Monday, 11 June 2018


It started with a hole in the ground. On a very hot day in May three workman braved the noise and dust of their drills and were digging up the paved area beside ECBM. Was it to replace a gas pipe? Or to mend an electrical cable? Who knows?

Well there my interest ended because, as anyone who lives in London knows, there is often something being dug up or filled in. However, even though such things are common place, in 1962 comedy performer Bernard Cribbins recorded a comedy song called ‘Hole in the Ground’ and it went to 9th position in the charts, so maybe there is more to digging and filling holes than we might imagine. Here is a snippet:
“Don't dig there, dig it elsewhere, you’re digging it round and it ought to be square. The shape it's wrong, and it's much too long, and you can't put a hole where a hole don't belong.”

Moving forwards a day or two, the workman had built a triangular concrete platform in the hole, and surrounded it with a low block wall. Curious! “It’s for a sign” one of them told me. He couldn’t tell me what kind of sign, but a sign none the less, and all he knew was that he should build a triangular base.

Fast forward to this week. Mystery solved? Well not quite. The sign was now up: a green triangular metal cage somewhat like those triangular chocolate bars you see in airport shops. “They’re going to grow ivy up it” one of the workmen told me, and sure enough ivy was planted. And then, on all three sides of the cage were the letters ‘LEN’; large, bright blue and three-dimensional.

LEN? What’s LEN? The mystery had deepened; but it didn’t last long as Google had the answer, and just when I was beginning to enjoy the intrigue!

LEN means 'Low Emission Neighbourhood'. It’s all about new schemes that are being developed to make parts of London greener, cleaner and nicer. It is supported by the Mayor of London as a kind of blueprint for future town and city planning. Evolution is at work in Shoreditch which will make it a better place to live, work and have fun.

If you follow this link you can see exactly what is happening here – and importantly not just being talked about – and how already it is changing the quality of our lives.

When I grew up on the grimy, uninteresting Shoreditch streets of the 60s and 70s I could never have guessed that one day those same streets would be home to imaginative retail businesses, great food and drink outlets, streets brightly painted and planted, and an atmosphere or youthful optimism. That is the wonder of our futures: there is so much yet to discover.

Evolution is fresh and exciting, whether it is on the streets or in the classroom. I live with evolution every day, in the positive atmosphere of my evolutionary students. Come and evolve with us – it’s great!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


Let me share a bit of fanciful imagery with you.

I’m sitting here wishing I had a large teaspoon. A really large teaspoon. One with a long handle. A very, very long handle. So long that I could reach the clouds above London, letting me stir them like the cream in my coffee. They look creamy you see. They do look so inviting. Swirling away above me all creamy and soft. Or maybe it’s my brain that’s getting creamy and soft!

Okay then, what is the point of all this? Dreams. That’s my point. Dreams.

In 1949 Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the highly successful musical ‘South Pacific’, which included the popular song ‘Happy Talk’. Some of the words are as fanciful as mine. For example, ‘Talk about a star looking like a toy, peeking through the branches of a tree. Talk about a girl, talk about a boy, counting all the ripples on the sea’. However one line for me is poignant: ‘You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?

So I’m putting that question to you, ‘how you gonna have a dream come true?’

I remember some years ago passionately delivering a well-known line from Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish play’, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee”. “No” said my wife, “It’s the bread knife. Now sit down and finish your Cornflakes!” Well I guess it’s all a matter of how you look at things. So how then do you look at your dreams? 

Do you see dreams as wasteful wanderings of the mind, or do you re-frame your dreams as strategic visions? “Vision, mission and objectives” I tell my Business Strategy students. A company should first have a strategic vision of the future, then create a mission statement which strategically unifies the workforce, and then set the strategic objectives which will turn the vision in to reality, delivering strategic success. 

Dreams. Visions. Strategies.

I’m sure you have many dreams, strategic dreams. At the ECBM our passion is to contribute to making these dreams come true. Now if you’ll excuse me, my coffee is getting cold. "Has anyone seen the cream?”
Image result for dreams

Friday, 9 June 2017

Feng Shui for the Mind

I attended a meeting yesterday, at which my colleague suggested we should clear out all of the piles of dated paperwork and other detritus adorning our staff room. I wondered why she was suggesting this as I could not see the problem.

Yes I do have piles of old no-longer needed handouts left over from months of teaching, and which I have honestly meant to throw out, but basically the area around my desk is fairly tidy. However, as an ex-banker and therefore a thoroughly human and generous person (!) I thought I must give her the benefit of the doubt and I had a look at the area where I work.

I’m ashamed to admit that she was absolutely right! I suddenly saw in a new light the towers of ancient wisdom - which is a nicer way of describing old handouts - piling up on my desk and on my shelves, doing absolutely no good other than to gather dust, and producing an environment which is not exactly calm. So now my colleague has been deservedly given the nickname ‘The Feng Shui Fairy’, or as I prefer to call her, ‘Feng’.

I shall now make a cutting remark! I've been acting like a train travelling through a railway cutting, sure of my forward direction, but not seeing what was around me. I've become so used to the disorganised stationary in my vicinity that it began to be like wallpaper, and disappeared from my list of priorities. What my colleague managed to achieve was to make me look afresh at the situation, such that I could determine for myself that action was necessary.

Such a process is also common to many students, especially those of more mature years and experience. Something happens in their life which results in them re-evaluating themselves and their life progress, and realising that they need to progress their lives through education. This means that even though last year they were not considering further study, this year they are. They are enrolling and commencing on a fresh approach to life.

It is a healthy task to clear out one’s physical environment, but we must never forget the cerebral environment where so much of our life is lived and so many of our dreams are turned in to plans. Yes, this environment needs decluttering and freshening up. I call it ‘Feng Shui for the Mind’.

And the process works! I know this because each year at our ECBM graduation ceremony I see how happy and energized our students are, having completed their study, and now being in a position to take on new challenges and new directions. Education can have such a cleansing effect on the mind, helping us to see things in a fresh light. It can take away the clutter of the past, and replace it with clarity and new horizons. 

Graham Harman-Baker

Friday, 2 June 2017

Never forget the basics of customer service

Scotsman Robert Burns wrote his famous ‘To a Mouse’ poem in 1786. These words – translated from the original scots dialect - are often quoted: “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, and leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy”. Avoiding any discussion as to whether I am a man or a mouse, I can tell you that things certainly went awry for me this weekend.

What nicer thing to do on a warm summer's day in the beautiful county of Kent than to go into a typically English pub for a pint of beer and a sandwich. I enquired at the bar if sandwiches were available and was told that yes they could provide some, but then on taking my table the waitress said this was wrong and all she could offer me was some courgettes soup.

Oh well, this was not the end of the world, and I do love soup, but unfortunately it seemed that this bowl had not been within a metre of a courgette at any point. What I did taste, in large unappealing quantity, was pepper. The waitress asked if I enjoyed it, I told her no, and she shrugged her shoulders and walked off. I will not be returning.

Later I went to a hotel for an overnight stay with my family, before going to visit my aunt in a care home. On arrival everything was perfect and we drifted off into a peaceful sleep… and then it was at around 3 am when we were awakened by a group of young people out in the corridor who were not aware of their surroundings or the time of day. On check out we reported this to the front desk and there was an apology, and a small refund. I think the refund should have been larger, but at least the gesture was made.  

To complete the trilogy that I'm presenting to you, we then attended a friend’s funeral only to find that our flowers had not been delivered. On telephoning the florist she was horrified that they had made a mistake, and she immediately said, “What can I do to rectify this”? She went on to fully refund our money, and to send a beautiful bunch of flowers to my friend's daughter, and even photographed the flowers and sent the picture to us. This was genuine and exemplary service, the emphasis being on the word ‘genuine’.

We teach marketing and customer service, and cover a whole range of technical aspects. Those aspects are important, yet we must never forget the basics, to remember that the customer will often forgive you your mistakes, and that you will typically retain their business, if you react with a genuine and honest response. That’s our preferred way here at ECBM.

It doesn't have to cost you money, or at least not much, but attending to the basics will save your reputation, and avoid negative word of mouth advertising. “Don’t we all know this already?” I here you say. Well yes we do, but in our busy lives we sometimes forget, or perhaps it is only ‘other people’ who get it wrong?

It is a commercial tragedy if companies pay out thousands of pounds on advertising campaigns, and then forget the basic elements of customer care. It’s all about building relationships and establishing trust with your customer. Likewise in education, relationships and trust are primary determinants of effective learning and growth.

Graham Harman-Baker

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Education opens doors

As a child growing up in the 1960s, one of my favourite games was a driving game where I could manoeuvre vehicles around the town using a joystick. Actually I need to qualify this: it was a cardboard map of a town approximately 30 centimetres by 30 centimetres which sat in a box. Underneath the map was a magnet controlled by the joystick, and this in turn dragged the vehicles through the 2-dimensional town plan. To a modern audience this would seem really primitive, but back then it was for me a wonderful game.

Moving forward to the present day, my daughter plays intricate fast-action computer games with high definition quality graphics. It’s a different world! Recently she let me have a go and almost immediately I ran into difficulty. I wanted to move up to the next level which meant moving through a door, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get it to open. Most frustrating! However when she took over she knew exactly what to do, and very quickly pushed the door open and moved through to the next magical Kingdom.

I then had the realisation that this was similar to what we do at ECBM; we are in the profession of door opening. We provide education for students so the previously locked doors can now be opened, and additionally we provide a map for what to do once you have gone through. We have the key and the map. How you use them is up to you.

Professor Nigel Weatherill, Vice-Chancellor of LJMU,
 handing out certificates at ECBM's graduation last year
One of the institutions we work in co-operation with is Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU).  On the 27th April LJMU won the ‘University of the Year’ award at the Educate North Awards 2017, a most prized and sought after award.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nigel Weatherill accepted the award, saying:

“I am delighted that Liverpool John Moores University has won this prestigious award. This is testament to years of hard work by our staff and shows exactly what we can achieve by working together as a team, which makes LJMU the modern pioneering university in the North.

“It is fitting that this exceptional achievement comes in the 25th anniversary year of LJMU - another landmark in the history and journey of our university.”

The judging panel said: 

“The judges felt that the university demonstrated a clear strategic vision and contributed significantly locally, but also nationally and globally. The academic strength, management and financial stewardship are all contributing factors to their success.”

We at ECBM congratulate LJMU, and are proud to be part of its success story with our MBA and MSc programmes.

Graham Harman-Baker

Friday, 5 May 2017

The world is still a good place

I would like to tell you about one of my business students: city banker Bethany Fortune who is currently doing the Higher National Diploma with ECBM. Bethany ran the London Marathon for Cancer Research and did it in 5hrs 23 mins, an admirable performance!

I was thinking about the time leading up to the race. There is the training, the arrangement of sponsorship, and the knowledge that you are there in the spotlight and so cannot afford to fail. I can only imagine what it all feels like, and then there is the matter of the gruelling race itself!

You have to respect those who enter, and Bethany did it, raising valuable funds for her charity. When you witness such selfless behaviour you realise the world is still a good place. Well done Beth!

People leave us, others remain needing us to care for them, and others give their time and effort to raise money to pay for that care.

When you care you share, and change lives beyond compare. I wonder how many people reading this have their own heart-warming story to tell?

Graham Harman-Baker

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Ability to Think for Oneself

As I approached the lift which descends from the platform at London Bridge station I saw two ladies look through the glass window, down the lift shaft, and they shook their heads. No lift. Another person leaned over, looked down, looked at the ladies and shrugged his shoulders before following them to the distant escalator. The last man of the group looked down, and walked away too. No lift.

My turn now, and yes I looked down the lift shaft. No lift; but also no call light on the panel beside the lift shaft. I pressed the down arrow, it lit up, and immediately the lift began its graceful ascent to platform level. That’s all that was wrong. The assembled people were so busy looking for the lift that someone had forgotten to call it.

So why did we all exhibit this same behaviour of looking down the lift shaft, and why did all the other people walk away one after the other? Are we really so incapable of thinking for ourselves?

At an American university some years ago the professor sent a student out of the lecture theatre, asking him to retrieve the class register left on his desk. He then told the remaining students he would bang on the table a number of times, and they should add one count to the number they heard. The first student returned and the exercise commenced.

As the mass of students added one extra count the lone student looked confused. However it was only a few minutes later when he started to add one count, all be it falteringly. Within 5 minutes he was adding one extra count without hesitation. Such is our relationship with the people around us.

This is why several people walked away from the lift without noticing the call light unilluminated: they were more concerned with what the other people were doing. I too fell in to the trap, but as an academic I understand the power of thinking for myself, which is why I broke ranks and looked where the others had not and saw the lift had not been called.

The ability to think for oneself is central to the academic mind. If we did not do this then you would be going home tonight on a cart pulled by a donkey. We need to have vision and imagination, and the ability to pursue our ideas with determination.

However before we launch ourselves off in to glory, we must also remember the need to take a measured approach to what we do, otherwise we will separate ourselves from logic and reason, and success would be a chance occurrence and not one of design.

We also need validation. As academics we cite the experts in the field under investigation. We may have expertise but that does not make us experts. We must have confirmation from experts of the rectitude of our decisions and actions; experts who have made it their life’s work to research and study their chosen subject. This gives our work, and ourselves, credibility.

On Friday I will be working with MBA and MSc students in Munich, engaging in deep learning strategies. We will debate subjects of their choice from the field of ethics, and case studies I have provided, and their content will be aligned to the learning outcomes of the module. There is no agenda, other than to think freely and creatively to address management problems in an ethical context. As minds are unlocked, doors will open in to new worlds, and fresh thinking will prevail. The process is energising! 

Graham Harman-Baker