UK: A Refresher At London Business School: Diversity Of Thought Is At The Heart Of Innovation

Last Updated: 26 July 2018
Article by Susan Freeman

The recent London Business School (LBS) Sloan Reunion Summit, an enlightening day of panels and presentations from leading business thinkers, was a reminder of just how enriching it is to learn from the brightest and the best. The Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy, which I completed in 2001, was aptly described by colleagues as like trying to sip water from a fire hydrant. Being exposed to a huge volume of knowledge was a daunting experience and you could quite easily be submerged by it. The Summit was a welcome opportunity for a refresher and to meet other Sloan alumni from LBS, Stanford and MIT Business Schools to celebrate the programme's 50 year anniversary.

On the basis that gratitude leads to happiness, the new Dean of LBS, Professor Francois Ortalo-Magne introduced the day by instructing us to think carefully about what we were grateful for from our time on the Sloan. It's difficult to know where to begin but some of the comments below indicate how far reaching the learning has been.

Deputy Dean Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, a familiar face from my time at LBS, talked to us about reinventing capitalism for the digital age. He reminded us of the Jeff Bezos quote: "be willing to be misunderstood if you're going to innovate". Firms, he said, need contrarianism, human judgement and emotional connection which robots don't yet have – and arguably may never have. He questioned the type of new institutional structures, ownership and employment models we will need for our new digital age. A number of speakers referenced the book 'The 100 Year Life' written by LBS Professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott. It serves as a timely wake-up call to individuals, politicians, firms and governments on the repercussions of increased longevity.

The Sloan Programme's point of differentiation is that it is intended to be transformational and most use it as an opportunity to change their lives and career direction. Unusually I remained a partner at Mishcon de Reya and was able to come back, bursting with new ideas, and use the learning for the benefit of the firm. We heard from Gillian Keegan MP who had used the Sloan as a stepping stone from a business career to parliament and is now MP for Chichester. "Never underestimate the power of randomness" she said as she explained how she had "stumbled upon" her chosen path. She also told us how her career journey has changed the way she views failure. "One more try after failing is success." She concludes from this that failure isn't something to be avoided. The Sloan, she added, makes you more willing to try something different.

Valeria Vescina spoke about her career change via the Sloan Programme from management to becoming an author, literary critic and teacher. Her novel 'That Summer in Puglia' has just debuted at the prestigious FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival (I was delighted to receive a signed copy).  As Valeria says, "we all hold the potential for several directions in our lives, but a given choice may become more obvious or feasible at a later stage". In her view, it's about aptitude and what you are passionate about.

We heard from LBS Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Dr Tammy Erickson, an authority on leadership, the changing workforce and, one of my favourite topics, collaboration! She is a force of nature, leaping energetically onto the stage to give us 10 Predictions for Future Leaders. She said, "we have the opportunity to decide on how to lead in this digital world" and "it's about inventing something new". In future, he believes, we will need to be better at motivating our people as they will have to choose to work for us. The stand out companies will have fewer assets and fewer employees. Already, seven out of the top 10 companies in value are platform based and they have much higher returns. Differentiation - as always - continues to be key, but an interesting message was the need to plan less and experiment more. In order to do this Erickson suggests eliminating HIPPOs (highest paid person's opinions). Experimentation needs to proliferate and you have to be able to respond to change and new opportunities. To reinforce this she gave us another quote from Amazon's Jeff Bezos: "Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day".

In terms of rewarding your teams, she recommended creating project based work options with pay tied to outcomes. Companies will need to learn to "behave like a talent agency", mobilising their most talented employees for the appropriate projects.  "Diverse thought", she said, "is at the heart of innovation". This is a message the real estate sector is now starting to absorb.

Erikson talked about the need for successful businesses to create a unique employee experience and to develop skills with measurable and incremental ROI. "Meaning is the new money", she said. I was struck by Erickson's advice - to create an environment where talented people want to work is what we strive for at Mishcon de Reya through the Academy, our in-house place of learning, which provides a platform for new thinking. It enables us to bring together societal issues and industry experts to encourage innovative thought leadership on issues that matter to us and to our clients. Erickson concluded by saying that leaders needs to disrupt and intrigue.

It was therefore fitting to hear next from Vice Admiral Paul Boissier, CEO of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and a graduate of the Sloan 2000 Programme. His talk, intriguingly named 'from Cold War to Cold Fingers' reflected on practical leadership, starting with his time as a submarine commander during the Cold War. He describes his time on the Sloan programme as "one of the most important and empowering experiences" of his life and explained how the Sloan provided the skills and learning to enable him to perform his role. Like other speakers, he also reflected on the nature of failure and said, "the more ambitious you are, the more times you will fail".

Last but not least, some thoughts from LBS Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Dr Niro Sivanathan, whose research focuses on how the psychology of self influences decision making. This was particularly relevant in the wake of the EU referendum, He said that people generally don't know what it is they want so there is an opportunity to shape their choices. He continued by telling us that an argument is only as strong as its weakest elements, so the more reasons you give, the more you dilute your argument. This is worth noting as apparently it is one of the most common errors leaders make. Speaking as a lawyer, we do tend to marshal all the arguments at our disposal! But quality, it appears, trumps quantity. This also works in the negative: research in the pharmaceutical industry shows that if you list a drug's less serious side effects alongside the more serious ones, it dilutes consumer concerns. His final point was on the vital importance of how you frame a question as it affects the answer. So you can shape preferences and nudge in the desired direction. For the recent Brexit referendum vote, the question wording finally agreed was, in his view, tilted towards a vote to leave.

If anyone was left in any doubt of the value of a Sloan MBA, Lord Terry Burns, Chairman of Ofcom who began his career at LBS, set the record straight. When questioned by the audience on the value of a business degree he said sagely, "it's about how you put the jigsaw pieces together later in life". A very good answer I thought. And with the 100 year life becoming a reality, there will be even more time to put those pieces in place.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions