How many times have we been to events that attempt to discuss the issue of how we should be collaborating to ensure we are better able to assist The SME community with their growth issues? I certainly feel as though the debate goes round in circles without ever really coming to any concrete conclusion.
ISBEs SME growth SIG Chair, Professor Mark Gilman, Birmingham City University and Professor Kiran Trehan, University of Birmingham led business leaders, policy makers and academics in a frank discussion of how we identify the key issues of what we should be doing to move this debate forward.
The event involved some key speakers from in and around the West Midlands but was also organized so that audience participation was a key element of the discussion. Key note speakers included Qasim Majid, President of The Asian Chamber of Commerce and Pam Waddell, Director Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands. It also involved an expert panel made up of Joel Blake OBE Executive Officer, Growing Businesses Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local; Andy Lee Strategic Lead for Diversity, RBS & NatWest Business Banking; Dr Pam Waddell Director, Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands, and Mark Andrew MD, Rightcheck. Qasim and Pam also joined the panel
Qasim opened up the debate by arguing that for us to address and better use diversity as part of growth we need to embrace changing and different perspectives to growth. Many of which begin with changing the hearts and minds of leaders. This relies on a great willingness for all involved to be open and honest. Pam informed that within the new West Midlands industrial strategy innovation is a cornerstone of inclusive growth. Collaboration is key to driving this approach both within and between organisations and therefore needs to be very much ‘applied’ in nature.
The panel discussion opened up some key areas including the importance of thought leadership and the creation of relationships and trust. Although those at the session were committed to addressing the area of collaboration, a key point raised was the importance of being able to convince people that are not in the room. Bringing a wide ranging audience together is a key part of this process but it was generally felt that there was not enough entrepreneurial thinking at the public sector table. Participants also questioned whether we all even speak the same language?
So, if we had a blank sheet of paper what should we be doing?
It was felt that collaboration is about disruption and that we should be doing more to further this approach. We should be extending the reach of these kinds of debates by not inviting the same audiences all of the time. We should be encouraging those from different perspectives to create a common language and align values between sectors, organisations, etc. We should be challenging our universities in how they are going to produce the next generation of leaders and innovators.
You’ve got to be ‘in it to win it’ said Qasim and Pam succinctly rounded up by pointing out that it helps if we listen more and talk less. An action which we are more than happy to take forward to our next session later in the year.