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More Resources Must Mean Better Outcomes – Right? Or How Variation Ca  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Mar 2020, 08:01
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: More Resources Must Mean Better Outcomes – Right? Or How Variation Can Catch You Out! Part I
Introduction 

This is a two-part blog around variation and the way it can catch people out when attempting cost-cutting exercises or providing additional resources and looking for evidence of benefit. 

In Part I, we’ll look at cost-cutting, as this seems to have been a popular approach, particularly in the Public Sector, to providing “better-value” for Customers and the Public. It is much easier to tell an organisation, or a team, to reduce their budget by 15%, and keep the same level of service, and if service levels drop, then popular argument dictates, “the cuts were too deep” It is much more difficult to provide additional resources and look for hard evidence of an increase in service levels (What size of increase? Any specific parts of the service?). This second approach will be discussed in Part II. 

And some of the points made in Part I will be good background to understanding and getting to grips with Part II. 

Our observations during our travels can be characterised as, “Why, when we have reduced operational costs by only 15% (substitute your own %s), have we seen such a dramatic deterioration in service levels?”  

The answer in many cases is simple to say – “Variation” – but is a much more difficult point to visualise. 

We have developed a simple (compared to the real-world) but sophisticated (in that it can model some complex flows of work) simulation of a generic 4-Stage Business Process to help get understanding across. It’s been developed for educational purposes, and is not a commercially available product. We’ll use some of its output here to hopefully illustrate the point being made. 

We’ll just try to capture the essence of just some of the words and phrases that have been used to describe the world we live and operate in: 


You’ve probably heard other descriptions which boil down to the same thing. The critical feature is that “Cause & Effect”, “If – Then – Else”, “I do this and expect that” and the like do not work (or work only over very short periods of time) in this environment. And the biggest contributor to this is the hidden Variation – and it’s hidden because many organisations with all the BI tools in the world do not know how to visualise it! 

Now we blogged about the most appropriate well-proven method for visualising Variation over time – using extended-SPC (and not manufacturing-style SPC), see for example https://blogs.cranfield.ac.uk/leadership-management/cbp/why-performance-reporting-is-not-performance-management-part-3 

But, in order to really understand Variation, sometimes it requires that we see it represented in a different way. So let’s turn to the simulation. 

Background to Simulator 

The model represents a generic 4-Stage Business Process (see diagram below). It could be any one or more of Incident Handling in Emergency Services, IT Help Desk, patients passing through a hospital system, new order processing, etc. It is designed to demonstrate many facets of such a System in real life, so for brevity, only a partial description will be provided here. 

In brief demand enters at the left travelling right through the stages or branches into outcomes or cancelations. There are a number of boxes with figures in them representing values that are subject to Variation. We’ll look at a sample simulation run captured in the diagram below. 

Image

It also makes visible “hidden” Work In Progress (WIP, and, to avoid clutter, is not shown above), that builds up due to Variation, which drives extended Throughout Times.  

The simulation can be set up with a number of “Initial Conditions” – one of which is a Stage by Stage Completion Time Target. We used 10 minutes in the example above. Each Stage Success Rate is the % Jobs completed within Target, and, by multiplying these together for each of the 4 stages, this generates an Overall Success Rate. The simulator also tracks, amongst other parameters, Resource Utilisation (not shown). 

To keep this as simple as possible, we’re going to look at the Overall Completion Rate and the Overall Success Rate for 4 simulation runs, and restricting one element of Variation around Stage Job Completion Time to show how just this one factor can influence performance: 

  • Runs 1 and 2 are with, effectively, no Variation in how long it takes to complete a Job at each Stage. Run 1 is with 9 people (Servers) at each Stage, and run 2 is with 7 people at each Stage 
  • Runs 3 and 4 are with a small amount of Variation in Stage Job Completion Time, and Run 3 is with 9 people at each Stage, and Run 4 is with 7 people at each Stage. 

Simulation Run 1: No Variation in Job Completion Time: 9 Resources at each Stage 

Image

An Overall Success Rate of 100% might be considered reasonable (or possibly over the top). An Overall Completion Rate of 71.2% might not be, but that question is for another day. With a finance hat on, one might be tempted to look at the Stage by Stage Utilisation rates (not shown) which hover mainly below 60%, and want to drive this number up. After all, one might be able to live with a 20% – 40% reduction from 100% to, say, 60% – 80% Overall Success Rate. Thinking “linearly”, one might therefore reduce the number of Resources by around 20%, to 7 people at each Stage. The results are shown below. 

Simulation Run 2: No Variation in Stage Job Completion Time: 7 Resources at each Stage 

Image

Stage Utilisation rates (not shown) have gotten closer to 80% – which might be more satisfactory from a finance point of view. And an Overall Success Rate of 60.6% might be considered OK if we were looking for a range between 60% and 80%. But let’s see what happens when we introduce a small amount of Variation to Job Completion Times. 

Page Break 

Simulation Run 3: Small Variation in Stage Job Completion Time: 9 Resources at each Stage 

Image

Overall Success Rate is 99.6% vs Simulation Run 1 Overall Success Rate of 100%, and Overall Completion Rate is still up around 70% and above. And, as with Run 1, Utilisation Rates are still below 60%. So what does a cut in Resources of around 20% deliver this time around? 

Simulation Run 4: Small Variation in Stage Job Completion Time: 7 Resources at each Stage 

Image

Overall Success Rate has dropped dramatically to 19.3% vs Simulation Run 2 Overall Success Rate of 60.6%. It is this “non-linear” or difficult to predict behaviour when trying to balance Resources with Demand that is the result of hidden Variation, and which nearly always catches people out – laymen and experts alike! 

Now Dominic Cummings knows this – the question is, how many Government Ministers are aware of this? 

Next time we’ll take a look at the converse situation of what to expect when we are adding Resources.

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Home-working for Entrepreneurs (and everyone else!)  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Mar 2020, 09:01
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Home-working for Entrepreneurs (and everyone else!)
One of the greatest opportunities that come with being an entrepreneur is the freedom to choose where you work. For many business owners, this will mean that their home becomes a multi-functional space; a space for working, relaxing and entertaining.

As the world enters a period of global uncertainty, many of us will be left with no choice but to work like an entrepreneur. As the lectures are cancelled, the office doors close and we slowly lose our dining room tables to a mountain of pens, notebooks and unfinished cups of coffee, it is easy to lose a sense of normality.

Regardless of whether you are forced to self-isolate as a result of a freak virus or working at home is standard procedure in your role as a business owner, following these practical tips could help to protect both your physical and mental health:

Define clear working/leisure boundaries – When all of your activities are happening under one roof, it’s easy for them all to blend into one. It’s important that there are clear distinctions between where you work and where you play i.e. try to prevent using your sofa as a workspace and attempt to reserve it for relaxation time. Similarly, it could be wise to allocate a space in your home which is solely for working. By doing this, you are giving yourself the option to move away from that ‘working zone’ at the end of the day.

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Have a set routine – The home environment naturally offers many distractions. Whether you’re lured by Netflix or you cannot resist diving into the fridge every five minutes, it may feel like the whole house is against you. But, having a set routine with a start, finish and lunch break can offer a structure which allows you the freedom to move away from work and equally encourages you to get your head down when required.

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Get dressed – Your morning prep can play a large role in setting the tone for the rest of the day. Although it may be tempting to roll straight out of bed and onto your laptop, you may actually be more productive if you prepare yourself for the day ahead. This doesn’t mean that you need to wear your Sunday best, but freshening up and getting out of your pyjamas could make a significant difference to your mindset.

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Write a list of to-do’s and break work into small manageable chunks – If you are struggling to focus and your workload seems impossible, it could be wise to break large projects into manageable tasks. If you find yourself procrastinating, set a timer on your phone and focus on the task in hand until it finishes – and stick to it!

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Check-in regularly with your team – Alternative working conditions may lead to feelings of disconnection from your colleagues. Technology enables you to connect with others when face-to-face interaction is limited.  Try setting up regular calls with your colleagues and classmates (or anyone!), these don’t have to be work-related, just catch up and have your daily coffee together.

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Move your body – It is extremely easy to slip into a sedentary way of living when working at home. Exercise can offer many benefits which stretch far beyond physical gains, staying active can have significant benefits for mental health and productivity. The internet offers plentiful opportunities to get active from the comfort of your own home, from group yoga to HIIT. But, if those options seem too strenuous, take plenty of breaks, get out of your chair and move around your house often, even walking up and down the stairs could be all you need to refresh and refocus your mind.

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Shifting away from your usual working style can be slightly daunting at first, particularly when it has been forced upon you as opposed to being a conscious choice. Take your time to adjust and try not to beat yourself up if it doesn’t feel ‘normal’ straight away. We all work differently and finding out what works best for you is vital.
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Rethinking the economy in times of crises  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Mar 2020, 02:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Rethinking the economy in times of crises
After a first week in which many economies across the globe have come to a halt, most of us realise that at least for the near but potentially distant future things will be different. While the heroes of the health care system are working relentlessly to treat the infected and stop the illness COVID-19 from spreading, many have set up their home offices, and maybe this is the right time to rethink your business, research, and beliefs. Now that individuals are self-isolating, businesses are closed, and in many countries, a state of emergency is officially declared, the issue of climate change that had dominated most of last year’s headlines has virtually vanished from the news. It is now more important than ever not to forget the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs have not been postponed and stopping climate change is arguably the single biggest modern challenge humans face. If we do not decouple economic growth from the consumption of virgin non-renewable resources, there will be no habitable planet left for the generations following those saved today from the coronavirus. Whether you are a manager, researcher, or employee, the past days may have already set you thinking and confirmed or challenged your beliefs about your business model, operations, or research assumptions.

As David Denyer’s insightful article on organizational responses to crises suggests, adapting and innovating can and should be a part of managing a crisis and may be a way of ensuring we rise stronger, more robust, and resilient from the consequences of an event such as the corona-crisis. A circular economy, as opposed to today’s prominent linear economy of take-make-dispose, is an economic system based on business models that replace the concept of end-of-life waste by following principles such as reducing, alternatively reusing, recycling and recovering materials in production, distribution and consumption processes. By following these principles, a successful circular economy contributes to all the three dimensions of sustainable development. In this comment, I reflect on recent events and how they are supporting, reinstating, and challenging current beliefs and assumptions about the concept of a circular economy.

Circular supply chains are less risk-prone to extreme events

Although the corona-crisis has given us some entertaining online jokes about toilet paper, the crisis has also caused real-life misery, with supermarket altercations over the everyday essential. This is down to an assumed bullwhip effect within the supply chain. A global linear supply chain has long feedback loops and is vulnerable to local events spacially and timely distant to the end customers. As early as 1982, Walter R. Stahel has argued for the benefits of localized short supply-chains to reduce emissions caused by transportation and creating local employment. Having multiple, ideally local, product loops to reuse, repair, refurbish, or remanufacture products has been used as an argument to showcase the benefits of a circular economy to business as a means to reduce supply-chain risks caused by fluctuating resource prices and resource dependency from conflict regions and non-democratic countries. The current global situation supports the design of more local supply chains with products that have multiple life-cycles. Facilitating these strategies of reuse, repair, refurbish, or remanufacture to extend product life oftentimes requires changes in a company’s business model and shifting from selling goods to selling outcomes is often discussed as one solution to the challenge of reducing resource consumption.

Suggestion:  Use circular economy principles not only to become more sustainable but to reduce your operational risk.

Questions:  Do you have transparency upstream in your supply chain? Can you design supply-chains that close the loop and that are  more resilient and robust?

Image

Circular PSS Supply Chain (Widmer et al. 2018)

Contamination may be real

For twenty years, the idea that increasing the service component and shifting from Product- to Use- to Result-Oriented Product-Service systems has been discussed as a business strategy to increase revenue and reduce resource consumption. The assumption is that by sharing assets such as cars, facilities, and equipment, structural waste can be reduced, and the resources embedded in goods can be exploited more effectively. It is assumed, that by retaining ownership over products involved, a manufacturer or solution provider is incentivized to consider the total cost of ownership, designs products for longevity and recoverability, and maintains visibility during the use phase to predict maintenance, and optimise use.

The promising arguments for Product-Service Systems make them a fundamental building block in a circular economy but are not a panacea for achieving sustainability, and ‘everything-as-a-service’ is by far not risk-free. In consumer goods, the ‘contamination-effect’ describes a barrier to customer-acceptance as people, for example, are hesitant to wear clothes that have been used by others before. With a global pandemic spreading, the contamination is no longer a metaphor but reality, and a barrier that initially was regarded only to affect private consumers for psychological reasons may now very much apply to business customers well, as they may be literally contaminated. In our research, we explore the challenges manufacturing companies face when trying to increase their service level and circularity and identified the lack of customer acceptance as a critical barrier. Customers don’t want to give up ownership because they fear losing control over their operations. In light of the current situation, this is even more understandable as companies suffer from extreme restrictions to exchange with other market participants. The challenge for businesses is to develop solutions that integrate circular principles in a way that don’t require moving towards outcome-based contracting and leave enough control to customers, especially in times of crisis like we are experiencing currently.

Suggestion:  Don’t count on moving to a ‘product as a service’ business model alone to become more circular, your customers may for legitimate reason not want it.

Questions:  Can you add services to your product offerings to reduce resource consumption and pollution? Do you have enough control over the products and services you procure in times of a crisis?

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Eight types of Product-Service Systems (Tukker 2004)

Circularity is an indicator of innovation

Managing competing goals is an enormous challenge but as well an everyday task in management and engineering. For many businesses, their goals have shifted overnight from creating profit to helping to prevent a global pandemic from spreading and damage limitation. Due to a lack of ventilators, a good number of manufacturers have announced that they will start producing these much-needed devices to treat severe cases of the illness. As a senior health official in a press conference pointed out, the most important thing in stopping a virus from spreading is response time and overthinking if your measures are too extreme is the enemy. In light of this, it is fair to assume that most of these manufacturers won’t consider end-of-life strategies for these ventilators or choice of circular materials. Whether it is the safety of a brake in a vehicle, the sterility of food processing equipment, or in this case the lead time of producing ventilators, safety and profit are king, and circularity nice to have. We base this statement on evidence from our research, in which we confirmed that circularity today comes at a price. For a manufacturing firm, human life always has priority over increased sustainability. For truly circular solutions, engineers, designers and managers have to consider all life-cycle stages, and environmental benefits must be proactively pursued and must not be regarded  as beneficial spillovers. Product and service innovation is essential for many companies to create and sustain competitive advantage but measuring innovativeness is far from easy. Still, if companies succeed in designing truly circular products, it becomes a strong component in their value proposition, and may be just the tweak in their business model that aids  successful recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Suggestion: Use circularity as an indicator for your innovativeness and communicate it to your stakeholders.

Questions: How do you measure innovation in your organisation? Can you identify product and service innovation that led to both an increase in customer value and reduction of resource consumption and pollution? Can you already identify where the weakest elements in your supply chains are?

Closing remarks

It is by no means the intention to ‘freeride’ on others suffering during this crisis by making a case for increasing circularity, nevertheless, it is hard to deny that many of the financial and societal consequences that we are currently and will be facing are caused by a vast dominance of linear global supply chains. I dare to argue that manufacturers and the global economy would have suffered less from the financial damage and restrictions on personal liberty if we already lived in a more circular economy. The benefits of more circular business models and operations are idiosyncratic to each company and navigating through the different principles and strategies is a challenge to managers in engineering, research, development, and marketing. Please leave a comment if you have examples of how circularity could or already does help your business, or if you want to learn more about a specific suggestion made.

Tobias Widmer

References:

Tukker, A., 2004. Eight Types of Product Service Systems: Eight Ways To Sustainability? Bus. Strateg. Environ. 260, 246–260.

Widmer, T., Tjahjono, B., Bourlakis, M., 2018. Defining value creation in the context of circular PSS. In: 10th CIRP Conference on Industrial Product-Service Systems, IPS2 2018, 29-31 May 2018, Linköping, Sweden. Elsevier, pp. 142–147.
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Marketing in this Covid-19 driven recession  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Mar 2020, 09:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Marketing in this Covid-19 driven recession
Professor
Malcolm McDonald offers these thoughts during these difficult times in
order to encourage all those of us who are intensely worried by the
effects of the COVID-19 driven recession.


It is pure fiction to imagine that the impending recession is going to disappear soon.

The typical reaction to such misfortune is what Andrew Lorenz in the
Financial Times describes as “anorexia industrialosa”, an excessive
desire to be leaner and fitter, leading to emaciation and eventually
death. Yes, of course there is a necessity for cost cutting, but it has
to be done sensibly, as I shall spell out later.

But if this is the only response to recession, it is doomed to failure, largely because it results in even worse service to customers and customers just will not stand for this anymore.

Why is this?

Perhaps
we need reminding briefly that the rules of competition have changed.
The “make and sell” model has been killed off by a new wave of
entrepreneurial technology-enabled competitors unfettered by the baggage
of legacy bureaucracy, assets, cultures and behaviours. The processing
of information about products has been separated from the products
themselves and customers can now search for and evaluate them
independently of those who have a vested interest in selling them.
Customers now have as much information about suppliers as suppliers have
traditionally accumulated about their customers. This new state has
created a new dimension of competition based on who most effectively
acts in the customers’ interests. So, this is the backcloth against
which we face this new challenge in the early part of 2020.

I have 120 pieces of scholarly research to prove that long term
successful companies take the trouble to segment their markets. Segments
are groups of customers with the same or similar needs, not sectors.
They work hard at understanding these needs and their behaviour
patterns. They prioritise these segments according to their likelihood
of enabling the company to achieve its profit objectives and they then
develop appropriate product/services packages for each. They are
ruthless in times of recession at focusing their attention on the
segments they intend to keep in the long term, and they prune out those
which are a drag on their resources. Only then is cost cutting and
downsizing justified.

I am, of course, referring to Pareto’s Law (the 80/20 “rule”) About
20% of your customers will deliver about 80% of your revenue and
profits, so trying to delight everyone with all of your offers
guarantees average service that will delight no-one. By identifying your
core market of primary customers and delighting them with selected
differential offers, you will successfully preserve a resilient customer
base.

Although this will not apply to all organisations, here are some guidelines for managing in this COVID-19-driven recession based on what I have said above.

Image

The problem, of course, for certain types of businesses with massive fixed costs such as airlines, is on an entirely different scale and whilst the principles are the same, this short article is not intended for them.
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Our trip to London at the beginning of the year…  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Mar 2020, 04:01
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Our trip to London at the beginning of the year…
What an amazing week! I don’t know how to start this blog, so many things to explain!

Many of them were former students
of Agrifood courses, and it was really interesting listening to their
experiences and journeys after their studies. I realised that there are many
possible paths to follow after this current year.

So many feelings and emotions throughout the classes of the last module have arisen such as happiness, sadness, confusion about the future, satisfaction, and nostalgia.

This last module was different from the others. Instead of doing classes at the University we went to London, earlier in the year, for the first three days of the week, to the McDonald’s Headquarters’. During this time, we received classes from different companies, not only McDonald’s professionals.

During the week plenty of doubts and questions came up to my mind. We are almost halfway through the course and we should start thinking about… “What is next?”  To be honest, this scares me a little bit, but through the speeches of the different lecturers during this week I discovered new options that before I had not thought about before, and this gives me hope.

In addition, the talks from Dr.
Bizhan Pourkomailian, who is the Global Restaurant and Distribution Food Safety
Director at McDonald’s, were super and provided plenty of motivation and really
encouraged us. I really appreciate his words and his personality, he is extremely
friendly.

One of the afternoons in London, after ‘classes’, we visited Square Mile Farms, a rooftop farm and from my point of view, it was really impressive since it was the first time that I have seen a vertical farm! Apart from the futuristic facilities, the technology related to urban farming and how agriculture could change in this area, is another world that I would like to know better and explore. This makes me think about how we are going to face climate change, which techniques or which solution will give to this problem.

Image

Students and professors after the visit to Square Mile Farms with bags full of vegetables as a gift

So you see, in just one week, a lot of questions emerged. Either to do with our personal lives or to do with the general world.

I would also like to mention how we all spent time together as classmates and professors. We definitely used staying in London to our advantage. We had a really great time together, having a drink, going shopping or having dinner all together in an Italian restaurant. This trip was a real opportunity to got to know each other better, outside the environment of classes. However, we were a little bit sad because we already knew that those days would be the last days that we were seeing each other day after another. 

Image
Students and professors having fun!

So that was the end of our trip to London, as I said before, many different feelings, new things learned, new wonderful people met and awesome days spent with classmates and professors. I have only good things to say about our trip!

Now that we are back Cranfield another
phase of the course will start, the Group Project, let’s see go it goes! I feel
fully motivated to set out on this journey for the next two and a half months.

Image
At McDonald’s after a presentation from former student Ana Moya
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5 tips to help you study or work from home with young children  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Mar 2020, 04:01
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: 5 tips to help you study or work from home with young children

In these uncertain times, we are all finding ourselves facing new challenges and living within new confines. The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled the rug from beneath all our feet – but, while life has changed dramatically for the foreseeable future, it goes on.

Here in the Cranfield community, we are all trying our
best to study and work from home. Face-to-face lectures have been replaced with
online ones; staff are working remotely wherever possible; and we are all
familiarising ourselves with new tools and innovative ways of communicating
with our fellow students and colleagues.

It’s a test for us all – but what happens when you
throw young children into the mix too? We all know that looking after little
ones is a full-time job in itself – it’s why we rely on nurseries,
childminders, grandparents and friends! As the parent of an 18-month-old little
boy, I know how all-consuming looking after a small person is – it’s certainly
interesting trying to fit in a day’s work as well!

So, while we remain on lockdown, how can you successfully balance these conflicting priorities?

1 – Reset your expectations

This applies to all areas of life in the current
climate. Life is not normal right now, so don’t expect it to be. Once you
accept that some things will have to give, you afford yourself the freedom to
do the best that you can.

Perhaps you usually get your best work done early in
the morning but now you are navigating the busyness of breakfast time and
setting up your kids with an activity or some toys to keep them entertained and
occupied, before you can even start thinking about your to-do list. Or maybe
your children have limited screen time but now you have to concede an extra
half hour or two to enable you to finish a task.

Whatever approach helps you is the right one during these unprecedented times.

2 – Talk to your boss or supervisor

Now is the time for openness and transparency, so
speak to your boss or supervisor and tell them honestly about the current
obstacles you are facing to get work done. By opening up the lines of
communication, you can ensure that there are no misunderstandings. And don’t be
afraid to speak up – if you’ll struggle to reliably make a conference call at
the same time every day, then say – but suggest an alternative, like a
one-to-one catch-up at a more convenient time.

Keep in touch as much as you can throughout the day – within our marketing team we are successfully using Microsoft Teams for group video calls, as well as for sending instant messages to one another. We also have a group on https://gmatclub.com/chat, which doubles up nicely as a forum for sharing the many coronavirus-related gifs and memes, in a bid to lighten the mood!

3 – Create a (flexible) schedule

Having the semblance of a routine can help you to make the best use of your time. If your child still naps, then that’s the obvious place to start – you could utilise that time to do any work that requires maximum concentration. If you have a partner who is also working at home, then why not take it in turns to work and parent in designated blocks of time. For older children, you can communicate with them about what different parts of the day will consist of – whether that’s educational activities, crafts, going for a walk or “quiet time”.

But don’t put yourself under pressure if your schedule doesn’t quite go to plan. Take each day as it comes and reassess if you need to. And make sure you factor in some down time too – you’ll be far more productive and energised if you take time to relax.

Image
Getting in our daily exercise (accompanied by our cat!).

4 – Eat the frog

Mark
Twain famously said: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first
thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat
the biggest one first.” In essence, the concept of eating the frog is avoiding
procrastination and just getting on with that tricky task on your to-do list.

Now, you might not be able to eat the frog first thing in the morning when you’re looking after children too, but the point is: when you do get time to focus, use that time to tackle the most urgent priorities (however complex and difficult they may be). That way, you have a sense of achievement and concrete successes that you can feed back to your boss or supervisor. Then you can address the less intensive priorities as and when throughout the day.

5 – Be kind to yourself

Most
importantly, cut yourself some slack. It can easily feel like you’re trying to
do everything and succeeding at nothing in this kind of a situation; that
neither your work nor your children are getting the best of you. As many people
are saying (on Twitter, in forums, in late-night phone calls), now is the time
to survive, not to thrive.

So
stop the negative self-talk and focus on what you are achieving:
you’re spinning multiple plates and doing your best to keep them all in the
air! It’s a difficult and unnerving time for all of us, so we can only do what
we can in such exceptional circumstances.

And remember: this too
shall pass.   
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Five tips to help you study or work from home with young children  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Mar 2020, 05:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Five tips to help you study or work from home with young children

In these uncertain times, we are all finding ourselves facing new challenges and living within new confines. The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled the rug from beneath all our feet – but, while life has changed dramatically for the foreseeable future, it goes on.

Here in the Cranfield community, we are all trying our
best to study and work from home. Face-to-face lectures have been replaced with
online ones; staff are working remotely wherever possible; and we are all
familiarising ourselves with new tools and innovative ways of communicating
with our fellow students and colleagues.

It’s a test for us all – but what happens when you
throw young children into the mix too? We all know that looking after little
ones is a full-time job in itself – it’s why we rely on nurseries,
childminders, grandparents and friends! As the parent of an 18-month-old little
boy, I know how all-consuming looking after a small person is – it’s certainly
interesting trying to fit in a day’s work as well!

So, while we remain on lockdown, how can you successfully balance these conflicting priorities?

1 – Reset your expectations

This applies to all areas of life in the current
climate. Life is not normal right now, so don’t expect it to be. Once you
accept that some things will have to give, you afford yourself the freedom to
do the best that you can.

Perhaps you usually get your best work done early in
the morning but now you are navigating the busyness of breakfast time and
setting up your kids with an activity or some toys to keep them entertained and
occupied, before you can even start thinking about your to-do list. Or maybe
your children have limited screen time but now you have to concede an extra
half hour or two to enable you to finish a task.

Whatever approach helps you is the right one during these unprecedented times.

2 – Talk to your boss or supervisor

Now is the time for openness and transparency, so
speak to your boss or supervisor and tell them honestly about the current
obstacles you are facing to get work done. By opening up the lines of
communication, you can ensure that there are no misunderstandings. And don’t be
afraid to speak up – if you’ll struggle to reliably make a conference call at
the same time every day, then say – but suggest an alternative, like a
one-to-one catch-up at a more convenient time.

Keep in touch as much as you can throughout the day – within our marketing team we are successfully using Microsoft Teams for group video calls, as well as for sending instant messages to one another. We also have a group on https://gmatclub.com/chat, which doubles up nicely as a forum for sharing the many coronavirus-related gifs and memes, in a bid to lighten the mood!

3 – Create a (flexible) schedule

Having the semblance of a routine can help you to make the best use of your time. If your child still naps, then that’s the obvious place to start – you could utilise that time to do any work that requires maximum concentration. If you have a partner who is also working at home, then why not take it in turns to work and parent in designated blocks of time. For older children, you can communicate with them about what different parts of the day will consist of – whether that’s educational activities, crafts, going for a walk or “quiet time”.

But don’t put yourself under pressure if your schedule doesn’t quite go to plan. Take each day as it comes and reassess if you need to. And make sure you factor in some down time too – you’ll be far more productive and energised if you take time to relax.

Image
Getting in our daily exercise (accompanied by our cat!).

4 – Eat the frog

Mark
Twain famously said: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first
thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat
the biggest one first.” In essence, the concept of eating the frog is avoiding
procrastination and just getting on with that tricky task on your to-do list.

Now, you might not be able to eat the frog first thing in the morning when you’re looking after children too, but the point is: when you do get time to focus, use that time to tackle the most urgent priorities (however complex and difficult they may be). That way, you have a sense of achievement and concrete successes that you can feed back to your boss or supervisor. Then you can address the less intensive priorities as and when throughout the day.

5 – Be kind to yourself

Most
importantly, cut yourself some slack. It can easily feel like you’re trying to
do everything and succeeding at nothing in this kind of a situation; that
neither your work nor your children are getting the best of you. As many people
are saying (on Twitter, in forums, in late-night phone calls), now is the time
to survive, not to thrive.

So
stop the negative self-talk and focus on what you are achieving:
you’re spinning multiple plates and doing your best to keep them all in the
air! It’s a difficult and unnerving time for all of us, so we can only do what
we can in such exceptional circumstances.

And remember: this too
shall pass.   
ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors
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A sit down with Dr Edwina Mercer  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Mar 2020, 07:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: A sit down with Dr Edwina Mercer
Can you tell me about your
background and how you came to Cranfield?


I studied
a Geography degree at the University of Hull because I’m interested in
different cultures and the natural environment. What I discovered during that
time was that there is a huge problem with water resources, so I focused my
dissertation on that.

My
dissertation assessed the impact that the increasing number of oil palm
plantations have on water quality. There was a huge loss in endemic biodiversity
and that made me realise that I want to find the solutions for water related problems
and that’s when I started to research Water Engineering at a post grad level.

I did my MSc in Water and Wastewater Engineering here at Cranfield in 2012-13. Then that led onto my thesis project which was phase 1 of the Nano Membrane Toilet.  I then took a year to experience the industry job sector at Suez Environment and then I returned to do my PhD which was phase 2 of the Nano Membrane Toilet.

I came at
just the right time when everything was just starting up with the Nano Membrane
Toilet so it’s been an exciting journey from its start to where it has
progressed.

Did you know much about Cranfield
before you came here?


I hadn’t
heard of Cranfield before I started looking into the MScs but I found it really
stuck out because of its industrial links what it has done globally.

As I have
gone to water science related conferences around the world and talked to people
at other institutions, I have found it is well known for its management,
aerospace and water science. At the International Water Association conferences,
everybody knows about Cranfield.

So now you are a Post Doc at
Cranfield, can you tell me about your research now?


A new water
science research area in non-sewered sanitation has been introduced since ‘Reinvent
the Toilet Challenge’ which funded the Nano Membrane Toilet and that has led to
my post doc in Sanitation Science.

The
project I am working on now is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
through Duke University and  in collaboration with Melbourne University. It
has allowed me to interact and learn from international experts from a truly
multidisciplinary team. We are investigating the characteristics and behaviour
of fresh faeces in order to provide a strong scientific understanding to enable
the design and engineering of de-watering technologies for non-sewered sanitation
systems. Moisture content is one of the key inhibitors for energy recovery and
therefore, if minimise moisture content, we can make these systems off-grid and
sustainable.  Understanding the science
behind faecal dewatering will provide an effective dewatering solution which
requires minimal cost and energy requirements allowing such systems to become
commercially available.

Do you have a typical day?

On a
typical day, I collect ‘donations’, which consist of fresh urine and faeces, which
are later used for various experiments in the lab.

The
donations come from anonymous volunteers in the office. These donations are
extremely valuable to move this research forward. Other  scientists can order all their chemicals from Fisher Scientific or Sigma Aldrich but we specifically need
this material so  it’s very
important for people to donate.

What are the biggest challenges
in role or area of research?


The research that we are carrying out is quite novel in the fact that it’s a waste matrix that’s never been really trialed before so has been like venturing into the unknown. In my PhD, a lot of it was applying advanced technologies to this waste matrix which is more concentrated and behaves completely differently. New methods had to be developed and many of the results unexpected when compared to conventional wastewater. It has been like really learning from scratch but has also been exciting to become a pioneer.

Have you had any unique
experiences at Cranfield?


Image
Edwina chatting to HRH the Duchess of Cornwall at Buckingham Palace

I was
very lucky to go with the University to Buckingham Palace when we won the Queen’s
Anniversary Prize in 2015 for Water and Sanitation. Also, the Nano Membrane
Toilet won the Grand Innovation Prize from the International Water Association
so we got the opportunity to go to Tokyo. So usually, my day-to-day life is in
the lab and is about getting your hands dirty and then suddenly you can go from
that to complete luxury at Buckingham Palace and to these incredible high
profile award ceremonies where you realise what all your hard work has contributed
to.

Image

Image

What do you like most about
working at Cranfield?


I like
how international and intimate Cranfield University is. When I was a student,
one of my best experiences was being part of the football and badminton teams
and you get to know people closely. You end up getting to know everybody on
campus and it’s a really friendly bunch of people. You also get to work with a
lot of international contacts in the projects and it’s very inspiring to bounce
ideas off such a diverse array of people.

What are you most proud of?

I think
probably coming from a geography background and then completely changing my
expertise. When I first arrived, my MSc course had a lot of students with
engineering backgrounds so I had to really come up to scratch with them. But the
Cranfield MSc provided really good introductory courses and provide great
support along the way from staff members. The staff to student ratio is 1:7,
which is a lot more than other universities and there’s always opportunities to
get involved in.

The other
thing I’m really proud of is how much I have contributed to the Nano Membrane
Toilet project and I am grateful to be part of such an inspiring team.

Image

Image

Image

Image
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Maintaining productivity when your team are forced to work at home  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Mar 2020, 09:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Maintaining productivity when your team are forced to work at home
I recently read that over a quarter of the world’s population is now on lockdown because of the impact of COVID 19. This means that many of us are adjusting to the prospect of working at home for the foreseeable future – probably for several weeks or months. This is a challenge for both individuals and leaders and has led to questions about how we might maintain workers’ productivity – and their wellbeing – when they are working away from the office for a sustained period of time.

Much of the research on working at home and productivity suggests that workers are more productive when they are allowed to work at home. These studies however were based on individuals that chose to work at home because this was preferable to them and had time to consider the adjustments that might be needed. Here are four areas that might be considered in order to maintain productivity (and wellbeing) during this long period of enforced home working.

1.Working environment

One thing that I have learned in the past week is that I can’t work at home for a long period in the same way that I would if I was just working here for a few hours – on the sofa with everything piled on the floor in front of me.  In order to make this sustainable, and to allow workers to be productive, it is essential to carve out some space in the house for work. Some employees might be lucky enough to have an office, while others will need to commandeer a table to turn into their working area. Having a dedicated space in the home allows people to create the mindset that they are “at work”, signalling to themselves and to others in the home that they are working. Comfort and equipment are also important: employees might need certain technology in order to be productive –for instance, a laptop, an internet connection and the required software – as well as a sufficient light, air and a suitable chair. Generally it is more difficult to consider these aspects when employees are working at home but they should not be forgotten.

2. Structure

Space to work is not only about physical space but also about creating the time and mental space to be productive. I have observed with interest the ongoing debate in the past week between those who are able to work at home in peace and quiet (and thus are potentially more productive) and those who are forced to balance work with childcare and other caring responsibilities on an ongoing basis. There is no best answer to how workers can manage these situations – some can close the door of their workspace and encourage other family members to stay away. Others have taken to working at different hours to usual to maintain this. Whatever the method this undoubtedly takes some negotiation with others in the household and a certain degree of trail and error. For managers, it is important to understand and make allowances for the difficulties that are bound to be experienced by employees. It is also vital to encourage them to structure their day and allow for separation between work and home life (whatever that is). For some, the temptation when working at home with no interruptions is to carry on working into the evening. Downtime is as important now as ever, in order to maintain both wellbeing and productivity.  It is therefore important that managers give clear messages to their team members in this regard.

3. Communication and Collaboration

It is well known that home workers can feel isolated and lonely, therefore it is absolutely essential to create a means by which the team can communicate and collaborate in real time. This is important to allow work tasks to be undertaken but also to maintain relationships within a team and to maintain employee engagement and wellbeing. It’s important for managers to facilitate both formal and informal interaction, as well as to maintain individual contact with employees in a way that ensures everybody can access the technology provided and join in conversations so that nobody is disadvantaged. It’s easy to forget issues around employee experience and engagement in these times, but evidence suggests that never is it more important than in a time of crisis in order to maintain a sense of belonging and purpose within a team.

4. Outcomes based performance management

Finally, evidence suggests that many managers find it difficult to manage the performance, and indeed the career progression, of individuals who work remotely.  Managers are sometimes reliant on the visibility of employees and whether they can see them “working hard” and “doing the right things”. When only some of our workforce are working at home, this often leads to them being overlooked in relation to career progression opportunities. The fact that everyone is working at home means that managers need to move to an outcome-focused way of managing performance. It is more important than ever to set clear and unambiguous objectives in relation to what we are expecting from each employee and then evaluate these based on outcomes rather than by observing the work itself. This is a difficult (if subtle) transition for many but is essential if managers are going to continue to monitor their employees’ productivity during this challenging time.

In sum, it is not only as
individuals that people need to adapt to working at home but also as managers.
Managing a remote team requires increased attention to communication and
support, and a different approach to managing performance as well as a
willingness to provide advice to employees on how to manage their space and
time. Attending to these issues will not only get organisations through this
crisis but will also develop managers to be better leaders in the future.
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A Cranfield Christmas holiday diary  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Mar 2020, 04:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: A Cranfield Christmas holiday diary
And here we are, it’s January, Christmas is over, the end of modules is approaching but every single day is completely different and with new anecdotes to be explained.

I love Christmas and this year has been even more special since I really wanted to see my family and friends after the start of MSc. I went to Spain to stay with them. And to be honest, I really enjoy these days with relatives, but the good things are the meals that they prepare, we are always eating and eating. Moreover, these holidays had been more relaxing than the other academic years since all the deadlines of assignments were just before Christmas. It was cool!

However, I left Cranfield with a good taste in my mouth… literally! Most of us were leaving to have almost one month, with our respective families in our home country. Taking advantage of this excuse, we organised some international dinners in the lasts days before Christmas break. In the photo below is one of the dinners, it was amazing to discover new tastes and food.

Image
International dinner

I have to say that this year I was happy that the holidays had finished. This was because I wanted to come back to Cranfield to meet housemates and classmates again. Besides, the weather in my home town is not amazing, so for me coming back when it comes to the weather, was fine.

Our first module back in January after Christmas was the module about Food Safety, Quality Management and Certification took place. Yes, to be honest, the name of the module seems to be super dense, and it is. But…wow, we learn a lot of things that are relevant and useful if you want to work in the food industry. The modules were accompanied by lab sessions and different workshops.

It was two weeks non-stop, but this module has helped me to broaden my vision of the food industry, in a realistic view. I realised that this world is so complex. Certifications, laws, regulations, etc. everything has to be in order and reported. Food safety is crucially important and I think that ensuring the safety of the food chain of one product requires a lot of work, training, and dedication. At the end of the day, you are working for the consumers, they have to be satisfied with the quality and, for sure, the product has to keep the consumer safe. I like the fact that here at Cranfield you learn that there is not only one solution to a problem. You learn how to discuss and think about the different options there are, and justifying every single decision. This is the exciting part of the module and makes the class super interactive.

Image
Lab session and round table discussion on lab results

To sum up, I am
very glad to have done this module, it seems serious, and it is, but we are
always having fun and learning in a good environment and I really appreciate
that.
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A day in London with Cranfield Marketers  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Mar 2020, 05:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: A day in London with Cranfield Marketers


A reminder of happier and freer times, which we will get back to soon :)

I want to introduce today’s blog post by mentioning two words… fashion and branding, and continue with the question; which is the best location for capturing those two words? LONDON!

London has been the capital of fashion and branding for many decades by hosting a large percentage of the worlds most popular brands not only in fashion but in a wide variety of sectors too.

Visiting the Museum of Brands

Our excursion to London included both educational and entertaining
elements for all MScStrategic Marketing students. We started the day off by visiting the Museum of Brands, which hosts over
150 years of heritage in branding, packing and advertising. All marketers had
the chance to observe the permanent exhibition called “Time Tunnel” which was
created by consumer historian Robert Opie and captures the evolution of
branding throughout the years. Based on my experience the most fascinating fact
by this exhibition was the ability to understand the importance of keeping your
brand identity constant throughout the years, but adjusting to technological
advances at the same time, as well as keeping up with the trends of the
generation.

One good example of this is the packing and promotion of different
products during the period of the Olympic Games in the UK where most of the
brands added a sports element to their campaigns and changed the colours of the
campaigns to Yellow, Green, Red, Black and Blue, as well as the change in
meanings.

I personally believe that every marketer should have the chance to
visit this particular exhibition, since brand heritage is a fundamental factor
to success and progression, as well as diversification into new categories and
sectors.

After finishing the first part of our tour at the Museum of Brands, we had the chance to have a talk from the members of the museum where all future marketers had the chance to create conversation, ideas, understand and examine the role of branding in both history and modern world.

Image

Shopping in Harrods

One could say Harrods is a must visit place when travelling to London, since it is considered to be the largest department store in Europe. Well, we all had the chance to take a tour on this spectacular 1.1 million sq feet retail space that has 330 departments all displayed in a meticulous way in Knightsbridge, London. It was really interesting to see how 330 brands can be differentiated, displayed, stand out in a particular way that express the culture and heritage of each one, under one roof.

Undoubtedly, the overall experience that you capture from
the moment you enter the building is mind-blowing, starting from the aesthetics
and architecture of the building to restaurants, bars and patisseries, to the
employees’ attitude and behaviour towards both customers and the products.

Lastly, I cannot end this blog by not mentioning the effort our professors and SAS lead put in making this tour so special and help us to capture all those details I mentioned above. Not only through photos but by creating  a handbook and a questionnaire for us to use whilst on the tour: Thank you,Dr Tamira King, Dr Ahmed Shaalan and Mrs Vanicha Sroay.

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Live chat with your Information Specialist  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Mar 2020, 05:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Live chat with your Information Specialist
We are
delighted to announce that, from Monday 30 March, you will be able to live chat
with an Information Specialist on your library website.

We are working
hard to develop additional online services and content to ensure we can
continue to provide all the support you need, even though our library buildings
are closed.

When will it
be available?


Initially we
will run the chat facility between 11 am and 1 pm on weekdays. We are
implementing it at short notice, so we will be learning as we go and treating
it as a trial until we work out any unexpected technical issues. We are hoping
to extend those hours as soon as we are more confident in using the service, and
we feel that it is working for you.

Where will I
find it?


You will see
this “Chat to us” button on the right-hand side of your library’s homepage.
Simply click on it and it will slide out. When an Information Specialist has
signed in and is online, just fill in the short form to get your enquiry
started.

Image

How will it
work?


As well as talking to us in real-time, it will also be possible for both you and us to share our screens (using Zoom) and upload files to each other. We may not be able to deliver all these facilities immediately, so please be patient with us in the first few weeks as we get used to it! We can transfer you to a Skype or Microsoft Teams call instead, if you need more in depth help.

What if I need
help outside that time slot?


We will be here
to help you from 9am-5pm every weekday. You can contact us by email in the
first instance, and please be assured that we are constantly monitoring our
inbox during these hours so you won’t have to wait very long for a reply! We
will refer your email on to the relevant specialist if we need to, and we are
happy to arrange calls through Skype or Microsoft Teams if you need more in-depth
advice or a one-to-one with your Information Specialist.

Email us:


Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels
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A sit down with Professor Philip Longhurst  [#permalink]

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New post 31 Mar 2020, 07:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: A sit down with Professor Philip Longhurst
Tell us a bit about your role at Cranfield and what a typical day might look like.

My job spans between four main areas. One is working with research students and researchers on projects, either the students’ own project or a project they are working on with me. There’s a bit of my job that involves business development, which is looking at future calls for work, and helping build consortia, develop ideas, going to meetings about new initiatives and sharing all of these with the Energy and Power team. There’s also a bit of my job that involves delivering projects. I’m working on one with a number of large organisations in partnership with a city council, taking heat from waste plant, distributing that heat as party of a city network to businesses and residences, generating electricity for commercial and public service vehicles, and designing the whole system or business model so that it can be adopted by any city. Finally my job also entails working with the rest of the centre staff in a mixture of admin and managerial roles throughout the variety of projects, MSc courses and business opportunities we work on collaboratively with other areas of the University. So in terms of a typical day, there really isn’t one.

Do you often work collaboratively with other areas of the University?

We do, in fact being located close to Milton Keynes gives us an ideal opportunity to work on a number of innovative projects incorporating several specialist areas of the University. Working with Milton Keynes City Council and Connected Places Catapult, myself along with a number of colleagues from Cranfield including Helen Atkinson, Graham Braithwaite, Simon Jude, James Brighton are looking at energy futures and transport, so we are bringing together our expertise in the themes of Energy and Power, Environment and Transport Systems to work collaboratively on a pan-University basis. Milton Keynes is seen as a really good testing ground for new ideas because it has both independence and isolation, and doesn’t have the layers of archaeological interference, or old infrastructure that older cities have, making it easier to test and implement new ideas.

What excites you most about what you are currently doing?

Projects aside, I think it’s the extreme diversity both in my role and in the areas I find myself. For example, talking about landfill and landfill mining, I have been to places where abject poverty lives side by side with extreme wealth, and I feel privileged as an academic to be involved in projects and research designed to narrow that gap. At other times, I have been to meetings with BT for example to talk about the extraction of the copper that formed the telephone exchange in the UK, as the transition to fibre continues. So I get an insight into the changes that are taking place in our own economy and economies ahead of ours, along with seeing developing economies taking shape, it’s all very exciting. I get to see some sights! More recently I was invited to speak at an event which involved around 30-40 politicians from around the world with a view to educate them about the impacts, implications and timescales of climate change. I was asked to give the talk for Chevening Scholars on Energy alongside Nick Dunlop, Secretary General at Climate Parliament.

Image

On the subject of climate change and the shift we are seeing around the world, is there an opportunity for students to be involved in steering that change?

When you consider every business is exposed to decisions around climate change – the publicity of their operations, and the validity of their claims around sustainability are increasingly under scrutiny, the opportunity is vast. Within the Centre for Climate and

Environmental Protection at Cranfield we look at the enabling technologies and infrastructure required to help the transition from traditional carbon-reliant energy production to cleaner and more sustainable methods and processes. We work closely with our colleagues in the other centres within the University and look at how industry can produce and store energy in a more climate friendly way. We are at a real turning point, and the opportunities in this area are immeasurable, both in terms of employment and research.

What do you see students doing after their studies at Cranfield?

We see an increasing amount of companies asking us greenhouse gas emissions related questions, so the industry is hungry for professionals with background knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge in an industrial context, which is something we specialise in at Cranfield.

One of the unique aspects of Cranfield is our breadth of expertise across sectors and specialisms, working with colleagues from a number of different parts of the University is commonplace, so students are exposed to both the knowledge through academic collaborations and industrial connections, giving them the opportunity to explore a multitude of options, across sectors and specialisms.
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Understanding Group Project TIPs (Theory into Practice)  [#permalink]

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New post 31 Mar 2020, 07:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Understanding Group Project TIPs (Theory into Practice)
The time for modules and contact lessons has come to an end and now it’s time to work on group projects. As part of the MSc course, we are not only exposed to post-graduate modules but a group project and finally an individual module. 

 A survey has been conducted by the Confederation of British Industry and the UK government which stated the challenges faces by employers when they hire graduates. It was found that 80% of employers have had displeasing experience in how they apply theoretical knowledge. This is in the areas of problem solving, teamwork and time-management. It was also found that 50% of graduates lacked business acumen and consumer awareness. Which defeats the purpose of decision making especially since there is a global risk of the depletion of resources and knowing science with the lack of corporate management can negatively impact firms and consultancy agencies. 

The first weeks of the group projects in February have been tentative but the university has prepared support material in project management and organizational behaviour. I already have been involved in group projects in my Food Technology but I still had a lot more to learn and every project brings on challenges and opportunities. This degree has a more defined approach in ensuring we as students have individual self-assessed or self-reflected before the project or further employment. We were tasked to have Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) goals. My focus is on Teamwork, Project Management, and Time Management.

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I already have seen how I made progress in understanding how to make use of emerging technology and software in assigning tasks amongst teammates and setting deadlines. I got to understand the importance of data protection and the value of the intellectual property from both parties such as clients and the people involved. I had taken a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) training which is a crucial part of harnessing European Union data privacy laws. I share the group project responsibility with a diverse team from different ethnic and cultural groups and most importantly professional disciplines. This is exciting because it reflects the real-world workplace, which is important to make sure I am a pleasure to work with I took up training in Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion to ease work and this experience. This sharpened my knowledge in knowing “knowing how to treat people differently” to accommodate them but yet treating them fairly with how much each background demanded. Emotional intelligence should not be taken for granted and it is not something that is commonly taught and real-life experiences are unique to the nature of business and location.

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The overall field in Food Systems gives an overview of the food network. Food process engineering, however, is only limited to a certain part of the supply chain. This means that I get a thrilling experience to fill the gap in practical knowledge from the initial part of the food supply chain which is Agriculture as well as the medium, the Environment. 

The project at hand is in ‘The Future Innovations in Agricultural and Environmental Engineering’. This is in collaboration with the Douglas Bomford Trust (DBT), a UK based charity that has been registered and operating since 1972. DBT was founded in commemoration of an Agricultural Engineer Douglas Bomford who was once the President of the Institute of Agricultural Engineers. The mission of DBT is to invest and create opportunities in research, training, and education in topics related to agricultural engineering and mechanisation.

Cranfield University has already worked on futuristic projects such as drone technology but since science and research are not just. Innovation will be sought for taking into account the ever-changing system in terms of Political, Environmental, Social, Technological, Legal and Economical (PESTLE) concerns. Hence, I hope to apply more of my theoretical knowledge and discover possible talent(s). The journey in food solutions continues…
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Library resource trial: Royal Society online journals  [#permalink]

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New post 01 Apr 2020, 05:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: Library resource trial: Royal Society online journals
We have organised trial access to The Royal Society online journals until 31 August.

The collection has a broad scientific coverage, particularly interdisciplinary research and the proceedings of scientific meetings. It includes: 

  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society series A 
  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society series B 
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society series B 
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society series A 
  • Biology Letters  
  • Journal of the Royal Society Interface 
  • Interface Focus 
  • Notes & Records  
  • Open Biology 
  • Royal Society Open Science 

Access Royal Society journals now

Tell us what you think! 

It’s important that you let us know what you think of the trial when you have used it. Your feedback will help inform our decisions about whether to subscribe to the resource. Please email us with your opinions or questions: libraryresources@cranfield.ac.uk 
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More Resources Must Mean Better Outcomes – Right? Or How Variation Can  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Apr 2020, 02:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: More Resources Must Mean Better Outcomes – Right? Or How Variation Can Catch You Out! Part II
Introduction 

This is the second part of a two-part blog around Variation and the way it can catch people out when attempting cost-cutting exercises or providing additional resources and looking for evidence of benefit. 

In Part I, we looked at cost-cutting, e.g. ”Reduce your budget by 15%, and keep the same level of service”. In Part II we’ll be looking at providing additional resources and looking for hard evidence of an increase in service levels. This second approach poses additional problems over and above those outlined in Part I, and makes Priti Patel’s job rather difficult as she tries to seek to show benefit from adding 20,000 officers to a force of around 123,000 (an approx. 16% increase). 

Let me explain. In the cost-cutting scenario, the “simple” requirement is to reduce costs and to keep service levels across the board at their current level. When supplying additional resources, a number of complexities can arise: 

  • Additional resource such as money means nothing to a business unless it is converted into one or more of (all of which take time to come on stream): 
  • Additional qualified personnel (e.g. fully trained and productive staff who can perform the necessary value-add operations in the Business System /Process) 
  • Additional assets (e.g. innovative or proven and usable technology, innovative or proven and usable methods, etc.) 

  • Both of which take time to deploy 
  • External environment – sustained events outside an organisation’s control can positively (and negatively) influence outcomes (e.g. reducing crime could be simply a regular seasonal event, long-term cyclic reductions / increases in energy costs, changes in the political landscape, health pandemics, and so on) 
  • Regulatory Changes – in many cases regulators can have a significant long-term impact on organisations (e.g. HMICFRS changes in crime recording, OFCOM forcing the split between openreach from BT, etc.) 
  • Prioritisation – where to look for improvement – with additional resources, how should they be prioritised? For example, in the Police Service, where should the additional officers be applied – suggesting that nationally, a reduction in homicides should be seen, is meaningless where homicides are a rarity; reductions in knife crime in rural Buckinghamshire would be meaningless, but perhaps not so in South London. 

The above complexities are reasonably obvious to the layman, but lurking behind all this is Variation, which we noted in the previous blog is nearly always not made visible with most BI tools. In addition, though secondary in this blog, is Rework – also almost always not made visible with most BI tools. 

In Part I, we introduced and described a Simulator used for educational purposes, so we’ll not repeat those details here. We’ll use this Simulator to illustrate what can happen to Outcomes when Resources are increased. 

To keep this as simple as possible, we’re going to look at the Overall Completion Rate and the Overall Success Rate for 4 simulation runs, with a small amount of Variation in Stage Job Completion Time, with 5, then 6, then 7 and finally with 8 people at each Stage. 

Along-side, we’ll also note Overall Utilisation Rates (multiplying Stage 1 through Stage 4 Utilisation Rates) and Work In Progress (WIP), or Jobs / Customers / Patients stuck in the System / Process to show how just this one Variation factor can influence performance: 

Let’s see what Outcomes we get!Page Break 

Simulation Run 1Small Variation in Stage Job Completion Time: 5 Resources at each Stage 

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An Overall Success Rate of 5.1% was achieved in this case, with an Overall Completion Rate of 56.9%. Thinking “linearly”, one might therefore think if we increase the Resources by approx. 20% to 6 people at each Stage, then we might see a proportional increase in Overall Success Rate. The results are shown below. 

Note: Overall Utilisation Rate is 50.1%, and WIP is 90 Jobs / Customers / Patients. 

Simulation Run 2: Small Variation in Stage Job Completion Time: 6 Resources at each Stage 

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So, with a 20% uplift in Resources from 5 to 6 Servers at each Stage, we’ve almost doubled Overall Success Rate to 9.8%. 

So if we add one more Server to each Stage, perhaps we can double Overall Success Rate again? The results are shown below. 

Note: Overall Utilisation Rate is 46.2%, and WIP is 65 Jobs / Customers / Patients.Page Break 

Simulation Run 3: Small Variation in Stage Job Completion Time: 7 Resources at each Stage 

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So Overall Success Rate has just over doubled again to 19.3%, with a 16% uplift from 6 to 7 Servers at each Stage. So, now, brimming with confidence we might expect that an additional Server at each Stage may get us around double again (around 40%). The results are shown below. 

Note: Overall Utilisation Rate is 44.5%, and WIP is 44 Jobs / Customers / Patients. 

Simulation Run 4: Small Variation in Stage Job Completion Time: 8 Resources at each Stage 

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So Overall Success Rate is now 95.1% vs 19.3% with an increase of 14% in Resources from 7 Servers at each Stage to 8 at each Stage. This is more than a quadrupling in Overall Success Rate. It is this “non-linear” or difficult to predict behaviour when trying to balance Resources with Demand that is the result of hidden Variation, and which nearly always catches people out – laymen and experts alike! 

Note: Overall Utilisation Rate is 22.1%, and WIP is 30 Jobs / Customers / Patients. 

Page Break 

Conclusion 

The simple simulation runs above illustrate the complexity we are dealing with (the real world being significantly more complex). 

In summary, starting with 5 Resources, Overall Success Rate was a very low 5.1%, WIP was 90, and Overall Utilisation was 50.1%. Increasing Resources by 20% from 5 to 6 improved Overall Success Rate to a (still) low 9.8%, WIP reduced to 65, and Overall Utilisation Rate decreased to 46.2%. A further increase of 16% in Resources from 6 to 7 improved Overall Success Rate to (possibly acceptable) 19.3%, WIP was 44 and Overall Utilisation Rate was 44.5%. A final increase of 14% in Resources from 7 to 8, delivered a significant improvement to Overall Success Rate of 95.1%, with WIP of 30 and Overall Utilisation Rate of 22.1%. 

Furthermore, the above is just one set of possible results in the spectrum of results caused by Variation in Stage Job Completion Time.  

And it’s not obvious that any organisation would be prepared to live with such low Utilisation Rates above! 

Without knowing and understanding things, such as WIP and Utilisation, along with Variation, that are often not measured by organisations, simply adding Resources can deliver unpredictable Outcomes. Without knowing Utilisation Rates and WIP for each major Business Process (Incident Response, Crime & Investigation, Criminal Case Preparation etc.), in each and every of the 43 Forces nationally, simply asking the Police Service to deliver less Crime, might be a reasonable ask, but to put any specific figures on what less actually means, would be statistically criminal! 

Now Dominic Cummings knows this – the question is, how many Government Ministers are aware of this? 

And if Priti Patel expects to see an uplift in Outcomes as a result of a 16% uplift in Resources – she’d better be looking at this statistically, otherwise she may get it very wrong indeed!

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My Silver Lining  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Apr 2020, 08:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: My Silver Lining
I had a  slight panic on my way to Gatwick airport as I
riffled through my back to check for my passport before finding it, followed by
the realisation of forgetting my masks and gloves and leaving them back in my
room, this made me wish I had planned by journey back home to India better. .
But that is the nature of the universe; it rewards but surprises you, just like
it has rewarded me with an opportunity to see my beloved family and friends
after 6 long months!

There was a rare but familiar rush in
spontaneity, the essence of which lies in anticipation.  We did not anticipate that the spread of the
Coronavirus would cause such a rapid impact on so many international
travellers. I felt so grateful that I could be making that journey back home.

Meditation is something which has helped me
through all sorts of things in my life, my personal way of meditating is; I
just need 5 to 10 mins alone with my body and mind. I acknowledge all
thoughts that come into my mind and then decide whether they are good for me or
bad for me. This categorisation approach has helped me shape my perceptions and
make some important decisions in my life. This is a self-taught
method where you don’t need to close your eyes to imagine, instead focus on the
thoughts that come into your mind which you try to avoid lingering upon during
the day.

While I meditated on every possible outcome
of returning home, I certainly could not picture the honest reality. My plans
leant more towards feeling the warmth of India’s hot climate, catching up on
work and making plans for the evening, because under the circumstances of a
normal trip home there would not be a single day when I did not step out of my
house. So that is what naturally came to me as this is “supposed” to be a
reward. But the universe had something else in mind and as soon as I landed on
my country’s soil, it screamed saying – “TAKE A BREAK!”

I saw all my plans fall like dominoes, one
by one. I was initially quarantined for 14 days and just as I motivated myself
to pull through two weeks in complete isolation, on the twilight of 24 March;
India announced and commenced a complete lockdown across the country for 21
days starting the following day. Now, I was suddenly to spend my days alone for
four weeks in total, did I think I could do this? As the news broke, so did
I.  It took me three days to stop blaming
the system and come to terms with the helplessness, anxiety and stress that I
felt. I cried endlessly till my mother asked me to look at the silver lining,
was there one?

On the fourth day, I woke up with a new sense of hope, motivation and clarity – moving towards the one thing this universe was trying to communicate. So I sat down in my favourite spot in the house, sipping my morning coffee, taking every bit of flavour my favourite beverage had to offer and soaking up the sights of the environment where I spent my entire childhood, I decided to take one day at a time. This meant going with the flow, finishing my day and utilising every moment of the day to invest in something self-actualising. This was the beginning of a brand new journey in my own company where I was finding myself while the world was healing itself.

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As the days passed, it had a cascading
effect in resurfacing all my hobbies and talents, which include; painting,
writing and a little bit of singing (but only for my own pleasure). I had never
found the patience to select, read and complete a novel – it has always ended up
dropping off my priority list. It has taken a global pandemic make me actually
take time to start reading for pleasure. The situation filled me with immense
patience and showed me how to restore hope and faith that I lost so very
easily. Not only that, I also got to spend more quality time with my mother
which I unintentionally didn’t do enough of previously.

It is day six now, and I can feel my
perspective towards life being moulded and my world-view being re-adjusted. It
is because of this alteration that I see the silver lining my mother spoke
about at the end of day one. As I turn 21, a responsible legal citizen of
India, in the coming month, I have nothing but gratitude for this
social-distancing and (now) voluntary isolation that came my way. It has given
me enough time to know and befriend myself, and while this friendship discovers
new capabilities within me, I am motivated to take up challenges and come out
victorious.
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How it feels to be in lockdown on Campus, in the Village and in London  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Apr 2020, 05:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: How it feels to be in lockdown on Campus, in the Village and in London…
For this blog post I asked some of our volunteer student
bloggers to describe their experience of lockdown. Each of our students are
living in different locations – Cranfield University campus, Cranfield Village
and London – so I thought it would be an interesting comparison.

On Campus (written by Krithika
Menon who is currently studying our StrategicMarketing MSc)

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Krithika Menon

Covid-19, the
unprecedented medical emergency that has dawned upon the world, has challenged
people and processes alike. The pandemic hit us like a storm and the world
around us changed overnight. At Cranfield, assignments were postponed, classes
and meetings began to be scheduled remotely and annual gatherings were
cancelled as students packed their bags to leave to their home countries. It is
a spring we were not prepared for.

Amidst this
chaos, confusion and uncertainty, the staff and faculties at Cranfield
University have made tremendous efforts to make sure that students feel safe in
and around campus. I live in the “Shared House” accommodation on campus along
with four other housemates who are unable to leave campus due to travel bans in
different countries. In such difficult times, living away from your loved ones
may be worrisome for most.

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    On Campus
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    On Campus

Living on the
university campus has been a blessing in disguise for me. Waking up to a
beautiful campus with its spring flowers blooming is something I look forward
to every morning. The campus is large enough for you to take strolls/runs and
stretch (as per lockdown rules, individuals are allowed outdoor exercise once a
day) to refresh your day without the fear of having to interact with the
general public.

Taking
advantage of the lockdown, my neighbours and I, often
experiment and build on our culinary skills which had no place in our otherwise
busy schedules. The campus also provides take away facilities at Reggies- a
student restaurant in one of the halls of residence, for the days you do not
want to prepare your own meals. The campus grocery store Budgens, sells almost
any product from your staples like bread, eggs and milk, to
confectionary, frozen food, snacks and alcohol. The staff at Budgens are
extremely receptive. In these times of panic buying, when things tend to go out
of stock, they help you with the exact delivery details of the
products you need.

The university
UNO buses continue to function for students who need to make bigger purchases
from Milton Keynes or other nearby stores at the Cranfield Village. In addition
to this, the buses are also running free of charge to reduce the burden on
students.

With the
internet speed being uncompromised in the university premises, students don’t just
have flawless communication during online classes and meetings, but also stay
connected with friends and family around the world. The University
administration additionally sends out regular emails re-assuring students that
they are available to help us if we need anything. They keep us updated with
the government regulations and helpline numbers for health advice, isolation
services, course related or immigration related queries and wellbeing support.
This is quite a relief for students and their families who are constantly
worried about the health and safety of students on campus.

With all this
said, I believe Cranfield University has indeed proved to be a home away from
home!

Cranfield Village – (written by
Andrea Quercio who is currently studying our StrategicMarketing MSc)

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Andrea Quercio

Not in a million years could have foreseen that my master’s
studies at Cranfield School of Management would have panned out the way they have.
It all happened so fast, and before I even realised it, the university
cancelled all face-to-face lectures and moved to online classes. Many students
then fled their accommodation to return home, and with many facilities shut
down and the staff now working from home, all it’s left is a ghost-town campus.

As for me, I’m currently living in Cranfield village, and I
am not going back to Italy because it is not safe now. I plan to move to London
once this pandemic is over. Thankfully, my friends and family are well, and I
regularly keep in touch with them via text messages and video chats.

My house is just a five-minute walk from the two grocery
store in the village, which makes food shopping very easy and quick. However,
the panic-buying phenomenon has affected those small supermarkets stock
availability, leaving most of their shelves empty. For this reason, I tend to
order online grocery from Tesco or Sainsbury’s, which have a wider product
range, and reduce the risk of infection as I also don’t have to leave the house.

As for university, I am now working on an assignment, and my
course will start online classes in mid-April. Needless to say, this new
reality is very challenging, and I am still in the midst of getting used to it.
The thing I am struggling with most is not being able to see my friends and
family. Moving abroad has always been my biggest dream, and I am forever
grateful to my family for helping me achieve that. However, I feel a little
lonely because most of my uni friends have left, and I wish I could support my
family in these difficult times.

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Cranfield Village

Nonetheless, I want to make the most out of my lockdown time
by taking it as an opportunity for self-reflection and figuring out my future
plans. This crisis has undoubtedly changed the way we perceive and live our
life, which is why it is, more than ever, important to stay positive.
Hopefully, when it’s all over, we won’t take all that we have for granted; or
will we?

Cranfield Village (written by
Margot Verhofsté who is currently studying our Management& Corporate Sustainability MSc)

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Margot Verhofsté

The COVID-19 virus has changed our daily lives considerably.
All of a sudden, we could not go to campus anymore, lectures were replaced by
online sessions, sport classes were cancelled, there were no more parties in
the CSA on Friday nights etc. In the beginning, I struggled to adapt to this
new reality. Since we had no lectures due to our Easter break, I had no
structure in my days and felt kind of lost.

That is why I decided to create a “Quarantine to-do-list”. I
wrote down all the chores I had been postponing, made a list of books I want to
read and movies or series I want to watch, found some interesting courses on
LinkedIn Learning, made a list of recipes I want to try out, collected some fun
at-home workouts etc. This has helped me a lot in finding purpose in these
uncertain times and keeps me sane. Moreover, it taught me to enjoy the little
moments in life. Last week, I read a book in our garden in the sun, which is
something I have not done in ages, and I really enjoyed it. Doing groceries or
keeping in touch with family is definitely challenging in times of Coronavirus,
but we have to get through this crisis. The best way to do this is to focus on
the positive consequences of self-isolation, even if it is something as small
as having time for long-forgotten hobbies.

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Cranfield Village

London (written by Abena Asante
who is currently studying our Management& Corporate Sustainability MSc)

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Abena Asante

It’s finally spring and I am
stuck indoors, but I would rather stay indoors and stay safe. I moved to London
to be with family because they keep me sane and happy during difficult times.
Classes are on hold till April 13, so I am yet to experience online teaching,
however, I have an individual assignment due April 20 so have decided to give
myself five days to get it done by answering a question daily.

We have just enough groceries but
whenever we need anything from the shop my uncle is the only one allowed to run
errands for the house since he still goes to work Image
. Currently we haven’t had any
challenges with buying groceries. My family has a dynamic palate, thus, we try out
items we would not normally purchase on our weekly shop. At least, covid-19 has
made us adventurous.

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London

The rest of us take our daily
exercises either in the garden by jogging or playing a sport. For a prolonged
time of fresh air and to get out of the house, I take walks down the street.
When we want to get very sweaty, we have family dance-offs using WII Just
Dance. I find myself video calling friends who live alone, and family in Ghana
more often to check up on them.

One thing is for sure, I am super
grateful for technology and apps that make video calling possible. Stay home, stay
safe and sending virtual hugs your way.

Wixams then London (written by Timeyin Dabor who is
currently studying our Management and EntrepreneurshipMSc)

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Timeyin Dabor

Who would’ve thought the world could stop so abruptly, no
warnings, no heads up. Not you, right? Yeah me neither. I still wake up every
morning expecting this to just be a crazy dream, but it seems this is now our
new reality until God knows when.

We just have to find the necessary ways to adapt to it. It
all happened so fast, in the space of 1 week from cancelling our last class for
the semester, to cancelling our strategic management exam to issuing a travel
ban in my home country Nigeria, to locking down the UK, and then to them
cancelling my flight to Nigeria. I was a bit overwhelmed that week as I was
also due to move out of my accommodation in Wixams, Bedfordshire and move in
with my aunt in Enfield, London.

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    Wixams
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    Wixams

Wixams was pretty, calm and peaceful, I finally got to go
for a walk around our lake and surrounding environment as I never had the time
when school was in session (only ever walked to the bus stop lol). I got to
feed the ducks and the swans during my walk, then made my way to our local
Budgens to stock up for the remaining days I was going to be in my
accommodation. Pasta, toilet paper, and eggs have been scarce commodities,
you’ll be very lucky to find.

My course director, Oksana conducted a test trial of zoom
with some of my course mates and me, we also created a COVID-19 support group
chat which we share activities during our days of social distancing, and also
assist our course mates that are still in the UK.

My move to London was a pretty smooth transition as it is the
place I call home in the UK. I called a cab, and it took us about 55 minutes to
get to my house.

Since arriving in London, I had a Family Business Management
group assignment to submit on Friday, which has kept me busy and distracted.
The only time I stepped out was today to go to the hospital for a prescription.
Going outside, London is quite a bit busier than I expected but nothing too
extreme.

I was initially devastated about not being able to go back
to my country to see my family, but I quickly realised it was for the best. I
have been keeping in touch with everyone back home and some of the amazing
people I met in Cranfield, and also had time to catch up with my friends from
high school on a Zoom video call. It has been quite a humbling experience, a
lot to take in but I believe if we give each other mental support, as this
pandemic also has an effect to the mental health, we will get through it.

I hope you found that an interesting read and it gave you some insight into our students’ current experience in each living setting. I believe people are all adapting remarkably well under very strange and unprecedented circumstances, but I hope that it teaches us all new skills we can take forward to life once this pandemic is over. Stay safe everyone Image
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My experience at the British Antarctic Survey  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Apr 2020, 08:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: My experience at the British Antarctic Survey
Last month I had the chance to visit one of the most fascinating science institutions that I know in the United Kingdom, the British Antartic Survey (BAS). It is an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council, and it has been delivering and enabling world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions for decades. Its head quarters are in Cambridge, which is where I was invited to. They perform science and research in the Polar Regions: Antarctica and the Arctic but also in some other exotic places like the Himalayas. Their main goal is to advance our understanding of Earth and our impact on it, one of the current focuses is on the most precise estimation on the rise of sea level due to the melting of polar glaciers.

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I was selected to participate in the program UK Polar Horizons, which is part of the Inclusion Program that they have at BAS. 20 students from different universities in the UK gathered in such a relevant building to be taught about the science of the Polar Regions, and meet professionals with similar backgrounds and jobs to ours. There were students who were studying masters and PhD in paleoclimate, atmospheric analysis, archeology, marine biology and remote sensing. This last one is the field I am most interested in, as I did my Bachelor Degree dissertation in a preliminary design of a satellite to monitor glaciers in the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range in the South of Spain. And it is key to control the evolution of Antarctica and the Artic, there are whole teams observing and calculating the effect each particular glacier has on the rise of sea level.

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We had the opportunity to meet Stuart Doubleday, the Administrator of British Antarctic Territory, a sector of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom. He explained to all of us the significance of BAS and the role of the UK in the Antarctic continent, a region on Earth dedicated to science and the preservation of wildlife.

We also had the chance to meet top level researchers who have been to Antarctica or the Artic and also professionals with great responsibility in this insitution. We met experts such as Donna Frater, Head of diversity in Polar Science, David Bowen, Director of Science of BAS, Jane Francis, Executive Director of BAS, Michael Bravo, Director of Scott Polar Institute, and many more. We were told about how we can analyse the air bubbles trapped in ice thousands of years ago and know what the climate was like a million years ago, and we touched and heared ancient ice with our own hands. We were also shown Antarctic fossils from dinosaurs and primitive cephalopods.

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I guess I always have had a deep concern with climate change and that is what has made develop my career in the field I work on. After my Bachelor Degree in Aerospace Engineering in Madrid I am now studying an MSc at Cranfield in Astronautics & Space Engineering, to continue my education in satellites, remote sensing and the improvement of Earth by using the tools we have to understand it. But it is not just something Astronautics graduates can do, we require field experts in geology, energy or water resources to apply the discoveries we make. If you are particularly interested in the Polar Regions, some of the background readings you could read are “Arctic Adventure: My Life in the Frozen North” by Peter Freuchen or any book about Ernest Shackleton. There are also interesting documentaries such as “An inconvenient truth” or its sequel “An inconveniet sequel” by Al Gore, and “Before the flood” produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

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But climate change is a global issue and will need the help of all individuals to accomplish the reduction of CO2 emissions and make our planet safer for human life. It is on our daily actions that we can mitigate the carbon footprint we have on Earth, that we can help keep Antartica and the Artic safe, by not altering the sanctuary of biodiversity these areas represent. 
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My Silver Lining  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Apr 2020, 01:02
FROM Cranfield SOM Blogs: My Silver Lining
I had a  slight panic on my way to Gatwick airport as I riffled through my backpack to check for my passport before finding it, followed by the realisation of forgetting my masks and gloves and leaving them back in my room; this made me wish I had planned my journey back home to India better. But that is the nature of the universe; it rewards but surprises you, just like it has rewarded me with an opportunity to see my beloved family and friends after 6 long months!

It’s was rare opportunity to see my family in person but this situation has made it happen without much forward planning, which made it strange as it felt surreal to be going when I did but at the same time the journey all felt so familiar.  We did not anticipate that the spread of the Coronavirus would cause such a rapid impact on so many international travellers. I felt so grateful that I could be making that journey back home.

Meditation is something which has helped me
through all sorts of things in my life, my personal way of meditating is; I
just need 5 to 10 mins alone with my body and mind. I acknowledge all
thoughts that come into my mind and then decide whether they are good for me or
bad for me. This categorisation approach has helped me shape my perceptions and
make some important decisions in my life. This is a self-taught
method where you don’t need to close your eyes to imagine, instead focus on the
thoughts that come into your mind which you try to avoid lingering upon during
the day.

While I meditated on every possible outcome
of returning home, I certainly could not picture the honest reality. My plans
leant more towards feeling the warmth of India’s hot climate, catching up on
work and making plans for the evening, because under the circumstances of a
normal trip home there would not be a single day when I did not step out of my
house. So that is what naturally came to me as this is “supposed” to be a
reward. But the universe had something else in mind and as soon as I landed on
my country’s soil, it screamed saying – “TAKE A BREAK!”

I saw all my plans fall like dominoes, one
by one. I was initially quarantined for 14 days and just as I motivated myself
to pull through two weeks in complete isolation, on the twilight of 24 March;
India announced and commenced a complete lockdown across the country for 21
days starting the following day. Now, I was suddenly to spend my days alone for
four weeks in total, did I think I could do this? As the news broke, so did
I.  It took me three days to stop blaming
the system and come to terms with the helplessness, anxiety and stress that I
felt. I cried endlessly till my mother asked me to look at the silver lining,
was there one?

On the fourth day, I woke up with a new sense of hope, motivation and clarity – moving towards the one thing this universe was trying to communicate. So I sat down in my favourite spot in the house, sipping my morning coffee, taking every bit of flavour my favourite beverage had to offer and soaking up the sights of the environment where I spent my entire childhood, I decided to take one day at a time. This meant going with the flow, finishing my day and utilising every moment of the day to invest in something self-actualising. This was the beginning of a brand new journey in my own company where I was finding myself while the world was healing itself.

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As the days passed, it had a cascading
effect in resurfacing all my hobbies and talents, which include; painting,
writing and a little bit of singing (but only for my own pleasure). I had never
found the patience to select, read and complete a novel – it has always ended up
dropping off my priority list. It has taken a global pandemic make me actually
take time to start reading for pleasure. The situation filled me with immense
patience and showed me how to restore hope and faith that I lost so very
easily. Not only that, I also got to spend more quality time with my mother
which I unintentionally didn’t do enough of previously.

It is day six now, and I can feel my
perspective towards life being moulded and my world-view being re-adjusted. It
is because of this alteration that I see the silver lining my mother spoke
about at the end of day one. As I turn 21, a responsible legal citizen of
India, in the coming month, I have nothing but gratitude for this
social-distancing and (now) voluntary isolation that came my way. It has given
me enough time to know and befriend myself, and while this friendship discovers
new capabilities within me, I am motivated to take up challenges and come out
victorious.
ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors
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My Silver Lining   [#permalink] 07 Apr 2020, 01:02

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