The brain game

first_imgThe brain gameOn 14 Oct 2003 in Military, Personnel Today Think-tanks can provide a useful resource for HR strategists. Scott BeagriereportsThey may seem an unlikely set of bedfellows but the DTI’s Patricia Hewitt,the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) John Philpott andTrevor Phillips at the Commission for Racial Equality have a past in common –they have all been think-tank policy ‘wonks’. Think-tanks have their critics and those who work at them may come across astoo clever for their own good (they are called wonks because they ‘know’everything backwards). But there’s no denying that much of their thinking hashad a huge influence on the workplace, shaking up conventional ideas ofbusiness practice and impacting significantly on the world of human resourcemanagement. The term ‘think-tank’ derives from the Second World War when a militarybackroom was used for strategic battle planning. It has evolved to mean a groupof specialists detached from the decision-making process. Arguably the roots of the term stretch further back to the Fabian Society of1884 or Political and Economic Planning (PEP) of 1931. Few can dispute theheyday of the think-tank, however, which came in the late 1970s and early 1980swhen Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher entrusted the Centre for Policy Studies,the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs with the task ofdetermining Conservative policy. Think-tanks were again revitalised in the latter half of the 1990s when NewLabour swept to power and Demos, which considered itself the firstpost-ideological group, and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)came to prominence. The image of the think-tank has changed over the years and these days manymake a virtue of their ability to attract contributors and thinkers from acrossthe political spectrum. Funding from corporations has also led them to bedescribed as pseudo-consultancies in some instances, with a remit thatstretches beyond influencing Westminster and Whitehall. With or without the new corporate emphasis, however, a wealth of employmentresearch make think-tanks a valuable and, indeed, a free resource for HR – inthe main lending weight to the theories, values and practices that theprofession champions. But how do they operate, what’s their political leaning, which of themadvocates corporate social responsibility, who’s eminent in race relations andwhere does Prime Minister Tony Blair go for his big ideas? Read our analysis of14 key think-tanks and find out. The profiles Academy of Enterprise (AoE) Political persuasion: Ultra trendy, not-for-profit.Profile: Founded by Alec Reed, chairman of recruitment agency ReedExecutive, the academy has engaged with three other think-tanks to help shapegovernment thinking on the way ahead for UK companies and offers guidance tobusiness on how the world of work is transforming. It also wishes torevolutionise the way children are prepared for the world of work.Claim to fame: In a keynote address at CIPD, Harrogate (2000); presentedthe concept of Peoplism – an economic state where individuals possess the mostimportant factor of production: brainpower. (Also see Demos and SmithInstitute.)www.academyofenterprise.orgCentre for Policy Studies (CPS) Political Persuasion: Right wing.Profile: Founded by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph in 1974, itprovided the means for the right wing’s takeover of the Conservative party inthe late 1970s. Basing its policies on free markets, individual choice andrespect for the law, CPS was responsible for some groundbreaking proposals thathelped define the term ‘Thatcherism’. Now a shadow of its former self, it stilldevelops and publishes public policy proposals and arranges seminars andlectures on topical issues.Claim to fame: Trade union reform; privatisation of state-ownedutilities.www.cps.org.ukCivitas Political persuasion: Claims independence, but widely regarded asright wing.Profile: Tipped as the think-tank to watch, the lofty aim behind itsstudies is the creation of a better division of responsibilities betweengovernment and civil society. Its research focuses on four areas: health,welfare, education and the family.Claim to fame: Hit the headlines last year with a highly contentiousproposal for race and equality laws to be scrapped as they “lead torace-conscious employment practices instead of the treatment of peopleaccording to their individual merits as fellow workers”. The same reportalso called for the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal OpportunitiesCommission to be abolished.www.civitas.org.ukThe Conference Board Political persuasion: Global, independent membership organisation.Profile: Stemmed from the US industrial crisis in 1916, when a group ofbusiness leaders, fed up with propaganda machines and partisan associations,came together to examine major issues impacting on business and society. Hasevolved into a leading management and business research body that aspires tohelping businesses strengthen their general performance so they can betterserve society.Claim to fame: Major HR resource – runs European Council on HR and holdsthe annual Human Resource Conference in the US and Asia.www.conference-board.orgDemos Political persuasion: Left-leaning, right on.Profile: Once Tony Blair’s think-tank of choice, Demos was set up in1993 with the aim of “reinvigorating public policy and politicalthinking”, and to develop radical solutions to long-term problems.Although it continues to make waves, not least for suggesting that HRHabdicates when she turns 80, it’s not as hip as it used to be. Blair has alsolong since extracted co-founder Geoff Mulgan to head up his ‘blue skies’Strategy Unit.Claim to fame: Rebranding of the country as Cool Britannia – boostingjobs and the economy; identified ‘The Independents’ (think Generation X) –tomorrow’s high-fliers who create new models of employment and becomeincreasingly important to the generation of new jobs. It is disciple ofPeoplism. www.demos.co.ukInstitute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Political persuasion: Centre-left with impeccable Downing Streetlinks.Profile: Described by the Daily Telegraph as the most influentialthink-tank in the UK, IPPR, run by former Labour party official Matthew Taylor,is also the biggest with an annual budget of approximately £2.5m. Despite itsimpressive credentials, it has come under fire from trade unions and the mediafor its reliance on corporate funding.Claim to fame: Responsible for several major New Labour initiativesincluding the public-private partnership and educational maintenanceallowances; recently attacked New Labour’s manufacturing strategy – three weeksbefore a government-sponsored ‘manufacturing summit’.www.ippr.org.ukInstitute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) Political persuasion: Independent.Profile: A department of the University of Essex, the respected groupaims to understand how an individual’s behaviour, beliefs and life changes arestructured over time by domestic arrangements and patterns of employment. Itsuse of longitudinal data offers a key advantage over a snapshot in that itallows analysis of the dynamic links between an individual’s living andemployment conditions, behaviour and values over the lifecycle.Claim to fame: Has conducted the annual British Household Panel Survey –a key method of measuring social change – since 1991. Its analysis of 5,000workers last year highlighted the ‘myth’ of workplace stress with levels ofmisery varying depending on the day of the week. www.iser.essex.ac.ukPolicy Studies Institute (PSI) Political persuasion: Independent.Profile: Leading research body and a pioneer of large-scale surveys ofemployers and their company practices. PSI’s Employment Group conducts bothqualitative and quantitative research on labour markets and labour marketpolicy evaluation and has been responsible for more than 100 research projectsin the last decade.Claim to fame: Drew up the blueprint for the Race Relations Act;co-sponsors the Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WERS) – the largest of itskind in the world.www.psi.org.ukThe Runnymede Trust Political persuasion: Independent, and a charity.Profile: The trust has been at the forefront of the fight against racialdiscrimination for the past 34 years. It aims to stimulate debate to helpemployers re-energise their policies and practices and explore appropriatemodels to combat discrimination and embrace workplace diversity. Runnymede waschaired for five years by Trevor Phillips, now chair of the Commission forRacial Equality.Claim to fame: Influenced the 1976 Race Relations Act and the highlycontroversial The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain report. This was a study ofFTSE 100 companies that showed that after 20 years of race equality, only 1 percent of senior managers came from an ethnic minority.www.runnymedetrust.orgThe Smith Institute Political persuasion: Left-leaning and closely linked to chancellorGordon Brown.Profile: Founded in memory of former Labour Party leader, the late JohnSmith, its work centres on the policy implications stemming from theinteractions of equality, enterprise and equity. It prefers to identify themost relevant and recent research and present it to business and industrialleaders, ministers and specialists. It then published the texts along with thesubsequent discussion.Claim to fame: Intends to review Michael Porter’s analysis of theunderlying reasons for the persistence of the UK’s productivity gap with itscompetitors; Dynamic Reporting for a Dynamic Economy, produced for the AoE,proposes a new model for financial reporting.www.smith-institute.org.ukThe Social Market Foundation Political persuasion: Formerly SDP, now centre-right.Profile: Set up by Lord Owen and David Sainsbury (using his cash) in1989, it skilfully extols the virtues of a social market economy. An ardentsupporter of greater business involvement in education, it has also influencedboth education and welfare debate.Claim to fame: Decentralised pay bargaining; legal aid reform; Making ITWork: How Teleworking can Change our Lives for the Better. This is a reportpublished this year, which found that while teleworking increased productivityby up to 30 per cent it has failed to deliver on the promise of a betterwork-life balance. www.smf.co.ukThe Strategy Unit Political persuasion: Mood of the moment.Profile: An internal Government think-tank, formed following a merger of thePerformance and Innovation Unit (PIU) and the Prime Minister’s Forward StrategyUnit. Regarded as Tony Blair’s personal think-tank it is responsible for ‘blueskies thinking’.Claim to fame: Launched a five-year action plan for a better skilled workforcefollowing the publication of the PIU’s report, In Demand: Adult Skills for the21st Century.www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page77.aspTomorrow’s Company Political persuasion: Independent – punches above its weight.Profile: Founded by Mark Goyder in 1996, it was born out of thegroundbreaking study Tomorrow’s Company: the Role of Business in a ChangingWorld. With a vision of creating “a future for business which makes equalsense to staff, shareholders and society”, it seeks to promote fresh ideasto business leaders and for them to reflect on the role of business in society,not just chase profits.Claims to fame: Influenced the Higgs Review on the role of non-executivedirectors.www.tomorrowscompany.comThe Work Foundation Political persuasion: Independent and worthy.Profile: Formerly the Industrial Society, the revamped 85-year-oldorganisation brands itself as a new kind of organisation – “part researchinstitute, part business consultancy, part advocate”. Its goal remainsconstant: to create a better workplace. As the UK’s most high-profile workplacethink-tank, it has established a reputation as an influential campaigner.Claim to fame: The Work and Enterprise Panel of Enquiry aims toestablish the links between productivity and quality of working life; chiefexecutive Will Hutton is also a regular columnist for Personnel Today.www.theworkfoundation.co.ukTo explore NIRA’s World Directory of think-tanks GO TO www.nira.go.jp Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. center_img Related posts: Features list 2021 – submitting content to Personnel TodayOn this page you will find details of how to submit content to Personnel Today. We do not publish a…last_img

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