Autumn Conferrings 2010
Devere Hall, Áras na Mac Léinn, UCC, 10 Sep 2010
Dr Tom McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Management Institute @ 10.00am
Autumn Conferrings 2010
10.00am Friday 10 September 2010
Dr Tom McCarthy, CEO, Irish Management Institute
President, I am honoured to be invited to deliver a Graduation Address at my Alma Mater. Graduates, I am delighted to join with your parents, teachers, family and friends in congratulating you on your achievements and wishing you well in all your future endeavours.
“…we aim to extend our international influence and global reach whilst retaining our regional perspective.”
That is a quotation from the UCC Strategic plan which I first heard President Murphy deliver in his launch of the plan last October. It is a phrase that has been circulating in my mind while I have been thinking about what I would say to you today.
As a student I was never conscious of international influence or global reach. To me it was The College, my passport to career and opportunity. In the decades since graduation I have come to appreciate, without often explicitly acknowledging, this influence and reach. This is why the President’s phrase has resonated so deeply.
So what have I learned of the influence and reach of The College?
It is useful to start with an historical detour.
A visit to any museum or art gallery offers testament to the creative and inventive genius of humankind over the last two millennia. You will observe major strides in the quality and beauty of representative art that was occurring a thousand years ago. You will likely be surprised at the extent of invention - that crankshaft-driven windmills and water turbines, for instances, were products of the Islamic Golden Age around the time of the foundation of this city.
For most of these two thousand years, however, the standard of living was at best stagnant. While there were four times as many people in the 16th century as compared to the 1st the average income per head was pretty much unchanged. Divergences across rich and poor countries were also modest.
The concern, in fact, was that population would increase exponentially with the capacity to produce output unable to keep in step. What occurred was dramatically different.
By 1950 GDP per head in
What was going on?
Two core elements that emerged in the Anglophone world around this time meant that a wave of invention was sustained and did not fizzle out as had occurred elsewhere in earlier centuries.
The first as William Rosen notes in his recent study of steam, industry and invention, was the democratisation of the nature of invention. The essential ingredient came in 17th century
The second was the creation of the factory system, the precursor of the modern corporation, which gave the ability to control and make scalable a production process. This in turn increased the value that an invention could yield.
When the American economist, Bob Solow, sought to explain the dramatic growth rate in the
Useful knowledge doesn’t accumulate by itself but from a deliberate process we call research and development (R&D). The standard of management varies significantly across countries. Therefore improvements in the standard of management also require deliberate action.
All this brings me back to the international influence and global reach of The College.
When I went to study abroad I found that I had been equipped with the essentials of knowledge that allowed me to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone from any college in any country. You BIS graduates have probably already learnt this from your experience during placement. Given that the BIS programme has the largest placement from any European university into the
The stock of inward foreign direct investment (FDI) to
A decade ago, at national level, we initiated a process that sought to put our capacity to create useful knowledge on par with our capacity to transmit such knowledge through teaching. UCC’s disproportionately high success rate in winning competitive bids for funding to do this work has resulted in the outcome that we see this week where The College ranks among the top 2% in the world.
There can be little doubt that UCC has extended its international influence and global reach in the decades since I graduated. Moreover, you graduates are far more aware of your capability and potential.
Today I see the university extending its reach beyond the traditional homes of the Irish diaspora as it looks east. In the late eighteenth century
Challenges remain for you graduates to capitalise on the potential created by The College. Chief among these is the requirement to improve the standard of management, particularly in indigenous enterprise.
I noted above the importance of management standards for driving improvements in national well-being. A recent study by McKinsey and Co found that management standards in
Therefore I will dissent from the eulogy often delivered to newly minted graduates.
I have sat through many conferring ceremonies where the graduates have been told that they will be the leaders of tomorrow. I have always felt that this rung hollow. After all leaders, be they CEOs, University Presidents, Government Ministers, Secretaries General and so forth are, of necessity, but a subset of any cohort.
What I can say with a fair degree of certainty is that you will all be called upon to manage. This will be one of the most demanding, frustrating but ultimately rewarding activities that you will ever undertake. To orchestrate a team of people for the purpose of delivering a result beyond the sum of their abilities is exhilarating. We normally imagine that this is the preserve of high performance teams such as those in sport capable of winning an All-Ireland or a Heineken Cup. It is not confined to this space. During your careers you will be given the opportunity to manage. Set yourselves the ambition of matching the ambition of your Alma Mater by being managers of the first division. In this way you will directly improve the productivity of this country, enhance employment prospects and be at the vanguard of meeting The College’s ambition to deliver on its regional promise.
Thank you for your attention, congratulations again, and I look forward to the improvements in management that I am sure you are capable of delivering.