Blackswan Innovation and Transformational Change Programme
April 8, 2016
According to Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Not to be anti-biblical, don’t try telling that to a select group of students at Sunderland University who are eagerly participating in four or five intense days in Blackswan’s Innovation and Transformational Change Programme, a unique opportunity to explore how the academic theories they’ve been studying work in the real world - and how to turn their new ideas into reality.
The program, led by Blackswan CEO Maurice Duffy, builds on the practical work students do as part of their degrees and shows these future innovators the importance of being edgy, dynamic and forward-thinking in whatever endeavours they take on. "We want to instil in them our own motto in business: Be the change you want to see,” Duffy says. "Whatever career they decide to pursue, it’s key that they do so with inspiration, optimism and passion."
Blackswan and Sunderland’s Business School first teamed up five years ago to create this very special week of workshops and seminars devoted to innovation, entrepreneurship, transformation and change, and this is a pioneering partnership. Duffy and several of his staff parry issues like how to stand out from the competition, how to create products and services that can sweep markets and how to create a culture of innovation. These topics are at the core of the experience - as well as practical themes including how best the participants from Sunderland Business School can market themselves when they finish their studies and face 'life on the outside.'
"This is a project we’re proud to be a part of as it helps shape the next generation of business men and women,” Duffy said. "Our focus has been to work with students to help them contextualise the real world of business. We want to challenge these young men and women on their views of business and management as they prepare to enter the working world. The whole point is to be different and entertaining, making sure we stand out in the students' minds so they don't forget this experience."
In our time running the programme, we've seen a huge drive for students to acquire experience that will help them get jobs - understandable in the current global environment and the kind of thing that the Business School supports through its placement, study abroad and professional mentoring programmes. What makes the Blackswan programme unique is that our consultants can convey decades of real-world commercial experience to the students, sharing very real and ongoing case studies.
The student response to our different approach is consistently positive, Master of Business Management student Tony Cheung commented, "Gaining knowledge from the professionals and seeing it from a different side helped me to think differently." We’ve been enormously gratified by the feedback: Students tell us the programme enhances their CV's, provides invaluable insight into innovation and exposure to the commercial challenges people face when leaving university.
We haven’t done this alone - together with the university faculty, we've shaped a forum geared to help them make the daunting leap from student to professional. Derek Watson, a senior lecturer at the Sunderland Business School, says we’ve all had significant impacts on the students’ future prospects. Derek tells us that they finish wanting more: “The students hang on to every word Maurice says to them.”
One of them, Olivia Steel, couldn’t agree more. “The programme enhanced my time at university through giving me an insight into how the ideas that I had learnt about are used within a real life business context,” she says. In fact, she got so much out of the program that she found herself with an offer to join Blackswan after graduating with a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management.
With each year, as word spreads among the student body, the programme has expanded to include high-performing undergraduates and, subsequently, doctoral students. That “melting pot” has made the programme increasingly dynamic.
The week is no cakewalk. Participants start at 9am and pound through until 5pm every day - with evening work ahead. "Our aim is to condition students to the commercial realisation of what to expect in the working world,” Maurice notes.
Blackswan looks forward to years ahead of helping to prepare and propel these students into the world with the confidence, optimism and creativity to learn, enjoy and be successful and whatever they take on.
Celebrating women in business this International Women’s Day