Blending Multiple Research Areas Helps Build Strategic Choices (Interview)
Blending Multiple Research Areas Helps Build Strategic Choices (Interview)

Caroline Williams holds an MBA degree and a Silver Accreditation for Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation methodology through her work with clients focusing on the impact of executive education. As director of Open Programmes for Saïd Business School, she develops initiatives to illuminate the importance of humanity in leadership. She was recently a judge for the inaugural 50 Leading Lights: Women of the Future network (UK).

Here is what Caroline Williams shared in an exclusive interview for MERIT before the annual MERIT Summit 2019.

What is it that makes an organisation a learning one?

Our organisational studies research has shown the success of any organisation is built on its people and, more particularly, the extent to which they are engaged in performance to make intelligent and agile decisions as conditions change. 

How do you foster co-creation in organisations and when is co-creation the right approach?

Co-creation is the right approach if we seek interactive value, resilience and growth – but it doesn’t come easy. The organisation must foster the right balance of institutional, team, and individual contributions to underpin the direction of outcome it seeks. 

What is the difference that your organisation aims to make for people and organisations?

When developing programme experiences, we aim to bring in the brightest minds from more than fifty departments within four prominent research areas across University of Oxford to push thinking further. Through the blending of multiple research areas we can be provocative and thoughtful in helping participants and clients to build strategic choices. Channelling artificial intelligence through the humanities can build an intensely rewarding leadership session, for example. 

What is the portfolio of corporate learning and executive programmes and services that Oxford Saïd provides?

We try to offer thoughtful, high touch development experiences created by Oxford faculty. You will find online experiences for those seeking to disrupt traditional business models or wanting to revolutionise current ones; on-campus experiences for those seeking high impact personal change or advancement within a short period of time; and blended models incorporating technical and strategic development.

How can you describe the impact of your programmes in figures?

Our proudest figure was was the number two ranking in the world in the Financial Times annual rankings table for the quality of our on-campus executive education in May 2018; retaining the UK number one ranking for the fourth consecutive year. We have also confirmed a completion rate of 96% for our online portfolio, which has welcomed an additional 7,000 executives to our life-long learning community within the past 12 months.  

How do you measure the success of your corporate learning and executive programmes?

Our approach requires the creation of an impact measurement strategy and implementation plan with our participants and clients. Thoughtful diagnoses of desired strategic outcomes and the critical behaviours and thinking required from senior leaders to navigate the organisation towards these outcomes enables us to frame success clearly from the outset.

When can organisations expect to see the results of corporate learning programmes?

Our work has shown that the building or adopting of cultures which enable participants to apply what they have rehearsed within programmes will accelerate the results of executive education and amplify impact. If unintended obstacles hinder results, risk of abandonment may occur, which can be costly to the organisation. With clear indicators guiding measurement of impact against the intended outcome, and appropriate mechanisms supporting the participant in place, it is reasonable to evaluate performance within the first three months of the programme, with more concise measurement of ROI after 12 months.