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Green Templeton College | Oxford

Rob Poynton, who led the 'Cloud Chamber' programmeA leading-edge programme, held under the auspices of GTC's Oxford Praxis Forum initiative, is supporting senior practitioners to engage with complex, uncertain 'cloud-like' questions which will inform their leadership and innovation skills.

The 'Cloud Chamber' consisted of a three day intensive programme held at the end of November and hosted at No. 11 Observatory Street.  

It was designed specifically to provide a senior practitioner (in this case a medical practitioner) with the opportunity and time to consider issues that cannot easily be framed within the everyday working environment, and which are inevitably related to systemic, 'wicked' or 'adaptive' challenges.

The initiative takes its name from the title of a 1966 essay in which philosopher Karl Popper drew a distinction between clocks and clouds. While clocks can be analysed precisely, clouds are, by nature, diffuse, complex and volatile.

The same is true of the predicaments that contemporary leaders face. However, often 'clouds' are treated (consciously or unconsciously) as if they were clocks.

The principal participant was Dr Neil Randhawa, a consultant anaesthetist at The Royal Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, part of University College Hospital.  

His colleague Dr Jim Roberts, another consultant anaesthetist, also attended. Dr Roberts is Medical Lead for the UCLH Innovation Office, Knowledge Transfer Champion 2013 and the inventor of the 'Epidrum', which won the 2007 Cutlers' Prize.  

The programme was designed and led by Robert Poynton, an Oxford alumnus and Associate Fellow at the Saïd Business School, who has been closely involved in a series of initiatives at GTC involving both senior practitioner alumni and students.  

Rob was one of the first Praxis Visiting Practitioners and spent a month in residence in 2010.

Inside the 'Cloud Chamber'The two participants met some 15 people during the three-day programme. The sessions involved 'left field' creative inputs, sessions from top academics who had worked on related issues, and conversations with top practitioners (effectively CEO's) from leading hospitals in the UK and Canada.

Through his earlier work with executives in Oxford Rob was able to arrange for two successful hospital CEOs, both alumni of Oxford Executive Education programmes, to give a management perspective.  

Raj Jain, CEO of the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital broke his journey down to London to collect the HSJ Provider Trust of the Year award, in order to meet with Drs Randhawa and Roberts.

In addition, Rob was also able to persuade Arvind Joshi, Director General and CEO of St Mary's Hospital at McGill University, Montreal, to join in via video conference from his office in Montreal.

The programe also made good use of a wide variety of Oxford experts from both within the College, including GTC Emeritus Fellows Professor John Lennox and Dr Keith Ruddle; Dr Sian Rees of the Oxford Health Experiences Institute (HEXI), and Dr Steve New (University Lecturer) and Jon Stokes (Associate Fellow) of the Saïd Business School.

Dr Randhawa commented: "I think the theory-practice dialectic is a rich seam [which can] be mined much further. This approach is informing [the way we are tackling] several ventures at the hospital already."

Dr Marshall Young, Director of the Oxford Praxis Forum concluded: "It has been one of the pleasant surprises of this last year to find so many top medical practitioners responding so positively to the thinking behind Praxis. Moreover, we have been learning a lot from them and their focus on follow through, with their evidence based methodologies."

For more information about the programme, please email Rob Poynton.