LUBS Visit to IBM Emerging Technologies

Part of my sabbatical has been spending time with academia and I’ve learned there are some great things going on at our universities.

In the spirit of the annual Leeds/Reading music festival (best bands I’ve seen there were The Arctic Monkeys and The Hives) I’ve created two parallel blogs – one with an example from Leeds and one from Reading.

This is the Leeds one – about the Leeds University Business School MSc in Global Innovation Management Visit to IBM Hursley. (Link to Reading blog).

This is a great MSc course and I’ve blogged previously about the Innovation Management in Practice module which is now an important part of it.

The first time I was engaged with the MSc course was early in 2015 when I hosted a visit for the students to see innovation in action at IBM Hursley. We repeated the visit for this year’s class in March 2016.

Leeds Hursley 2016 pic3aLeeds Hursley 2016 pic1

In their course the students have learned a lot about the technology push and market pull aspects of innovation. The focus of the visits has been on learning and experiencing real examples of the application of emerging technologies at the sharp end of this intersection between the push and pull forces.

We included short talks on making innovation happen, visits to the IBM Innovation Centre and lots of time with members of the IBM Emerging Technology Services team – including discussion sessions, lab visits and technology demos from IBM Senior and Master Inventors.

Leeds team ETS labLeeds Hursley 2016 pic5

Technology focus areas covered included The Internet of Things, Mobile, Augmented Reality and of course IBM Watson cognitive technologies.

The students fed back it was a fantastic experience. They were inspired by seeing new and emerging technologies being applied to drive business value across many spheres and industries.

Leeds team HursleyLeeds Hursley 2016 pic4

Industry engagement like this is a very practical way for universities to help their students learn from “the real world” and I think it is great that universities like Leeds really focus on this.

Personally I love going to Hursley and catching up with what is happening and meeting colleagues and friends, old and new. My biggest thanks are to the two IBM leaders who helped to make these visits happen and work – Kevin Turner in 2015 and Helen McAllister in 2016 – many thanks to you both and the teams who supported.

We’re now looking forward to the next visit in 2017.

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Reading Uni Technology Advisory Practices Client Projects

Part of my sabbatical has been spending time with academia and I’ve learned there are some great things going on at our universities.

In the spirit of the annual Reading/Leeds music festival (best bands I’ve seen there were The Arctic Monkeys and The Hives) I’ve created two parallel blogs – one with an example from Leeds and one from Reading.

This is the Reading one – about the Henley Business School Technology Advisory Practices development and delivery of live client projects. (Link to Leeds blog)

Henley 2016 pic3

A little while ago one of my favourite people in the IBM Cloud business, Doug Clark introduced me to Dr Danny Gozman at Henley Business School. Danny and I got talking about technology, innovation and areas of mutual interest.

I enthused about my love of the IBM Extreme Blue programme, where top talent student interns work on real client challenges and deliver totally new prototype solutions – and then Danny told me about the Technology Advisory Practices module which he runs for undergraduates. This sounded great – the undergraduates work in teams with external organisations, often charities, to deliver a consultation style project to address one or more of their key opportunities or challenges.

Given my experience of Extreme Blue, Danny asked if I’d like to get involved with the module in 2016 and I quickly said yes.

As well as giving the students a project, a client and support, Danny and team (including Jonathan Mangan) bring in a series of guests from industry to spend half a day each week with the students. This time includes a guest lecture on relevant and useful topics and most importantly an amount of quality time with each team to discuss and review their project and progress – and provide advice and guidance from the years of client facing industry experience.

Henley 2016 pic1

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the students. The quality of their questions and insights made me quickly forget they were undergraduates rather than experienced professionals.

The module culminates with a presentation day when the teams present to their clients, an industry panel and the Mayor of Reading. I was delighted to be part of the panel for the presentation day on March 2016.

Henley 2016 pic4Henley 2016 pic5

I was hugely impressed with the quality of the project deliverables and presentations. Talking to the other panel members (Richard Sykes and Alex Furneaux) we were all amazed by the way the students had taken on board the advice we had given to them and then merged this with their own thinking and insights. The clients were all very appreciative and every single one said they were going to implement some or all of the students work and recommendations.

Henley 2016 pic6

To be an undergraduate with this level of real world experience (positives, frustrations, team working, job satisfaction) must be an amazing thing.

Setting up, supporting and delivering projects like this is no mean feat. The module is a credit to the university. A huge well done to the students and to Danny and the Henley team.

Writing a First Novel

This time a few thoughts about the process of writing a first novel, as it has been one of the primary projects of my sabbatical.

I have wanted to do this for quite a while – all I needed was quality time and a little inspiration. The sabbatical gave me the time but what about the inspiration?

I got this by attending a Creative Writing class in 2015 at York University’s Life Long Learning Centre. This really helped me think not just about the ideas but about the structure and process of writing the novel and I learned some great tips.

A key tip was to totally separate the creative writing aspect from the careful editing part. Doing this has been essential and a great way to make fast progress on the writing – followed some time later by the much more objective quality control.

ibm word processor

The class taught me the value of developing a structured plan. I created this before getting into the writing, even though I was itching to get started and it has really helped.

I used the exercises and homework from the class to come up with and start developing the key idea and themes of the book. We had an exercise on creating a compelling six word sentence – this is now the title of the novel. We had an exercise on writing a first page – a morphed version of this now opens my novel. We had an exercise on creating a short story. I did this and thought “hold on – there’s something really interesting and novel size in this” –  and it has now developed into an 80,000 plus word long book.

The hardest thing about writing this blog is I can’t give the game away of the subject matter. Please accept my apologies (with a smile). All I can say is there is an altered history involved. The story is based around a well-known historical event and a subtly altered version of the modern day. The parallels between the historical element and contemporary themes are very real and hopefully make for a very good read. From my research I think there is a real market for this (okay I added that in case any agents I submit the book to find this blog – no really I mean it…!)

I’m now into the nth edit of the book and it has just gone out for a proof read, critical appraisal and feedback from the Tadcaster Claret Book Club (the name comes from the wine rather than a football team).

A few more reviews and edits to go, with time in between to let things settle. I remember what Gary Player the golfer once said when accused of being lucky – “its funny, the more I practice, the luckier I get”. If Gary was writing a novel I am sure he would have done quite a few edits to get it as good as it could be before submitting it.

Unrelated to the class, I think my previous writing and presentation experience has been useful too – letters, blogs, articles, work proposals, song lyrics and even emails – it all helps.

Writers Yearbook

So what now? My head is currently buried in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2016 – a must read for any aspiring novelist – and I am researching a plethora (nice word) of websites on how to get get published.

The next step, once I am satisfied the book is really ready, is to get an agent to represent me in the world of publishing. You can go direct but for first timers having an agent is highly recommended – quite rightly too from what I can see. Then it is about getting a publisher, having the best seller and the follow on long term book deal plus TV and film adaptations and so on.

Perhaps I am getting a little ahead of myself? There has been a lot of talk too about self publishing and if, at the end of the day, I can’t get an agent and publisher, I will definitely go down that route – as I know you will want to read the finished article – and it will be an interesting experience in itself.

Anyway I must dash, as I already have two ideas for the next novel – one being an indirect sequel to this one. If you’re thinking of writing a novel yourself, my advice is do a course and/or read up on doing it a bit first – and then go for it. Even (in the extremely unlikely) scenario my novel is not published, I have loved every second of creating it.