Saturday 29 April 2017

Dearbhail McDonald: Business must act to save creativity from corporatism

Dearbhail McDonald with ‘Aurora’; Alison O’Sullivan of St Peter’s College, Dunboyne, Saoirse Logan McGivern of Cross and Passion College, Kilcullen; Christopher Duffy of St Mac Dara’s Community College, Templeogue; Aoife Murray of Assumption Secondary, Walkinstown; and Eve Lynch of Loretto College, Foxrock. Picture: Conor McCabe
Dearbhail McDonald with ‘Aurora’; Alison O’Sullivan of St Peter’s College, Dunboyne, Saoirse Logan McGivern of Cross and Passion College, Kilcullen; Christopher Duffy of St Mac Dara’s Community College, Templeogue; Aoife Murray of Assumption Secondary, Walkinstown; and Eve Lynch of Loretto College, Foxrock. Picture: Conor McCabe
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Does corporatism kill creativity? That's a question I found myself answering in the affirmative after serving as a judge at the finals of Bank of Ireland's Transition Year Academy last week.

The TY Academy brings over 400 transition-year students together to design campaigns or innovations to overcome barriers facing young people who want to progress to third-level education.

The problems identified by the students, who were strangers until September last year, included issues such as funding and housing shortages, peer-to-peer learning support, mental health - and even a solution to prevent bikes being stolen on and off campus.

The Dragons' Den-style TY final was a masterclass in what can happen when you allow children to unleash their imagination and curiosity. The teams did not just come up with ideas - any of which could have been brought to market with a little help - but also developed websites and apps that could challenge the offerings of many established companies and entrepreneurs.

The students were ferociously defensive of their brand and business models. Several teams intended to secure international patents for their companies' IP) and were confident about how to generate revenue and fend off competitors. Andrew Keating, my fellow judge and Bank of Ireland's chief financial officer, was duly impressed - making copious notes when one team claimed they could save the bank at least €2m a year.

The students' ingenuity and confidence was infectious, making the judging process was a nightmare. The winning team was 'Aurora' (the Latin for dawn) which devised a one-stop-shop app to assist students struggling with their mental health.

The TY academy got me thinking: what is it about corporate culture that seems to capture and kill the curiosity and creativity that you and I once had in unlimited reserves in our childhoods?

The need to innovate (or die) is a heavy and constant burden borne by managers and frontline staff alike.

But how can critical, even magical, thinking emerge when the dominant corporate culture is one of constant pressure and constraint? The problem starts in schools, whose industrial rote-learning stamps out creativity and alienates large cohorts of talented children. And that systematic crushing of creativity is consolidated in many corporations whose managerial practices undermine the type of creative thinking that is required to help them survive and thrive. Even where companies do accommodate creativity, or attempt to embrace it, they often undermine that good intent with unrealistic controls, thresholds and deadlines.

Not all ideas will succeed, but companies simply can't afford to kill creativity. It's time to rediscover our inner child again.

Dog days for greyhound racing

The dispute over the future of the Irish greyhound racing industry has really gone to the dogs.

AIB is chasing Bord na gCon (the Irish Greyhound Board) to repay some €20m in outstanding loans connected with the construction of Limerick's Greyhound Stadium. The IGB is under intense pressure to sell its landmark Harold's Cross stadium in Dublin to reduce its legacy debts. The recent closure of the stadium has led to much protest, and on Tuesday night TDs will get an earful when the national Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association (Goba), along with their Dublin counterparts (DGOBA), descend on Leinster House to vent their frustration.

Goba and DGoba, nursing the impacts of prize cuts, a collapse in totes and a huge fall-off in attendances, will also present a feasibility plan they say will save the greyhound racing industry, which has rapidly deteriorated as its peers in the horse-racing world maintain a happy fiscal stride.

Worst-case scenarios are being thrown around like snuff at a wake. But will we really see a State-owned Bank, albeit one moving towards private ownership, trigger the demise of a semi-State company that receives €14m a year in government grants? I'm no betting woman, but I'm not convinced. One things for sure though, this hare is going to run and run.

Mistakes can be costly

When €51,000 was accidentally dropped into the account of Margaret McDonnell, the 23-year-old mother from Finglas went on a "massive" nine-day spree, spending €24,946 before her bank spotted the error.

Last week McDonnell received a suspended 18-month sentence.

What about our banks that 'mistakenly' took thousands of euro from more than 10,000 (and counting) customer tracker-mortgage accounts?

The tracker-mortgage scandal, which Central Bank Governor Philip Lane has described as "system-wide", has had near-criminal impacts on the lives of those affected, especially those 100 people who lost their homes.

So how can something so systemic as mortgage theft be so hard to hold to account?

Restoration of trackers and civil redress will go some way towards compensating homeowners. But the failure to hold financial institutions to account for their egregious 'mistakes' will do little to restore the confidence of customers who feel powerless in the face of the banks.

Financial cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, but prosecutions - even failed ones - matter if we are to believe that there isn't one law for the rich and one for the poor. 

Sunday Indo Business

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