“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

It has been a turbulent 2020. The impact of Covid-19 is being felt by businesses and organisations around the world – from keeping their employees and customers safe to impact on supply chains and the organisation’s financial health. However, the pandemic has enabled organisations to collaborate in ways never seen before and achieve years of innovation in just a few short months.

There is no doubt that 2021 will bring fresh challenges, so we asked faculty from across Cranfield School of Management, “What is the one key competency, intelligence, or skill you would urge leaders and senior managers to focus on and develop as we head into an equally challenging 2021?”


Professor David Oglethorpe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean, Cranfield School of Management

The three things we often talk about are judgement, drive, and influence. What we’ve seen this year and will certainly see in 2021 is an increasingly complex and uncertain world. We often hear about the ‘new normal’ but I think the only thing we can really be certain of is more uncertainty. So, good judgement is going to be of paramount importance. Critical thinking, complex problem solving, crisis management, are all things we teach but they all contribute to one’s ability to judge a situation well. The organisations who have shown the most resilience are those who have stayed on the curve and made good and timely judgements. This critical skill has never been more important.


Professor Emel Atkas, Chair in Supply Chain Analytics

We are entering an equally if not more challenging year with the national lockdown in the UK and increasing cases and deaths across the world. I would urge leaders and senior managers to focus on and develop analytics capabilities in these difficult times. We rapidly shifted to performing the majority of our activities online from March 2020 onwards. This shift should not mean working with paperwork generated digitally but establishing systems and platforms that keep accurate records at regular time intervals. This way, we can query and analyse operations data swiftly to inform business decisions with predictive and prescriptive results.


Professor Michael Bourne, Professor of Business Performance

Creating the environment in which people speak and then listening to what they say. If people are too afraid to speak, then you will never know what is on their mind. You will also never know what they think about the decisions you are about to take and what could go wrong.

Then you need to really listen to what they say and respond. By that, I don’t mean you have to agree, but you need to acknowledge their contribution and then explain if you disagree or are going to take a different path.

But remember, how you behave will encourage or discourage future conversations, so how you engage and listen is important, and the greater the issue and the higher the risk, the more you need it.


Professor Clare Kelliher, Chair in Work and Organisation

2020 saw large-scale relocation of work from the workplace to the home as a response to the covid-19 pandemic. In essence this represented an ‘experiment’ in remote reworking, albeit imposed, rather than chosen by employees. This experience has taught us a lot about what is possible, what works well, but also what is lost.

We understand better when and for whom remote working works well. It is important now to take stock of what has been learned and use this to inform how work is organised in the future. Rather than an attempt to return to ‘normal’, managers, together with their staff, need to take what has been learnt forward and design work in a way that optimises organisational effectiveness and helps all employees balance work with the demands of their non-work lives.


Professor Joe Nellis, Deputy Dean and Professor of Global Economy

The effects of the Covid-19 crisis are accelerating the pace of change across the globe. A new world order is shaping up. The business environment is becoming ever more diverse and complex – and riskier. This makes it imperative for everyone to respond appropriately.  Government, businesses, and society must be prepared to face up to the ‘new normals’ that are emerging - there will be no hiding places for those who try to cling to the past and who ignore the new realities.

Charles Darwin wrote a long time ago that:

“It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

The dinosaurs became extinct because of their failure to evolve in a slowly changing environment.  Unfortunately, during this Covid-19 crisis, many well-known and long-established companies have been forced to close, permanently. The world is changing at break-neck speed – and many of us in terms of our skill sets will also become extinct sooner than previously thought possible. But the winners of the future will be those who identify with and adapt to the new normals.