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Stephen Douglas

Degree:

EMBA

Location:

United States

Industry:

Public Administration

Year:

2016-17

By Stephen Douglas

Marconi’s crystal and the cat’s whisker

I’m 10% happy that now, having completed the third last module of my Executive MBA at Oxford University, I only have four assignments to do. I’m 95% very sad, though, as the necessity of travelling to/from and being in Oxford for the past 16 months has become a habit it shall be hard to break. I still absolutely feel the way I felt at the beginning of my Executive MBA about being here.

When I go to Oxford for an Executive MBA module, I leave my small cat Henry with friends

Leaving Henry in safe hands

When I go to Oxford for an Executive MBA module, I leave my small cat Henry with friends. I recently adopted Henry from the same checkpoint at which another kitten was handed to me on the day I got into Oxford.

 

Taxi ride through the forest to the railway station

Taxi ride through the forest to the railway station

 

Overnight train compartment

Overnight train compartment

 

Two days on an island writing my negotiations strategy assignment before travelling to Oxford

Two days on an island writing my negotiations strategy assignment before travelling to Oxford

 

Similar to around 2/3s of the 60+ people in my Executive MBA class, my journey to Oxford involves a flight

Similar to around 2/3s of the 60+ people in my Executive MBA class, my journey to Oxford involves a flight

 

College room

College room

Some classmates choose to stay in a hotel, I try always to stay in College. Doing so, reminds me nostalgically of my time as an undergraduate, and it gets me in the right, studious frame of mind.

Before this module began, I and some classmates organised the KeywordsOx event.

Before this module began, I and some classmates organised the KeywordsOx event.

 

Keywords Ox Linkedin posting

Keywords Ox Linkedin posting

 

The outcome of our day’s work was this vocabulary set for market making/strategic change.

The outcome of our day’s work was this vocabulary set for market making/strategic change.

Almost 3000 people viewed the outcome of this work. We’ve now formed a group of Oxford alumni who are aspirant and actual system changers: KeywordsOx. KeywordsOx will continue the work of the Keywords 001 team that produced this document in 2014 and which is a foundation document of The Point People group of systems’ changers. Part of the idea is to actualise what we have been taught throughout our Executive MBA and in particular by Dr Marc Ventresca and by Dr Chris McKenna. We were promised that an Executive MBA at Oxford would enable us to tackle problems on a global scale. Dr McKenna and Dr Ventresca’s courses have helped provide us with a basis for doing this. We’ve learned about past patterns of global scale innovation and that to innovate on a global scale involves building systems and creating markets which don’t yet exist. A first step towards doing this involves visioning the adjacent possible through new words associated with creating thick meshes of ties between often not yet existing supply and demand relationships for products that as yet do not exist.

River Isis

River Isis, Oxford

In one of our classes, we were shown a spot on the River Isis through which 13% of global trade once passed. One of the class noted that Shanghai, which sees an analogous amount of today’s trade and which we visited recently, looks rather different!

This spot (in Brasenose) is where it’s thought the first students gathered during the twelfth century at what was to become Oxford University.

This spot (in Brasenose) is where it’s thought the first students gathered during the twelfth century at what was to become Oxford University.

As one reading for this module put it about another spot, now on High Street:

Classmate holding a copy of a rare nineteenth century Chinese banknote

Classmate holding a copy of a rare nineteenth century Chinese banknote

 

Marconi's inventions

Marconi’s first radios in the Science Museum – inspiringly for those of us today trying to conceive of and actually building new markets and systems for emerging products a visiting professor from Bologna University shared with us the insight that Marconi himself saw no future in broadcasting. Fortunately, though, he had surrounded himself with persuasive visionaries who saw its potential. Interestingly, too, since nobody else would give him the funds to develop his nascent tech for a market that did not yet exist, all of his early funding was raised from individual subscribers who lived in Dublin – widows, and the like!

Marconi’s first crystal & cat’s whisker radio. Somehow, he discovered that a cat’s whisker attached to a crystal would pick up radio waves.

Marconi’s first crystal & cat’s whisker radio. Somehow, he discovered that a cat’s whisker attached to a crystal would pick up radio waves.

Henry the cat's fine whiskers

Since my cat Henry has such fine whiskers, I took the opportunity to pass around a photograph of him at this point in the class. Someone quipped: “I presume this is why Henry’s so well informed about everything.”

Einstein’s chalk marks made prior to a lecture he gave at Oxford (at the Science Museum

Einstein’s chalk marks made prior to a lecture he gave at Oxford (at the Science Museum).

We’ve been taught in various courses during the Executive MBA, how to prepare for, how to exploit and how to spot the early signs of emergent black swans.

We’ve been taught in various courses during the Executive MBA, how to prepare for, how to exploit and how to spot the early signs of emergent black swans.

 

A classmate captured me meditating on my Scenario Planning assignment.

A classmate captured me meditating on my Scenario Planning assignment.

 

Our final lecture of the module – an elective on Political Economy.

Our final lecture of the module – an elective on Political Economy

 

The way home from the Oxford EMBA

The way home.

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