Brilliant scientists and technologists also need exemplary management ability to succeed in business. Bruno Cotta, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Centre at Cambridge Judge, explains the Centre’s sponsorship of a new Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Award that recognises these skills.
Have you ever noticed how many of the most successful professional sports coaches were only mediocre athletes, while some superstar players later failed in coaching? “I was very average. I was really quick and a good header but that was it”, said Liverpool Football Club’s multiple-trophy-winning manager Jurgen Klopp of his playing days in Germany.
Similarly, there are some scientific and technical experts who will admit to being average (or even below) in terms of the management knowledge, skills and experience they know they need to run high-performing projects, build high-performing teams or lead high-performing businesses.
At the Entrepreneurship Centre at Cambridge Judge Business School, we have long observed the natural gap between technical and managerial expertise in both emerging and existing organisations. This is one of the reasons we have broadened our focus to augmenting scientific and technical skills for entry-level students through to board-level executives.
It is also why we are supporting a new Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Award 2021-22 that will honour an organisation that demonstrates “outstanding commitment to leadership or management training for its scientific and technical staff”. The deadline for applications is 7 January 2022, so we hope many startups, SMEs and larger organisations join the competition by entering themselves or having others nominate them.
“We have a skills gap that is holding us back economically,” said the UK government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper issued earlier this year. “Redressing this will be critical to improving our productivity and international competitiveness.”
Beyond the national picture, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has also highlighted the need for regional investment in areas like Cambridge, to ensure that localised skills training meets geographic needs. Currently, the number of hard-to-fill vacancies for professionals in the Cambridge region is much higher than nationally, despite (or perhaps because) of its success as a thriving science and technology cluster.
Carefully curated management skills training can help people transform valuable technical expertise into equally valuable leadership competency:
“Advancing in one’s career typically means moving into management,” said a recent article in Harvard Business Review. “But being in management requires an entirely new set of skills. If you don’t learn these skills, you’ll likely end up underperforming and feeling frustrated.”
So what are some of the skills that aspiring scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs and executives should develop? Well beyond strategic, operational or tactical thinking, they are often a more subtle mix of internally oriented competencies like self-awareness, a positive outlook and adaptability, together with externally oriented competencies such as empathy, influence and conflict management. There are many companies in and around Cambridge that rely heavily on the very best scientific and technical talent, but equally all of them have the potential to raise their game by investing in high-quality leadership and management skills. Our award will spotlight those organisations that are already doing this very well – and hopefully inspire many others to follow in their footsteps.