ethics entails an understanding of responsibilities attendant to a specific role. It is vital for members of the NHS to behave in an ethical way, and to be able to assume that their peers will also behave ethically. And in those cases where ethical norms are clearly violated, the question of consequences looms large.

One cannot guarantee, of course, that patients will be respectful and/or ethical. But, to the extent that the NHS embodies these virtues in its own interactions with patients, the chances are enhanced that the patients will reciprocate.

You also talk about the concept of “good work.”
I define good work as work that is technically Excellent; personally Engaging; and carried out in an Ethical manner. When pressures are too great, any of the three “Es” can suffer.

So, for example, when physicians or nurses are asked to do too much, they become stressed, and risk burnout; the factor of engagement is undermined. Excellence can also be at risk.

Threats to ethics come from the overall ambience of a community. When a community comes to value money, power, or success, over all other priorities, then individuals have little incentive to be honest, responsible, or treat others with integrity.

And again, that also applies to non-business organisations?
Yes, a public sector or voluntary organisation should embrace a contrasting set of values, having to do with pride in services well rendered and in top results. But the spectre of monetary success is often very powerful, and unless it is counteracted by strong contrasting norms, it is likely to prevail.

What about the synthesising mind?
Nowadays, we are all inundated with information. The premium is to figure out what to pay attention to, what to ignore, how to organise it so that it makes sense to oneself, and then how to convey it so that it makes sense to others.

A fortunate few can figure out how to synthesise well, with little help from others. Most of us, however, need all the help we can get in synthesising. I think this is a particularly acute need in highly innovative fields such as IT and medical science – where information compounds at a feverish pace and lives may be at stake.

In a future world where the five minds are valued, nurtured and prevalent, how do you see work changing?
I would love to live in a world characterised by good work – work that is excellent, engaging, and carried out ethically. In such a world, one could count on service being delivered reliably, with care, and with expertise.

Obviously respect and ethics are essential for good work to be carried out. But only when practitioners have mastered their disciplines well, know how to synthesise, and can, when appropriate, come up with creative solutions to problems, will this become a reality for most organisations.

March 25, 2008 Posted by | Business thinkers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Havas New Media lab – strategic leadership at the edge

Havas Forms Digital Media R&D Unit | paidContent:UK

Havas Forms Digital Media R&D UnitBy David Kaplan – Wed 13 Feb 2008 09:13 PM PST

Spanish ad holding company Havas is creating a digital media R&D division intended to synthesize the insights and capabilities of venture capitalists, agency executives, marketers and others whose roles intersect with digital media, InfluxBranding reported (via AgencySpy). Dubbed the Havas Media Lab, the unit will be headed by Umair Haque, a London-based Harvard Business School blogger who runs a consultancy called Bubblegeneration.

Writing on his blog, Haque is fairly vague about his vision, promising to post more details later. He did provide some reason for its existence: “The Lab happened because I don’t think any of the standard models – venture funds, corporates, firms, etc – can really make it happen (or else it would be happening).” He added that the unit will be made up of individuals with whom he has previously worked.

— Adweek: Haque’s promises of something new notwithstanding, just about all the other holding companies have started this kind of “futures planning” practice. Most prominent examples include Interpublic Group’s Futures Marketing Group, which which oversees the IPG Emerging Media Lab; WPP Group has WPP Digital, which manages new media investments for interactive shops like companies like Spot Runner, Invidi and Jumptap; and Publicis Groupe has Denuo, which guides start-ups it has a stake in on the appropriate ad models that fit their abilities.

March 25, 2008 Posted by | Leadership, Strategy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment