Introduced by Steve Ludlow, the theme of this year’s corporate Regatta Day event was ‘Developing Human Capital for the 21st Century’.

Steve briefly reflected on the many changes at Henley and in the wider world over the past year, and was pleased to look back on what has been a good year for Henley, with the numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate students increasing and executive education thriving.

The Dean of the Business School, Professor John Board, was then introduced by Claire Hewitt. John asked the delegates to consider the changing environments in which human capital operates and, in particular, the question of where innovation comes from.

‘Is innovation created by people or by changing environments? Is it ego, or regulation, or client demand? Or maybe the creation of new markets?’

John used electronic trading as an example of the way markets have been created and developed, and how the effect of the apprenticeship levy might create new opportunities. In a wider context, he suggested that the predictions and intransigence of views around Brexit and other socio-political events have all but wiped out the credibility of so-called expert advice, and expressed his concern that we may be facing a period of social turbulence as a result.

‘Nevertheless, here at Henley’, concluded John, ‘we continue to strive to make good people great, but also to make great people good.’

Speaker: David Storey

Leading in the 4th Industrial Revolution

The day’s first speaker, Partner and Global Talent Leader at EY, David Storey, assessed the capabilities leaders will need in the future, based on the current sense of disquiet and speed of change.

‘Historically, the ability to think conceptually has driven human success, reinforced by our sophisticated language capability, which has enabled us to communicate effectively and therefore collaborate.

‘As a result, we saw the advent of the steam engine, mechanisation and then automation. We progressed from the telegraph to the telephone and then to the internet. And commercially, the introduction of limited liability companies led to Taylorism and ultimately, to the rise of globalism and multinational corporations.

‘But what will come next?’ asked David. ‘We’re already seeing the spread of artificial intelligence, 3D printing, drones and nanotechnology. Digital, location-based communications and social media are all around us, and we’re seeing the de-scaling of many businesses. Denmark now has an ambassador in Silicon Valley.

‘We’re witnessing the mass destruction of jobs and a massive shift from maths to social skills. Technology has changed the way growth happens and roles are changing, so we are going to have to change the way we measure human capital.

‘Employment will evolve and there will be those who lead robots, those who take instructions from robots and those who fix robots.

‘LinkedIn is already tracking people movement and, on this basis, they will increasingly be able to predict each person’s level of capability, innovation and communication. Wearable technology already has receivers, microphones, voice receptors that can track and report on our health and emotional wellness.

‘So these are the digital challenges, and leadership mindset has to change to deal with these issues. We need to become more agile; Microsoft has shifted its recruitment policy and is now only hiring learn-it-alls, not know-it-alls.

‘Going forward, leaders need to be confident and capable in their digital acumen, their intellectual curiosity and 360-degree thinking, their adaptability and integration, and demonstrate real determination. Critically, though,’ asserts David, ‘they must stay human in this digital world. The science of good relationships continues to be based firmly in repetitive reciprocal acts of kindness.’

Speaker: Professor Peter Hawkins

What Can We Learn From Experience? Leadership Development: Past, Present and Future

Professor of Leadership, Peter Hawkins, began by asking for anyone who believes they have a responsibility to tomorrow’s generations, to stand. Unsurprisingly, all stood!

‘But how do we need to change?’ asked Peter. ‘What kind of legacy will we leave for our grandchildren? And what are we doing to meet the greater demand, growing expectations and diminishing resources that the future is likely to impose on us?’

Peter suggested a ‘Darwinian law of organisational survival’ should apply, in which organisational learning must be equal to or greater than the speed of environmental change, or else the organisation would face extinction. Peter also commented that unfortunately, many learning and development programmes are much like New Year resolutions: adopted with the best of intentions, but soon forgotten.

Peter has carried out extensive research among thousands of CEOs and leaders of tomorrow to discover exactly what is needed, and the results strongly suggests that the gap between what we’re doing and what we need to do, is getting bigger, with seven key areas in which change is required:

  1. Unceasing and accelerating transformation
  2. The technological and digital revolution
  3. Disintermediation and ‘Uber-isation’
  4. The hollowing out of organisations and the growing complexity of the stakeholder world
  5. Globalisation
  6. Climate change
  7. The need to learn and adapt faster

Peter related a conversation he had with a CEO who admitted to ‘waking up every morning terrified’. ‘Whether we continue doing what we are doing, or if we try to innovate, we die!’ the CEO had told him. Peter believes that this is indicative of the changes in the leadership paradigm – all companies will be employing fewer people, but will collaborate with more.

‘So the key factor’, concludes Peter, ‘is that tomorrow, most of your human capital will not be on the payroll, but will be made up of crowd funding, customer marketing and competitor R&D.’

Peter concluded his presentation by proposing the three key principles of future leadership development architecture:

  • learning and development for just individuals to be replaced by five-level learning
  • development based on yesterday’s leadership competencies to be replaced by more ‘future-back learning’
  • no more linear 70:20:10 silos; but instead, more challenge-based learning, bringing together strategy, HR, LD, OD and talent under the umbrella of a ‘future fit’ function

‘We need to rewire the connections between tiers of leadership,’ asserts Peter. ‘The future fit function will ensure that all parts of the organisation and its eco-system are learning faster than the environment is changing.

‘Only then will we be certain that we will be creating a future in which my grandchildren and yours can thrive.’

Next, a trio of speakers considered best practice in human capital development, and how Henley is addressing the issues raised.

Speakers: Dr Martin Bicknell, Dr Tim Sellick and Helen Price

Best Practice in Human Capital Development

Martin Bicknell, Director of Teaching and Learning at Henley Business School, began by asking: what should we be good at? He suggested that there has, in the past, been a tendency to educate people for a future we can’t predict and for jobs that may not exist.

He believes that coaching, training and education need to be integrated, and that we have to lay the foundations for talent to grow and to disrupt itself.

‘We need to develop attributes not knowledge,’ he continued, ‘and learn as a community. People don’t just need knowledge; they need to know how to use it. The ability to evaluate situations and apply knowledge is imperative but, in a digital world, is even this enough?

‘At Henley we want to make people more curious, give them the confidence to take risks and make decisions, make choices based on a 360-degree perspective, and develop communities based on business collaborations.’

Martin urged leaders to recognise and be able to differentiate between types of knowledge, for which he employed the following Ancient Greek terms:

  • Episteme – scientific knowledge
  • Techne – craftsmanship, project management, motivation
  • Phronesis – practical wisdom, which helps us to create valuable/ethical outcomes, new stories, good fictions
  • Metis – knowledge by exemplification, guile

He asked delegates to consider the learning cycle – which takes us from experience to observation, then to conceptualisation and on to experimentation – and advocated the process of ‘learning to unlearn’, in order to transform our perspectives.

The apprenticeship opportunity

Tim Sellick, Executive Director of Henley’s Degree Apprenticeship Programmes, described Henley’s offerings in relation to the new apprenticeship levy, which will generate a market worth of £3bn in the UK each year.

‘We’re planning to provide qualifications at levels 5, 6 and 7 and maybe DBA too. Learning is changing, in terms of time, method and pace, and the idea of learning communities is creating better group outputs.

Our BA (Hons) in Applied Management, based on the programme created by the Chartered Management Institute, combines linear and non-linear blended learning in a totally new structure, in which experienced participants address real work-based challenges.’

Case study – F L Smidth’s ‘Flying the Flag’ programme

Helen Price, a Programme Director at Henley, outlined a recent programme developed for FLSmidth, a Danish-based engineering company that operates globally, with over 12,000 employees.

Helen described how, after working with the company for ten years on management and development programmes, they sought a leadership programme aimed at improving the capability of their top 300 managers, strengthening the culture, sharpening their competitive edge and preparing them to cope creatively with the cyclical nature of their markets.

‘There were some deep challenges,’ said Helen, ‘not least those posed by a workforce made up of 33 nationalities. In the context of growing competition, declining demand and the advent of new technologies, the company needed to reconfigure itself to be sustainable.

‘We immersed ourselves into the business, and formulated a programme based around action learning and organisational development. Each cohort comprised thirty participants, working on a specific strategic project.’

Drawing from her own recent experience of planning a wedding, she cited a number of parallels in the approach, including the need to communicate with and satisfy multiple stakeholders, detailed planning, managing the investment and focusing on the future journey, not just the day.

The positive outcomes of the FLSmidth project were described on video by the company’s own participants, who attested to the programme’s complexity, and its focus on the business models they need to design in order to successfully face up to the challenges they might face in 2026.’

Panel Q&A

For the final session before the delegates enjoyed lunch at Henley and a river cruise along the Henley Royal Regatta course, the day’s speakers answered questions from the floor on a range of topics including:

  • The use of collaborative learning in schools
  • How we can develop kindness and empathy in the face of digitalisation
  • The continuing importance of having great people, and great people to orchestrate them
  • How to streamline organisational infrastructure
  • How to identify the most appropriate standards and qualifications for apprenticeship training


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