Fintech: A ray of light in the dark?

Dr Syed Zaidi, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

Fintech (Financial Technology) refers to any business that adopts technology to make financial services better, safe and more efficient. Fintech companies blend technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and data management to financial processes to make them secure and effective.

Fintech was no doubt the topic of agenda for businesses prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but has garnered more importance due to this random economic event. This pandemic has forced businesses to think differently and it is anticipated that Fintech will play a positive role in reshaping the businesses. The adoption of digital and contactless payments globally has increased and will likely provide stimulus to banking sector to upgrade their conventional systems and move towards digitally efficient processes.

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Impact of Pandemic on Fintech

This pandemic has forced businesses to think differently and it is anticipated that Fintech will play a positive role in reshaping the businesses. The adoption of digital and contactless payments globally has increased and will likely provide stimulus to banking sector to upgrade their conventional systems and move towards digitally efficient processes.

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A report by FleishmanHillard discusses the progress of financial technology (fintech) in 2020 in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. E-commerce transactions in the US have increased by 43% since the start of this year. The UK saw a 30% increase in e-commerce transactions, and Australia reported a 117% increase. Businesses and consumers wanted a safer and more secure environment, which has pushed businesses towards cashless and contactless payments. Fintech is predicted to remain profitable and provide safer opportunities for SMEs. It is evident that corporations should focus on cloud-based approaches to managing their businesses in order to provide safer services online.


The fintech sector is renowned for developing digital solutions and streamlining payment processing for business. One technology that has revolutionised the banking system is blockchain.

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Blockchain is a system that records information in a manner that makes it difficult or nearly impossible to hack or alter the system. It is basically a digital record of transactions that is replicated and distributed to the entire database on the blockchain. The banking sector around the globe is exploring the potential for adopting blockchain technology for payment systems.


Business leaders realise that digital advancement can give their business an edge over competitors. Innovators and early adopters always have an advantage, so companies are rapidly moving towards digitalisation. As mentioned earlier, the current crisis has also expedited this process. As the global economy prepares to recover from this pandemic, one area of focus for businesses will be financial inclusion. According to the World Bank, there are still around 1.7 billion individuals worldwide who do not use banking systems. Fintech will be a significant factor in efforts to expand the global banking system.

The recovery of the economy is dependent on how well businesses provide safe, secure and simple financial services. Fintech will play a crucial role in mitigating the economic and social impact post Covid-19. Deloitte reported that fintech, along with strategic partnerships with retailers, government sectors and financial institutions, can provide financial services in transparent and impartial ways to economically exposed populations

Cashless Transactions

We have witnessed the effective use of fintech and digital finance during this health crisis. Cashless transactions and contactless payments have proven successful in minimising the spread of Covid-19. Various banks and financial institutions introduced discounts and encouraged the use of technologies like Apple Pay and Android Pay to discourage the exchange of physical cash. Although the use of cash had already been declining, this health emergency has increased cashless transactions. According to a Mastercard survey, 82% of global respondents regarded contactless transactions as safer, cleaner and more secure. Seventy-four per cent of respondents stated they would continue to use contactless payments even after the crisis is over. Contactless payments are also popular as individuals appreciate the convenience of not having to carry cash.


Data protection and cybersecurity will become more important as a result of the digital transformation. Financial technology offers high-quality cybersecurity and plays a vital role in countering digital fraud. The need for more holistic approach by businesses to deliver effective, sustainable and efficient financial services will make fintech more popular post-pandemic.

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Fintech Driving Global Change – BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE 

Discover how accounting and finance underpins modern enterprise in our BA (Hons) Finance and Business Enterprise.

Growing good working habits

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School

I’ve learnt a lot this year – I’ve learnt never to throw away an eggshell, that there is a use for the cardboard middle of toilet rolls and that people chuck out a lot of stuff that you can make good use of. I’ve discovered that the circular economy as a concept can infiltrate many aspects of our lives and that we can all incorporate it into our daily routines.

A back-garden grower for most of my life, each Spring I have filled every pot, hanging basket and raised bed available with potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, onions and strawberries. For me, there are few things more satisfying than nurturing and growing something from seed to plate, but this year I went a step further. I think it is fair to say that getting an allotment 6 months ago has been quite life changing.

Nothing is impossible

At first sight I did wonder what we were letting ourselves in for, as we surveyed 250m2 of overgrown wasteland. The best we could expect was to clear the land, create some semblance of order and some defined beds, then feed and prepare the soil to grow our vegetables next year.  Lockdown changed all of that – two week’s holidays in Europe turned into two weeks of back-breaking graft, weekends with friends turned into weekends with the birds and the bees. We weeded, dug, strimmed, fertilised, and weeded and dug some more. Bit by bit the allotment began to take shape and, there was time to do some planting. Before too long we were looking at defined beds containing all the fruit and veg you could wish for. The freezer picked up at a local auction room for £20 has never worked harder – we’ve harvested, washed, peeled, blanched and frozen to fill our plates with delicious home grown produce right through until the Spring.

Pace yourself

There was a four-week period during the Summer when we picked a lettuce every day – I’m pretty sure we ate lettuce for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we were still giving lettuces away to every neighbour or family member we happened to see. Don’t get me wrong, the lettuces were delicious, but I had made the mistake of sowing all the seeds at the same time so, as a result, the lettuces were all ready to eat at the same time. Therein lies an important lesson – plan and pace yourself to reap the rewards.

This filters through to our working lives as well. As an academic I liken it to research and writing – planning when I will do my research, when I will write and outlining targets to achieve delivers the best results for me. Breaks are also planned in, to ensure that I am fresh and focused as I sit down. This year a wander down to the allotment has definitely given me some headspace.

You can’t do it all

Fighting the horsetail weed, the dread of many an allotment gardener, has taught me that I just can’t win every battle. It’s impossible to be there every time another weed pops up through the soil to rip it out, so I just have to set myself a target of one bed at a time to tackle and clear the weed. Similarly, looking at your “To Do” list at work can be quite frightening, but acknowledging that it’s not possible to get it all done and identifying the priorities to work on goes a long way towards making steady but sure progress.

Make do and mend

There are very few things that we’ve actually paid money for at the allotment. We’ve been given everything from seedlings to seats, plant pots to power tools. We ordered a couple of second hand allotment books online and have learnt that baked and crushed eggshells are an excellent slug deterrent, the cardboard centre of a toilet roll cut in half makes a couple of great plugs to grow your seeds in and plastic bottles as a cane cover can save you from poking your eye out whilst digging away! We’ve helped friends to dig up their drive in preparation for a new one, so that we can make use of the old paving slabs for a hard standing next to the polytunnel. We’ve volunteered to do the tip run with friends as they’ve  cleared their gardens so that we can make use of the old bench that they were going to throw away and we’ve swapped seedlings that we have grown in excess in exchange for those that we never got round to sowing.

Of course, this is the way that people used to do business – bartering and exchanging goods and services. The very earliest economies worked in exactly this way. For me, this extends to the way in which I work with colleagues across the university and employers that I engage with – work with me on this project and I’ll work with you on that one. Sharing ways of thinking and bringing new ideas to the table can only be a good thing and ultimately everyone benefits.t

Time to rest

The sun has set on the busiest time of year at the allotment now. We’ve dug the beds, topped with cardboard and manure and then covered over for the winter so that the worms can do their work. There are little projects for dry weekends, such as replacing the composting frame and building a new cloche, but all-in-all things have slowed down and we’re expecting a few months of rest before starting over again in the Spring.

I really like the new Insights feature in Microsoft Outlook that tells me it’s time to rest and re-think my working patterns too. Sometimes you don’t realise the bad habits you’ve created until someone or something points it out to you. Just like the soil, my body and mind need to rest and refresh and I’ll be using this tool to monitor my work patterns more closely in the coming dark winter months.

Like my vegetable beds I’m fed and watered now and ready for a good night’s rest before work tomorrow. Goodnight all!

Read this article in The Guardian to see why having an allotment can help improve your mental health: It’s official: allotments are good for you – and for your mental health

Become a responsible leader of global business.

Do you want to be at the forefront of modern enterprise? Our BA (Hons) Business Management and Sustainability course challenges the traditional interpretations of enterprise and will open your mind to a broad range of contemporary themes in business.

Our emphasis on ethical business and sustainability will position you to create long-lasting value for your organisation and you will learn the practical skills needed to become a responsible business leader.

Now what…IoB?

Fatimah Moran, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

We have all probably heard the term “the Internet of Things” (or “IoT”). This term refers to the interconnectivity of objects or “things” resulting in new data sources. Wearables, smart homes, smart cars, and smart cities are a few examples of applications that provide products to consumers but in return they also provide valuable data to companies that provide the products & services to customers. 

The Internet of Behaviours (IoB) is a technology that captures and use data“digital dusts” of people’s daily lives (Gartner, 2020) from IoT devices that focuses on individuals that can provide insights into consumer behaviours, interests, and preferences. IoB also provides companies with the ability to direct its marketing efforts towards specific consumers.

For example, a fitness wearable can track how many steps you do in a day and what time of day you are more active. This can be linked to your smart alarm clock, your TikTok account, your device location tracking application, your in-home voice assistant (such as, Amazon Alexa or Google Home), your house camera, your digital shopping list, and maybe even your smart refrigerator. That is a lot of invaluable information that can be collected about a consumer; everything from whether this consumer is a morning person to whether they have an online shopping addiction or a chocolate addiction can be inferred from collected information.

IoB also has implications for the public sector. Think of the amount of health surveillance and monitoring that is occurring because of COVID-19. Your smart phone’s (remove “location”) Test & Trace App can assist the health care system with its contact tracing capabilities. Imagine that this test and trace App could be linked to your smart car in order to discover where else you might have gone to last Friday night (pub, church, grocery store, classes, etc.) or the App could be linked to your fitness wearable. What if a surveillance tool could track whether you were washing your hands properly or whether you were wearing a mask. Imagine also who would have access to this information?

IoB has been identified as a strategic technology trend for 2021 (Gartner, 2020), and by 2023, 40 percent of people worldwide will likely be having their individual activities tracked digitally (

One of the objectives of these types of data mining/collection is to try to influence an individual’s behaviour in some way, that is, to either specifically market a product to them and/or to protect against problematic behaviour.  

What prevents the onslaught of immense personal data collection from these technology sources? Privacy and information security laws are notoriously slow to catch up with technical innovations and rely on proper consent to be obtained from individuals using devices that collect their personal information. Security of information will be paramount to ensure trust being received from individuals and companies and/or the public sector. Like anything else, however, if the resulting behaviour provides a clear benefit to individuals and provides the information the company or public sector desires, then the IoB is here to stay.

References: -19 October 2020

Global Entrepreneurship Week at Staffordshire Business School #GEW2020

Hazel Squire, Head of Department Staffordshire Business School


Global Entrepreneurship Week is a collection of tens of thousands of activities, competitions and events aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere to start up and scale a company.

This November 16 – 22, as part of GEW 2020 Staffordshire Business School together with Staffordshire University Innovation Enterprise Zone will be hosting a range of activities aimed at both local businesses and students.

As a nation, the impact of COVID-19 means we are all seeking and finding new ways of doing things. In an effort, to build resilience and come together in leveraging the power of new ideas and innovation we will be launching our Innovation Enterprise Zone that will give businesses access to:

  • Skills development and support
  • Researchers, student talent and experts
  • Grants and business support programmes
  • Innovation infrastructure and incubation facilitates

Announced last year, Staffordshire University was one of 20 University Enterprise Zones (UEZs), launched with a £20 million investment by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation. 

Furthermore, be inspired offers a full year of start-up support including: information, advice and guidance from an experienced team of business advisers, regular meetings with industry mentors of your choice, full business processes induction, industry-led specialist workshop sessions, networking opportunities, access to personal growth software, access to personalised legal documentation, a £3000 tax free grant and, as your idea grows, access to investment opportunities. Information detailing how to access all this help will be provided at the be inspired session on Friday 20th November.

Finally, Enterprise Education has never been more important, as it allows us to equip future generations with the skills and mindsets, they need to navigate a world of work that may not even exist yet. Through entrepreneurship activities, learners can gain key entrepreneurial skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, risk-taking and teamwork. Entrepreneurship can offer alternative pathways for young people, improving their skills, employability and life chances, while supporting wider economic and social development.

Thus, Enterprise Education is embedded in to all our courses and as part of GEW Staffordshire Business School will be providing a week of challenging enterprise activities working with guest speakers and the be inspired Graduate Start up Programme.

Here is a list of all our free and exciting activities – to book your place use the links provided in the table below:


10-11am Being an ethical business: “Street Kids”
Presented by Dr Andrew Taylor
(Session open to all Staffordshire University students)
11-11.45am         Official Launch of the Innovation Enterprise Zone
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
11-12pm Improving the Customer Experience
Presented by Professor David Collins
(Session open to all Staffordshire University students)  
2-3pm Why SMART goals do NOT work! –
Goal setting to achieve more in challenging times
Presented by David Hyner
(Session open to all) 

*Our Innovation Enterprise Zone is one of the only 20 awards around the UK and is embedded at the heart of our campus, IEZ offers unprecedented access to specialist advanced materials, manufacturing and digital facilities, research, student talent and funding to support and accelerate innovation-led growth.


11-11.45am Advanced Materials Incubator & Accelerator Centre  
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
1-5pm Staffs Got Talent! – Innovation challenge  

*Introduction to our new Incubator and Accelerator facility, what it is and how it supports start-ups and SME’s. Delivered by Kelly Bradley. Programme Manager


10-11am The Pitch Competition – virtual workshop
Presented by Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean
(Session for Staffordshire Business School students in Level 5 & 6)  
11-11.45am          Advanced Manufacturing Prototyping & Innovation Demonstrator
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
11.30-12pm Digital Entrepreneurship Research and Practice
Fang Zhao, Associate Dean
(Session open to all Staffordshire University students)

*Whether you are looking for research and development advanced manufacturing techniques or process improvement – hear how we can help you succeed! Delivered by Rachel Wood. Programme Manager


*An outline of the programme, benefits of knowledge exchange and how to get involved. Delivered by Marc Wootton. Programme Manager

11-11.45amDigital Innovation Partnerships         
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
2-3pm Meet the Entrepreneurs: Panel with Q&A
Jane Pallister, Jonathan Westlake, Emily Whitehead
(Session open to all) 


11-11.45am Intelligent Mobility Innovation Accelerator  
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
2-2.45pm The Small Business Leadership Programme: Meet the team & overview
Professor Jon Fairburn
(Session open to all)   

*This webinar is an introduction into our dedicated project SCIMIA and other wide support for businesses, Delivered by: Marek Hornak – Head of Employer Partnerships and Enterprise

#GEW2020      #ProudToBeStaffs     #StaffsGotTalent       #staffsinnovation

Firm-level innovation and COVID-19 crisis – The effects and going forward

Ema Talam, PhD Student, Staffordshire Business School

The importance of innovation cannot be overemphasised. Innovation (introduction of new products/services, processes or methods) has been shown to positively affect economic growth, standards of living and our well-being. During the past few months, we have all relied on different innovative products and services to keep our lives as close to normal as possible (think about, for example, all those Zoom quizzes with family and friends or YouTube workout videos). Additionally, innovation will be, as Roper and Turner (2020, p. 504) note, “a critical element of the recovery post-COVID-19”.

The past few months have been very challenging times for firms. As a response to the challenges, were the firms more or less innovative? Equally, as a consequence of the crisis, will they be more or less innovative in the future?

Evidences suggest that large number of firms embraced innovation during the lockdown to keep them in business. However, at the same time, firms have reduced more long-term oriented innovation activities. Riom and Valero (2020) did a survey of 375 UK-based firms and show that: (i) approximately 60% of the surveyed firms introduced new innovations in the form of digital technologies (e.g. remote working technologies) and management practices (e.g. new human resources practices), (ii) almost 40% of firms innovated in the form of digital capabilities (e.g. e-commerce), and (iii) 45% of firms introduced new product innovation. Roper and Vorley (2020) did a survey of 334 firms that received Innovate UK award. Their survey shows that, in the period from April to June 2020, more than 75% of firms have either stopped their research and development (R&D) activities, stopped all non-critical R&D activities, or reduced and reprioritised their R&D activities. However, going forward – what can we expect about firm-level innovation? Firm-level innovation in the United Kingdom decreased during the Global Financial Crisis and its recovery to the pre-crisis levels was slow and unbalanced across different sectors and UK regions (Roper and Turner, 2020). Roper and Vorley’s (2020) survey shows that almost 60% of firms planned to reduce R&D and innovation investments in the three months following their survey.

What are the most common policies for increasing firm-level R&D and innovation?

There are number of policies that policy makers implement to encourage more innovation among firms. Some of the commonly used policies are R&D tax incentives and R&D subsidies. Previous research has shown that both can lead to the desired effect (Castellacci and Lie, 2015; Dimos and Pugh, 2016; Bloom et al., 2019). Unlike R&D tax incentives, R&D subsidies can offer a more targeted support for certain projects that are of interest (Bloom et al., 2019). Riom and Valero’s (2020) survey (discussed above) shows that new tax incentives and business grants or vouchers were chosen by firms to be favourable policies to deal with problems such as financing constraints for innovation for both product and process innovations. Other policies that may positively impact innovation are policies directed at human capital supply (e.g. skilled immigration) or policies boosting competition and trade openness. Additionally, historically, there are evidences that mission-oriented policies, which are focused on a particular mission – certain technologies or sectors – can lead to innovation (Bloom et al., 2019).


Bloom, N., Van Reenen, J., and Williams, H. (2019) ‘A toolkit of policies to promote innovation’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 33(3), pp. 163-184. doi: 10.1257/jep.33.3.163

Castellacci, F., and Lie, C. (2015) ‘Do the effects of R&D tax credits vary across industries? A meta-regression analysis’, Research Policy, 44(4), pp. 819-832. doi:

Dimos, C., and Pugh, G. (2016) ‘The effectiveness of R&D subsidies: A meta-regression analysis of the evaluation literature’, Research Policy, 45(4), pp. 797-815. doi:

Riom, C., and Valero, A. (2020) ‘The business response to Covid-19: The CEP-CBI survey on technology adoption’, A CEP Covid-19 Analysis – Paper No. 009. Available at:

Roper, S., and Turner, J. (2020) ‘R&D and innovation after COVID-19: What can we expect? A review of prior research and data trends after the great financial crisis’, International Small Business Journal: Researching Entrepreneurship, 38(6), pp. 504-514. doi:

Roper, S., and Vorley, T. (2020) ‘Assessing the impact of Covid-19 on Innovate UK award holders: Survey and case-study evidence’, ERC Insight Paper – September 2020. Available at:

Leadership and Employee Engagement: A Passion for Thoughtful Leadership.

The current pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the importance of both leadership and employee commitment. Where in the past the work of key workers has increasingly been defined in productive and quantitative terms the nation is not (literally) applauding their commitment. For small companies the commitment that can flow out of the relationship between leadership and engagement is key.

Management writer Daniel Pink has argued for some time that real performance flows out of intrinsic motivation and not material rewards and fear of sanctions. He argues that the key drivers of motivation are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Well, working from home has provided far more autonomy for most people. Remote working, to be successful, has required employees to assume a far greater mastery of their own work than previously when there were managers and processes to ensure visible compliance. The uncertainty of the crisis has exposed the fragility of economics and life, which has caused many people to think about the purpose of the work that they do and the lives that they lead. Organisations that have been able to align and re-purpose their businesses towards supporting others have gained much respect with employees and customers.

Key to surviving disruptive times is to start by shifting the organisational culture from what Argyris calls single loop learning; where people ask ‘how do we do things right?’ to the far more challenging double loop learning question of ‘what are the right things?’. This means to question fundamental assumptions about what we do and how we do it. In disruptive times, simply leaning harder upon established best practices may well prove disastrous. Evidence of this taking place often appears through people working harder but organisational performance continues to decline. When this happens its time to stop and apply double loop learning.

Some employees find adapting to new working practices deeply unsettling and this requires leadership that is not just visionary, but also caring. One of the great discoveries of this crisis has been that many people that were on very low wages with poor career prospects have seized this moment to step up and show, through their actions, that they can and will do more, if provided the opportunity and encouragement. Think about care workers, farm labourers and delivery drivers. My experience suggests that very often the most innovative and profitable ideas to improve performance are found within the company. If managers can create an environment where it is okay to question assumptions and speak up, rather than simply told to get on with their work, the results can be surprising. Whatever you have done before this crisis is a defining moment. Would you like to learn how to leverage your businesses core competence in new ways and build employee commitment? What kind of leader will you be? Let us help you be the best that you can be.

Develop and master core competencies in support of your management and leadership ambitions. The Staffordshire University MBA is designed to accelerate your professional and personal development and to contribute to the journey of being the best you can be. You can also study the MBA via our Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship where you will also gain a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 7 Diploma.

Staffordshire Business School – Research update

Staffordshire Business School aspires to be a leader in making a real impact on business and society through research and innovation. Our team have successfully delivered many industry/business and government funded research projects and have extensive experience of leading large team projects including local, UK, EU and internationally funded projects. Many of our team members combine rich industry and practitioner experience with academic rigour in conducting world-leading research in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation, digital transformation, environmental health etc. Here are some of the exciting research projects that researchers at Business School have been doing:

Austerity, Welfare and Work: Exploring Politics, Geographies and Inequalities

In his new book, Prof David Etherington provides bold and fresh perspectives on the link between welfare policy and employment relations as he assesses their fundamental impact on social inequalities. Drawing on international and national case studies, the book reviews developments, including rising job insecurity, low pay and geographical inequalities.

Environmental health inequalities resource package

Prof Jon Fairburn is the lead author of a recent World Health Organization publication. The publication is aimed at local, regional and national policy makers hoping to improve environmental health especially for deprived and other groups. Jon has been collaborating with WHO for over 10 years on this subject.

Covid-19 and Smart Cities – What’s Changed? Getting ahead of the Game

Prof Fang Zhao and her team have been conducting research and analysis of a range of changing scenarios of smart cities in post-Covid-19 and pinpoint the opportunities and challenges for businesses, city councils and universities. Their research focuses on strategies, tactics and digital transformation.

The Impact of COVID-19 on BAME Owned Businesses in the UK

The project led by Dr Tolulope Olarewaju is investigating the specific challenges that BAME business owners faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the strategies that they used to keep their businesses afloat, and how they engaged with financial and regional support. The project is funded by the British Academy.

People, Place and Global Order: Foundations of a Networked Political Economy

This book co-authored by Dr Andrew Taylor explores how the convergence of technology and globalisation is shifting value creation out of products and processes and into digital networks and, in the process, leaving many people behind. He is looking into examples and models of how people and place may flourish within global networks. 

Leadership typology reveals how smart city leaders prefer to tackle inequality

The research of Associate Professor Alyson Nicholds sheds light on how leaders, operating in different organisations, roles and sectors prefer to tackle inequality differently. Her latest writing draws on organisational concepts of leadership and philosophy to show the benefits this type of understanding can reap for society.

Entrepreneurs in Residence

Business School has recently appointed Entrepreneurs in Residence providing students and staff with hands-on experience in conducting research to spot business opportunities, conduct market analysis and better understand consumer behaviour, leading to business venture creation.

For more information and collaboration and partnership, please contact Prof Fang Zhao – Associate Dean Research and Enterprise at

It’s time to be yourself

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School

As the summer draws to a close and we pack away our well-worn flip flops, it’s good to reflect on the long, warm days that we have enjoyed outdoors, before the shorter days of Autumn set in. I recently spent some time browsing through photographs taken this year, to remind myself of the best of 2020. I came across two pictures that led me to ponder on how each one of us approaches life so differently.

Both pictures taken on the same day, within the same 10 minutes. Both taken at the same location. Both my grandsons, yet both with such different approaches to life. One a risk-taker who throws himself headfirst into everything, giving 100% and constantly on the lookout for the next challenge. The other a thinker, a complicated little soul who weighs the options up very carefully before making any decision and even then, approaches life cautiously, sometimes with some anxiety and trepidation. Can you tell which is which?

What this means for me is that I have learned to speak to them differently, to explore different activities that each may enjoy, to play different games with them and read them different stories before tucking them up into bed at night. I accept that they are very different and embrace and enjoy their unique personalities. I celebrate their individuality, encouraging them to be true to themselves and to live their life the way that they, and only they want to.

Don’t be a sheep

We are all unique, all different – let’s face it we are all made up of different DNA! As I welcome new students to the university this week for the start of their journey as independent learners, I’m at pains to remind them of this. I have spent many years welcoming freshers, excited to be beginning a new chapter in their life. Amongst the information and advice that I share to prepare them for the student journey ahead, is the video of a social experiment that I call Don’t be a Sheep.

The video never fails to make students smile and laugh. It depicts a young lady behaving the way that others around her do, just because she feels that she must. My advice to students is to be true to themselves and not to feel intimidated or pressurised by anyone else’s behaviour. I’m acutely aware that in today’s society there is a great deal of pressure from the media and social media, to be someone or something that you are not. Many have written about the phenomenon of social comparison and the ensuing mental health related issues and lack of self-esteem. 

Generation Z

Generation Z in particular seems to be challenged by continual obstacles in the path of individuality. This uber-connected cohort has spent a lifetime inundated with messages telling them how they should look, how they should behave and whom they should aspire to. The 2020 documentary film The Social Dilemma has gone further to heighten fears around the controlling influences of social media and the divide deepens between those who readily fall under the influence of social pressure and those who have the strength to follow their true self.

Something for everyone

The first few weeks at university provide an opportunity for students to get to know their housemates, their lecturers, their surroundings and their studies. Whoever you are and however you like to approach life, there will be something for you. A full range of societies to join and different teaching methods to accommodate different learning preferences – diversity is recognised and embraced in a way that many have never before experienced.

This is one of the reasons why I love working in higher education so much. I love to see confidence build, personalities develop, independence grow and life ambitions accomplished.

Live your own life

Steve Jobs famously told us “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”. I fly the flag for being yourself but I appreciate that not everyone has the confidence to do so. The beauty of university life is that support is always available for those who struggle with mental health issues or anxiety. We know that some find this new environment harder to adjust to than others. Don’t be afraid to reach out and be reassured that you are absolutely not alone in feeling this way.

I hope that my grandsons will continue to follow their own individual, unique paths through life – that people will accept them for who they are and that they will be confident to do things their own unique way. My message to students beginning their university journey is live your own life and follow your own path – you don’t have to look that way, you don’t have to dress that way, you don’t have to behave that way, you are unique, you are yourself and that’s okay! Be kind to yourself and be kind to others.

At Staffordshire Business School, we understand that business evolves with time and technology, so we are constantly adapting our learning strategies and courses to give you the best chance to get ahead of the competition when you graduate.

For 2021, we have developed four brand-new courses that follow contemporary themes such as sustainability, entrepreneurship and digital marketing:

BA (Hons) Finance and Business Enterprise
BA (Hons) Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship
BA (Hons) Business Management and Sustainability
BA (Hons) Digital and Social Media Marketing

Thinking Bigger: Advice for Small Giants

Dr Andrew Taylor, Senior Lecturer, staffordshire business school

During disruptive times small scale can be a key advantage.  The management writer Mintzberg (1989) describes most small companies as either simple structures or adhocracies.  My research (Taylor 2013, 2019) indicates that in both cases innovation is central to their mission and survival.  The strength and the weakness of simple structures is that they are driven by one or two key individuals.  This both makes decision-making fast and flexible.  Adhocracies are project based, mission driven places, with little respect for traditional idea’s of good management practice, where inefficiencies are the price of high growth.  There is often a tendency, in both cases, as they grow, to define becoming professional as having more formal and robust processes.  The trouble is that as they seek order and stability, innovation and commitment often crashes as  resent a perceived loss of purpose or human commitment. 

During disruptive times it is often better to leverage the flexibility and commitment of peoples in smaller scale organisations to adapt, rather than seek to optimise.  Small companies, like speedboats, are fast and nimble compared to the large oil tankers of corporate business,.  Asking what are the right things, rather than how do I do things right Argyris (1991) is easier where best practices are less defined bureaucratically.

Small companies can most effectively do this through identifying their core competencies (Prahalad & Hamel 1990) .  Core competencies are the source of how you create value – those things that you do for your customers better than your competitors.  They:

  1. Provide access to a wide variety of markets
  2. Should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product
  3. Should be difficult for competitors to imitate.

Knowing these allows you to ask yourselves how they could, using what Gavetti (2011) calls associative thinking, be transferred into new, more distant, marketplaces. Managers are good at identifying opportunities that are cognitively close to their business, but need to learn to recognise similar underlying patterns in distant markets and make the cognitive leap.

Organisations, that we are familiar with, successfully doing this include Fuji-Film, Honda, Danone, Dyson and Virgin.

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Often leaders of small companies familiar with doing this as anyway as a matter of survival.  Learning to use such knowledge to leverage the strength of organisation and its people, in a joined-up way, can, however, both transform the effectiveness and legitimise existing practices, such that small companies can harness their scale and people to flourish.


Argyris C. (1991), ‘Teaching Smart People to Learn’, Harvard Business Review, May – June.

Gavetti, G. (2011), ‘The New Psychology of Strategic Leadership’, Harvard Business Review, July -Aug.

Mintzberg, H. (1989), Mintzberg on Management: Inside Our Strange World of Organizations, New York, The Free Press.

Prahalad, C. K.  & Hamel, G. (1990), ‘The Core Competence of the Corporation’, Harvard Business Review, May-June.

Taylor, A. & Krouwel W. (2013), Taking Care of Business: Innovation, Ethics & Sustainability, Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Risoprint.

Taylor A. & Bronstone A. (2019), People, Place & Global Order: Foundations of a Networked Political Economy. London, Routledge.

From Leisure to Retail: Lessons in Leisure

Carol Southall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School

If current shopping trips offer any food for thought, beyond that is “not just any food”, it is that retail has much to learn from the leisure industry in terms of how to treat their customers. Beset with the accessibility issues raised by Covid-19, retailers with a physical high street or retail park/shopping mall presence are having to rethink how they do business. The ‘new normal’ is a commonly used phrase and yet, to date, the ‘new normal’ has, in so many ways, been anything but new, and anything but normal.

Two of the key areas in which there are clearly lessons to learn, are those involving queuing, so much a part of life in the UK even before Covid-19, and provision of toilet facilities. Recent news has highlighted scores of people rushing to shops on their reopening, and the ensuing lengthy queues to access those shops. Additionally, there has been negative press around the lack of available toilet facilities in public space, with councils being urged to reopen any closed public toilets. The Government’s drive to reopen the hospitality industry will further reinforce the need for public access to toilets.

Most of us know how to queue, we understand the need to do so, even if we don’t always like it. Queuing in fact is a stereotypical British institution, much like eating fish and chips and discussing the weather, it’s what people do. Given this high level of queue awareness, we might be forgiven in thinking that the organisation of a queue system is almost embedded within our psyche, and yet the variety of queue systems on any given retail park, at any given retail outlet, anywhere in the UK, is astonishing. On a recent visit to a well-known retail park, there were at least 20 different queues, all snaking in different directions, for different stores. Some made good use of barriers, some offered marked walkways to which they anticipated their shoppers would adhere. Some required people to queue past the store exit, meaning that shoppers had to walk straight past people, within a metre, as they left the store. Some had security, some didn’t. The variety was endless. What was quickly apparent however, was that queue etiquette was unilaterally present in them all. We accept whatever queue we’re placed in and wait, not always patiently, to progress along the line.

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The British have taken shopping tourism to a whole new level. Days spent at retail outlets are considered as a leisure pursuit in their own right. Overnight stays near shopping malls often combine retail ‘therapy’ with dining out, a visit to a cinema, and opportunities for a range of additional leisure pursuits, including bowling, skiing, swimming, indoor mini-golf, and a host of other leisure activities aligned to family fun. Whilst lockdown has prevented such activity in recent months, anybody venturing out to a retail park or shopping mall could be forgiven in thinking that nothing has changed. Except it has, as the queues and lack of toilet facilities show.

The leisure industries have much acquired knowledge to pass on to retail. From queue management, through experience design, to provision of necessary facilities. When asked on a radio interview what people really needed when they attend theme parks, the suggestion “a loo, a view and a brew” was proposed as fundamental to enjoyment of the experience offered by attractions. Having toilet facilities, something entertaining and visually stimulating to look at, and somewhere to eat and drink were suggested as necessities to a day spent visiting an attraction of any sort.

Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers.
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When we go to a theme park, we understand that we will queue. The difference is that theme parks are designed with queuing systems in mind. Queue theory supports the argument that crowding and lengthy waiting times are major causes of visitor dissatisfaction. Enhancing the queue experience will encourage the customer to not only enjoy their shopping experience but will also increase the likelihood that they will revisit, which is particularly important if the high street is to stand any chance of a recovery, post Covid-19.

In the short-term putting more thought into the systems used to ensure shoppers are able to access retail outlets in more structured, better thought-out and even more entertaining way, will pay dividends, both in terms of visitor satisfaction and the ensuing profits. Added to this the installation of easily accessible, even temporary or portable public toilets, openly cleaned and sanitised at regular intervals, will help to ensure that the current economic recovery phase is facilitated and the transition to the ‘new normal’ made easier by this attention to detail, so integral to the leisure industry.