Help to Grow: Management Course | Kingston University

How not to be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Recently I received a text on my WhatsApp which made me laugh. It was to suggest AI do our laundry instead of taking care of our thinking and creative work. Jokes apart, it is one of the most valid fears in the current technological climate for far too many people and all businesses regardless of their size. A fear of being replaced by AI.

But despite it being the most common fear felt by various sectors including the creative taskforces such as writers, thinkers, product designers etc, some AI leaders and behaviour scientists don’t seem too worried. They insist some aspects AI can’t take away from humankind and one of them is human creativity.

In one of the podcasts published by Harvard Business Review, hosted by Alison Beard with the authors of Tomorrowland, they argued that the human mind is incredibly complex and has an ability to be uniquely creative which cannot possibly be ever replaced by Artificial Intelligence.  Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, who is a physicist and chief product innovation officer and Martin Seligman, a psychologist, and author of several books, discussed four ways an individual or an organisation can cultivate creativity in day-to-day life.

Integrative Approach

One of the most popular moves people make when they look for creative solutions to a known or unknown problem by thinking of the integration of seemingly different things in one box. The idea is that things that don’t look similar might be the same. One of the prime examples is a smartphone, which combines a phone on the wall and, a camera that requires film and a record player all in a single device. This was unimaginable forty-something years ago.

Splitting Approach

It is the reverse of integrative, which is, that the things that look the same, may not necessarily be the same. One of the uses of this kind of creative approach can be seen in medicinal science. For instance, symptoms of smallpox can look the same but can cause both mild and deadly reactions depending on the causes. So their treatment will not be the same.

Figure Ground Reverse Approach

Figure Ground reversal is a remarkable approach. It is when certain solutions are invented by doing something unrelated. They helped shape some products such as GPS which was not meant to be GPS or SLACK which was supposed to be a video game for internal communication. This way of looking out for creative solutions comes from triggering a brain circuit that lights up when you are not looking for a solution but it is the same brain circuit that lights up when we are focused.

Distal Thinking Approach

This one requires time traveling in the future while keeping the feet in the present. Using divergent thinking to explore many possible solutions without the constraints of time, space, and any other limiting elements. Tesla’s self-driving cars are one of the examples of Distal thinking.

You can listen more why Artificial Intelligence is not a threat for creative thinkers or SMEs here: A Deeper Understanding of Creativity at Work (

Are you “People” people?

Business landscape is rapidly evolving, interpersonal skills are crucial across all departments, not just in sales and human resources. At Tesla, a company known for its ground-breaking innovations and disruptive approach to the automotive industry, this principle is particularly evident.

Tesla’s executives have demonstrated that relational know-how encompasses a broader range of abilities than many executives realise. Like Musk’s ability to articulate complex technological concepts to the public, some individuals excel at translating high-level ideas for mass consumption.

Tesla’s success can be attributed, in part, to its recognition that employees perform best when their work aligns closely with their interests and skills. By considering employees’ relational strengths when making personnel decisions and project assignments, Tesla has created a highly productive and innovative work environment.

Similar findings were discovered by the authors Timothy Butler and James Waldroop, after their psychological assessments of over 7,000 business professionals. They identified four key dimensions of relational work:

  1. Influence: The ability to persuade and motivate others.
  2. Interpersonal facilitation: Skill in resolving conflicts and fostering collaboration, essential in the fast-paced, high-pressure work environment.
  3. Relational creativity: The capacity to generate innovative ideas through social interaction, vital for continuous product development.
  4. Team leadership: The aptitude for guiding and inspiring groups, is critical for managing diverse and specialized teams.

To build a well-balanced team, managers may want to consider these four dimensions when hiring and assigning roles. During interviews, candidates’ relational skills can be assessed through targeted questions. For instance, to gauge relational creativity, an interviewer might ask a candidate to describe their favourite innovative product design and explain its effectiveness.

Understanding these four dimensions may enable leaders to:

  • Optimise employee performance
  • Provide appropriate recognition and rewards
  • Assist staff in setting meaningful career goals
  • Make informed decisions about their own professional development

By embracing this multifaceted approach to relational work, Tesla continues to push the boundaries of innovation while maintaining a dynamic and effective workforce. As the company expands its reach in sustainable energy and transportation, these principles of people management and leadership will undoubtedly play a crucial role in its ongoing success.

So if you are planning to have a team meeting next time, apart from work, use that time to also create a space for conversations by asking open-ended questions concerning your team’s likings and values. Throw a question about their favourite football team or their recent experience at a new restaurant. Ask about their personal projects and why do they like being part of that. It goes a long way.

Growing into a Senior Manager

Advancing from mid-level to senior management and leadership can be challenging, even for talented and ambitious professionals. External factors like limited organisational needs, budget constraints, or long-standing incumbents in desired positions can slow progress and this applies to all industries from the automotive industry to health. These challenges were recently discussed in the Harvard Business Review Podcast, Women at work, hosted by Amy Bernstein.

The insightful conversation explored ways to overcome mid-career stagnation, especially for women. Despite some factors beyond your control such as limited higher-level positions available, being seen as the person you were when you started, not who you’ve become, and lack of opportunities to gain the required experience for higher roles, there are still some aspects you have full control over as rightly pointed out by Lauren Reyes and Megan Bock.

Some of the takeaways from the podcast are,

  1. To move up, it’s important to:
    • Clearly articulate your desire for advancement to leadership.
    • Make a business case for your promotion or a new senior role.
    • Build relationships and visibility with influential people inside and outside your organisation.
  2. Be willing to take calculated risks:
    • Apply for roles you may not feel 100% qualified for
    • Consider moving to a new organisation that sees your potential.
    • Relocate if necessary for the right opportunity.
  3. Strategies for advancement include:
    • Hiring an executive coach.
    • Completing leadership development programmes such as Help to Grow Management at Kingston University.
    • Proposing new roles or projects that showcase senior leadership skills.
    • Building a network across your industry.
  4. To change perceptions:
    • Take on high-visibility projects outside your usual role.
    • Identify and solve organisational problems proactively.
    • Build relationships with leaders outside your direct chain of command.
    • Showcase your expertise through speaking, writing, or social media.
  5. Be strategic about career moves:
    • Create a long-term career map to guide decisions.
    • Ensure each move aligns with your ultimate goals.
    • Consider both short-term opportunities and long-term fit.

Moving up requires leaving you comfort zone but untapped opportunities both internal and external may value your potential more than what you are receiving now. By following these strategies and being willing to take smart risks, middle managers can position themselves for advancement into senior leadership roles.


Navigating the Maze of Multichannel Marketing Strategy

Let’s face it: marketing today feels like trying to juggle while riding a unicycle for many small and medium-sized businesses. We’re bombarded with countless ways to reach our customers, from the good old TV ad to the latest TikTok trend. It is hard not to make your head spin. But here’s the thing – this multichannel madness isn’t going away. So, how do we make sense of it all without losing our minds or our customers?

First off, plastering your message across every platform known to mankind is not any useful. Instead, think of it like hosting the perfect dinner party. You want to create an experience that feels seamless and welcoming, no matter how your guests arrive.

Now, let’s talk about personalisation. We’ve all got those emails that start with “Dear Valued Customer” but in 2024, that just doesn’t cut it. People want to feel seen and understood. You can use the data you have responsibly to tailor your message. It is the difference between shouting into a crowd and having a conversation with a friend.

Speaking of friends, let’s not forget our trusty sidekick: the smartphone. These little devices have become extensions of ourselves. If your marketing isn’t mobile-friendly, you might as well be sending smoke signals. Run a test on all your proposed marketing channels to see

Here’s where it gets tricky: measuring success. With so many channels, it’s tempting to focus on vanity metrics like likes or views. But at the end of the day, what really matters? Sales? Brand loyalty? Customer happiness?

Of course, this marketing strategy using multi-channels isn’t without its bumps. Data privacy is a hot topic, and rightly so. We need to be responsible with the information our customers trust us with. And let’s be honest, keeping up with every new platform that pops up is exhausting. The key is to stay curious and adaptable, without chasing every shiny new trend. You don’t necessarily need to adapt to every emerging digital tools, be it for operational use or for marketing.

Looking ahead, voice search is becoming huge (hey Alexa, order more coffee!), and augmented reality is blurring the lines between digital and physical even further. But no matter what fancy new tech comes along, the fundamentals remain the same: understand your customer and their problem, be where they are, and offer genuine value.

At the end of the day, multichannel marketing strategy is all about understanding your customers’ needs, meeting them where they are, and creating experiences that connect.

Disruptive Innovation: Yay or Nay?

In today’s fast-paced business world, the mantra for small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses (SMBs and SMEs) is clear: disrupt or be disrupted. But what exactly is disruptive innovation, and why does it matter so much?

Coined by Clayton Christensen in “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” disruptive innovation refers to a process where a smaller company with fewer resources successfully challenges established businesses. These innovations often start in low-end or new market footholds, initially underperforming established products in mainstream markets. However, they gain traction by offering more suitable functionality—often at a lower price—and eventually move upmarket to challenge industry leaders.

To understand disruptive innovation, it’s helpful to contrast it with sustaining innovation. While sustaining innovation improves existing products for current customers, disruptive innovation targets overlooked segments, often with lower initial quality but at a lower price point. It introduces new business models and carries higher risk, but with the potential for industry-wide change.

Some of the real-world examples abound; Netflix disrupted traditional video rental with its DVD-by-mail service and later streaming, transforming entertainment consumption. Airbnb created a new market for private accommodations, challenging the hotel industry. Tesla’s electric vehicles and direct-to-consumer model accelerated the shift to sustainable transportation. Uber’s ride-hailing app revolutionized urban transportation, disrupting the taxi industry.

So, how can SMEs foster disruptive innovation? Here are key strategies:

  1. Create a culture of experimentation, encouraging risk-taking and learning from failures.
  2. Focus on unmet customer needs through extensive market research and design thinking.
  3. Invest in emerging technologies and consider partnering with or acquiring promising startups.
  4. Prioritise long-term success over short-term profits; means sustainable business model and practices.
  5. Embrace open innovation by collaborating with external partners and diverse perspectives.

Innovation experts emphasise the importance of this approach. Clayton Christensen warns, “Disruptive innovation can hurt if you’re not the one doing the disrupting.” Steve Jobs asserted, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Jeff Bezos advocates for customer focus, allowing for more pioneering work. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings notes, “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.” Ignoring disruptive trends can result in loss of market share, obsolescence of core products, and declining revenue and profitability.

For those wanting to dive deeper, recommended reads include “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen, “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel, and “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.

It’s important for us to realise that the change is constant and disruptive innovation isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a survival strategy. By understanding and embracing it, small and medium sized business leaders can stay ahead of the curve, create new markets, and drive meaningful progress. The choice is clear: disrupt or be disrupted. Do you agree?


The Power of Customer Referrals

In business world, finding new customers can be tough and expensive. Yet, one of the most effective strategies is often right in front of us: customer referrals.

Recently a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article ‘Research: Customer Referrals Are Contagious by Rachel Gershon, Zhenling Jiang, Will Fraser and Jitendra Gupta enfolded some compelling reasons why customer referrals are so important, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and those focusing on growth leadership within limited resources.

Referral Contagion

The magic of customer referrals lies in trust. According to the authors, when a potential customer hears about your product or service from someone they know and trust, it carries much more weight than any advertisement. For SMEs, which often rely on word-of-mouth to build their brand, this trust can be a game-changer. Referred customers are not just more likely to trust your brand—they’re also more likely to make a purchase.

But this goes beyond one purchase according to the authors. Backed by the data from over 4 million customers, they discovered that those who join through referral make more purchases than those customers who purchased using other methods. They also found out that a whopping 30% – 57% of new customers get in through those who joined through referrals. The authors coined the term “referral contagion — the tendency for referred customers to bring in more referrals.”

They investigated it from the lens of homophily, a concept that describes the tendency of individuals to build social networks with those who are similar to them. It leads to the phenomenon that if a customer likes a brand, they may have friends who would also like it.

Furthermore, the authors also discovered another key driving factor of referral contagion using controlled experiments. They found out that referred customers are more likely to refer to others as compared to non-referred customers.

If you would like to read more on this, go to the original article:

Impactful communication: In the world of AI, ChatGPT

Businesses are still struggling to create an impact and establish strong connections with their customers despite the available help from emerging AI-powered digital tools such as ChatGPT, etc. So what is missing?

Recently, Jude Faultless has delivered a session on impactful communication at Kingston Business School. The session was part of the Future of Work Summit, organised by Kingston Chambers of Commerce.

The overall session was insightful, but it particularly brought forward some interesting perspectives on how communication could create a far greater impact if the needs of a buyer are kept at the heart of a business. Yet some of us fixate on what we want to sell instead of what needs there might be of a person who is going to buy. We can change that and do the opposite instead – find where our customers are and know what problems they are facing. With this reversing, we can create a value in our product that our customers need.

Some of the other takeaways from Jude Faultless’ session are, assessing what communication strategies, tools and frameworks are working and also realising what needs to go. One of the ways to test is by checking, Who stops scrolling when we want to speak to them? We can invest hundreds of pounds targeting larger sections and bring our marketing content in front of the queue but if a user still scrolls past our call for action post, what value does the reach have? Measuring reach and regularly assessing organic and paid socials are important in understanding fast-moving and disruptive trends and the implications for a business.

Another interesting factor discussed in the session was to create a bigger impact requires staying relevant. Relevance is a bridge between a business and its customer. If a business is not relevant to its customers’ needs, there is no quantifiable success; no matter how exceptionally great a product or service is.  This applies to all aspects and stages of a business. From content creation to the delivery channels, choosing what problem is a product solving for its user is the key. Find out why they need it, where they need it, and where they might need it. If a customer is watching Tiktok, don’t use email marketing. Jude Faultless emphasised on staying relevant.

Lastly, nearly all products and services have an emotional value even if it may not look like there is. What problem is your business solving and what strings of emotion is it touching?

Leading by changing the rules of the games

In the quest to create new wealth, world top businesses  have applied unconventional strategies and innovative approaches. This would not have been possible without questioning the existing business strategy frameworks and radically changing the basis of their competition in their industries.

But what motivates a leadership team to get on a strategic transformation in the first place?

For some businesses, it is a threat from a disruptive competitor or environment such as Covid-19 and sometimes, businesses get on the bandwagon of global megatrends – one of those roadblocks when you are forced into a certain direction to survive.

However, strategic thinking and systematic planning for the future are perhaps one of the most imperative driving forces for wealthy companies why they introduce a core business to disruptive transformations while paving a path for new growth. It is surely an uncomfortable place for a business and its people to be  in but it is also the most fertile.

In order to better understand the transformations and the derivatives behind them, the Innosight research team came up with a methodology to evaluate strategic change efforts. In their research, they aimed towards the best practices across industries instead of being blindfolded by the metrics such as market value, revenue, or subjective and generic assessments such as ‘most innovative’. They name 3 methodologies to determine the legitimacy of innovation and transformation a business has achieved.

The first of them is New growth. Investigating quantifiable growth and questioning, has the business achieved measurable success at creating new products, services, markets and new business models? Using their primary metric which is the percentages of revenue outside the core, they look at the percent of revenue that falls out of their existing core growth areas.

Second of that is Repositioning the core. As the title suggests, it is to investigate whether the transformation reflecting from what the numbers has come from the applied change or is it still stinking old? An important question, how effectively the company transformed its old and core into a disrupted and new.

Lastly, Financials. If the numbers are not proposing the new growth, we may have a problem there in the long run if not the short. Has the return rate been reflected in the new areas? What is their market performance?  Have losses been recovered? Is it on a slow growth to revive the business? How are their new products or services performing on their balance sheet?

What questions are you asking?

3 Technologies Transforming Businesses that are not AI

We have all been hearing a lot about how artificial intelligence is going to change not only how businesses operate but also how we go about our day to day lives, but what other technologies are businesses using to offer more to their customers? Here are our top 3.

Internet of things: Most of us will have heard of the idea of a ‘smart home’ or even ‘smart cities’, but the concept of the ‘Internet of things’ is more than that. The Internet of things refers to a network of connected physical items which have different sensors or software which allows them to connect with one another over the internet. This can be everyday household items and systems such as lighting or heating, but it is also a form of technology that can be used in a more industrial context. Examples of businesses that use the internet of things in their processes and products are John Deere, Siemans and Maersk Line.

Augmented and mixed reality: Augmented reality is something that has been around for a while now. This is the process of overlaying photos, videos or other data onto the real world to change a person’s real time perspective of their environment. Mixed reality is a step further and allows for real and virtual objects to ‘interact’- for instance allowing customers to see what an object would look like in their home. Businesses have been utilising both in training staff, sales and marketing, and in apps for their customers. Examples of businesses that use this technology include Ikea, L’Oreal, Ford and Zara.

Robotics: Robotics is the programmable machines and is something a number of businesses across different industries use to automate repetitive tasks, enhance precision, and improve operational efficiency. Robotics can help businesses with logistics, manufacturing, fulfilment and operations- everything from grocery fulfilment to car manufacturing to Surgical processes. Examples of businesses that use robotics include: Ocado, Amazon and Tesla.

New technologies are always emerging and existing technology is constantly improving! What  are you using in your business?

We explore Digital Adoption in our Module 2 of Help to Grow Management (Help to Grow: Management Course | Kingston University (

Leading with Purpose and Authenticity

Mastering your capacity to be the best business leader comes along with finding your purpose, being your authentic self, and most importantly, not worrying about what others think.

But living in a world where performance and competition are rewarded from a very tender age, it becomes increasingly challenging not to get affected by the opinions of others. So, when your concept of self is inherently built on the preoccupation of what others think of you, often individuals, who are leading a workforce of hundreds and thousands, get on an inauthentic, mediocre, and joyless road; a path that only takes one to ineffective leadership.

So, how do high-performance coaches help their clients achieve what otherwise seems incessantly difficult and how do Fortune 500 companies still thrive in high-stakes environments? Mindset-training.

In his book, Finding Mastery, Michael Gervais talks broadly about why training our minds is the most important step in designing, building and strengthening a self-concept that we think truly matters to us. Not to others, but to us.

He explains, that our mind is our constant companion, accompanying us wherever we go – to the pitching deck or the boardroom. It serves as the unifying thread, weaving together our feelings, thoughts, and ability to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Whether grappling with emotions due to losing clients or tackling an internal company conflict, our mind is the ever-present tool that guides us through. Here is how you can also train your mind to master any area of your life or your business. The three things it comes down to are,

Identifying the principles that matter most to you in your life. Be radically committed to it. Once you know what those are, hydrate them and keep them alive in your action.

Mental Training: The greatest trick you could play on your mind is to tell it what you want it to hear. Imagine it for it to manifest.

Deep focusing is what many neuroscientists and Yoga practitioners recommend, but it is another way of refocusing. Keep coming back to what your purpose is and bring the focus back to it. Every time you get side-tracked by life’s or business challenges, deep focus and realign your mindset and actions with core principles.

In the end, mastering leadership comes to tune into your signals and strategically refusing to entertain noise by others.

We explore more about leadership and Innovation in Help to Grow Management:

Help to Grow: Management Course | Kingston University (