The Challenge Network

   go back   

The Challenge Network

The Challenge Network

The Challenge Network is a loose international partnership of expert individuals, most of whom have occupied senior planning or management roles in commerce and the public sector. We take on projects that organisations or interests find it hard to structure for themselves.

Our existing partnership program is as follows. Please click on the logo to access their web site or make contact with them.

South America
Asia
Mexico

We are always looking for affiliates and for people who are interested in marketing our services, either as a free-standing activity or as a facility within whatever it is that your organisations does. For example, we are often used by training organisations to set the tone of an event and to widen the debate. Please make contact with us if this is something which you would wish to develop.

How the Challenge Network can help you.
Training programs.
Participant organisations
Client views on the Challenge Network.
Terms of use, disclaimer, privacy policy, third part publications.

Organisations face two kinds of problem. There are issues such as cost management, where the problem is plain and the solutions straightforward, if hard work. Equally, there are intractable and painful issues where the problem is largely undefined, and in which finding the nature of the question is often as important as seeking its answer. The Challenge Network deals chiefly with the second set of issues. We help organisations to articulate issues with which they have yet to come to grips. We give insight into the forces that are generating change, and we help to adapt and innovate in response to these.

Much of the information that is published on this site is somewhat generic, applying to all nations, organisations or firms. Real value comes when expert insight in these areas is turned onto the specific: on the business idea, on local conditions, onto genuine policy handles. The lesson of the dot.coms (and previous investment bubbles) is that one has to see how the clockwork actually turns so as to deliver sustainable value to the investor. The lesson of policy fads - such as marketisation or deregulation - is that one has to know where they work and why they work, and what is needed to keep the real machinery in play. Grand-sounding buzzwords - sustainability, governance - need to be assessed for what they truly mean to a given issue or circumstance, and trimmed down until the become useful tools.

The Challenge Network brings decades of insight to these issues. Clients know their own area of activity well, but they have often found it hard to synthesize their insight into something which generates action, or harder still to link this insight with the changing world in which they operate. The Challenge Network specialises in delivering such focused interventions.

The Challenge Network use this web site to report its findings, which it does pro bono. Legal issues connected with the use of this information are discussed below. We ask you to read this section before making any practical use of any of this material.

Director:

Oliver Sparrow

Click here for more details

Training programs

Training programs

Strategic and scenario planning

We offer a one or two day master class on strategic planning. The modules are available as PDF documents, as shown below. Please click on the Module name to access the PDF. You may use these as you see fit, provided that you acknowledge the source. We do not, however, circulate the underlying Powerpoint modules.

The course consists of six modules, interspersed with course work. This assumes a dominant role in the two day version of this master class, and is much reduced for the one day course.

Technology management and innovation

We offer a one or two day class on strategic technology management. The optional first day (not covered here) addresses technology road mapping. The modules are available as PDF documents, as shown below. Please click on the Module name to access the PDF. You may use these as you see fit, provided that you acknowledge the source. We do not, however, circulate the underlying Powerpoint modules. These PDF files vary from around 0.6 to 4.3 megabytes in size.

The course consists of four modules, interspersed with course work.

This course can be combined with the introductory course and / or with the two day course on strategic planning and the use of scenarios.

What our clients say about us, unedited:

What our clients say about us, unedited:

"I could have happily listened to your presentation all day. But you made us work, and my goodness it really hits me how our ideas had changed in half a day!

"That was completely stellar. You just stunned them, and made the whole conference into a success. The speaker who said 'Follow that...' was doing no more than acknowledge the rest of us thought - that anything more was going to sound lackluster.

"When I told my colleagues that you were coming to India they just thought that I was wasting money. But now they are all onside and we are all very, very happy with what you did for us in a week.

"Many thanks indeed for contributing to [...] Our participants were, as ever, overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of your scenarios. The presentation was both very stimulating and thought provoking in relation to the challenges facing higher education."

"Many thanks for your masterful presentation and insights. A member told me later that she was simply stunned into silence when you concluded. It was just that deep and strong and we are most grateful to you for helping us achieve the goals of the meeting in this way."

"Weird, wonky, wonderful and werry werry useful. Just amazing that you got us so far - and nobody lost their temper. Harry Potter for real."

"I never expected it to get anywhere, and that it got to where it did is quite astounding. We are not the same organisation now."

"It is happy for me to say without evasion that you did the greatest thing for us. We had it all there, but you made us see how it was all together in one. Now we are great to go forward."

"However prepared our people, without the Challenge people we would still be fighting."

"Sometimes frustrating, frequently challenging, ultimately always useful."

"The Network provides an opportunity to look at issues well beyond the normal day-to-day working remit. It certainly speeds up the search for models of thinking and ways of looking at the world."

"The Network has helped us to discount the flashy headline distractions. It focuses us on the big structures. We get to sense the Next Big Thing, but we can also cut today's 'Big Thing' down to size."

"You feel that someone is watching all the rest of the horizon while you focus on your one little bit of it."

"We extend our greatest thanks to our Challenge Network friends. Before we could not speak with our new partner and now we are biggest friends. You are like wedding makers."

"The scenarios provide a very useful prompt for thinking about the future. We have gained insights that have contributed to our strategies."

"By working with other participants from a wide range of participants, our views of the forces underlying society have become more resilient."

"Goodness knows I have changed. Just being a part of it has changed me."

"It is really helpful to have an established external organisation that we can point to. We challenge anything 'invented here' and analyse things to death. The Forum summarises it all effectively and we can use it as an external reference without arguing."

"I didn't know you could work like this. It has given me confidence to try out techniques and ideas that are rather foreign to our concerns."

"The trouble with the Network is that it will never go quite where you expect it to. I promise things internally and then what they deliver upsets all that because it is different from what we had thought at first."

"The State of ------ is extremely grateful for the support of the Challenge Network during the peace negotiations. Without your reframing of the issues we believe that the fruitful dialogue that we developed with ----- could not have gone forward. We sincerely are saying that it has saved many of our lives for you to have been with us for these months."

"Our words with government had got so hard that if you were not standing between us, I do not like to imagine what would have happened. Like the advert, you talked us to happy, what more can I say?"

"That old way of thinking just now seems so pathetically inadequate. I cannot think how we were so loud mouthed about ourselves when we were saying such ill-considered things. It is really embarrassing to say how much you got us to think about simple, obvious things which we had not noticed. We should have damned well done it for ourselves a long time ago!"

Client organisations:

Client organisations:

Organisations which have called in the services of the Challenge Network usually seek confidentiality. It is not possible, therefore, to supply a list of clients. However, we have had perhaps half of the major governments in the world as clients at one stage or another, and a very wide range of predominantly European multinational companies. The practice in Britain is even more thoroughly exposed to major companies and departments of state.

We focus less on what some consultants call "verticals" as we do on process. Verticals are industry sectors, such as car manufacturing. Our view is that while there is a huge amount of specialist work to be done in the car industry - to take but one example - the issue of communicating change, enabling innovation or generating management teams that are more than the sum of their parts has very little that is specifically "automotive" about it. We therefore focus on helping large and complex organisations to make their equally tangled issues tractable to them. We focus on identifying the structural aspects of change, and finding the 'handles' that allow the organisation of address these. Typically, organisations may then find that the goals which they had previously endorsed seem abstract, hard to operationalise and sometimes irrelevant to what has been found. They return, therefore, to these issues with a fresh eye. They begin to rethink them, now acting usually as a team, now with dialogue across the organisation, usually with an eye to how they can test whether people have heard what has been said, know how to act upon this and are motivated to do so.

many people contribute to the open scenario process which we run roughly every two years. They can do so anonymously or by asking to have their work published under their own name. Plainly, we do not publish everything which is sent to us, and we digest and in other ways edit much of the material. This said, avid contributors have been known to come into the core team, which meets regularly in order to produce the final scenarios.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

You are welcome to use this information, but we ask you to acknowledge the source. In using information from this site, however, you agree to hold the Challenge Network blameless for any consequences of your doing so, and you agree that in no event will the Challenge Network be liable for any direct, consequential, incidental, or special damage or loss of any kind (including without limitation loss of profits, loss of contracts, business interruptions, loss of or corruption to data) however caused and whether arising under contract, tort, including negligence, or otherwise.

The view which is expressed on this web site is personal - where an author is cited - or represents a balance of opinion amongst members of the Challenge Network. It is not legitimate or accurate to attribute any view which is expressed here to any of our former or extant clients, whether they be named of not. We provide this synthesis entirely as a public service and we reserve the right to withdraw aspects of this site as we see fit.

Privacy

We do not collect the identities of those who use this site, and we do not allow others to do so. If you wish to contact us, your communications will be treated with absolute confidentiality. Contact details are given in the main menu, under 'utilities'.

Submitting papers

We accept third party texts for publication, provided they are brief, interesting and supplied free of copyright. If you wish to publish a paper on this site, either under your name or without attribution, then please make contact with us.

We do not guarantee to publish any such paper and we will exercise editorial powers over it if we do agree to publish it. We do not publish party political, abusive or idiosyncratic texts that advocate specialist interests, and our readership is not interested in religious or other proselytism. To save everybody's time, therefore, please submit only those texts which are both original, pithy and which closely match the overall tone of the site.

 to the top