James Brown


Diploma in Strategy and Innovation


United Kingdom





By James Brown

The not so secret ingredient

It’s 07:30 on a crisp February Wednesday. The sun is rising across the Cotswolds, accentuating the mystical aura of the mist shrouding the English countryside; as I watch the farmland and picturesque village churches pass me by as my train makes its way towards Oxford, I can’t help but think about the many routes of pilgrimage that philosophers, scientists, mathematicians and politicians have made over the last 900 years to advance their learning at the world’s oldest university, the University of Oxford.

To be fair, I’m not thinking about that for too long as I am spending most of my time re-reading the case studies to be discussed on Day 1 of the Diploma in Strategy & Innovation at Saïd Business School. It doesn’t take long to realise that ‘history’ is going to play a major role over the coming year; whether that be analysing an organisation’s history when constructing strategic decisions for its future, or recognising that by choosing to study at the University of Oxford, I am now, in a very small way, responsible for preserving the foundations of Oxford’s success.

Whilst I have held a desire to study at Oxford since a young age, it is the ambitions I have for my future that made this course a necessity; self-development, company evolution and value-creation for clients. The opportunities for progression in these areas are at risk of being overwhelmed by the rapid pace of technological advancement and change in consumer and employee expectations being driven by the digital revolution. For me, to deliver on all fronts requires the establishment of a platform from which I can globalise my on-going education, rather than just learning how to use a certain framework in a specific situation that is only relevant to an issue you are currently facing.

As I reflect upon the ingredients of Module 1 and how they have set the scene for the course, it sinks in just how invaluable the forthcoming educational experience will be in supporting my objectives. Not only is it the method of teaching that invigorates you to succeed, but also the approach to empowering self-learning and promoting collaborative discussion through the depth and breadth of resources available:
– the Bodleian Library,
– the availability of academics for cross-discipline discussion,
– the programme of lectures from successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, and
– the global Alumni network.

It has only taken four days, but I am aware that my way of thinking has already altered. I have seen opportunities for innovation, maybe even disruption, in industries I had previously given less than a moment’s thought. This would not have been possible, at least not so quickly, without the course’s not so secret ingredient; the breadth of experience, opinion and cultures of my cohort peers. 68 of us, made up of over 30 different nationalities all gathered in a single room, all with the shared goal of pushing the boundaries of our individual understanding of what constitutes strategy.

There is no doubt that the next year is going to be a challenge, but the nature and context of that challenge is intoxicating. So much so, I already have my ticket for the 07:12 to Oxford on Wednesday 19th April.

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