Scott Sinclair: Excellence must be the lifeblood of Scotland plc

Scotland has an exceptional talent pool with the skills to tap the new global knowledge economy. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Scotland has an exceptional talent pool with the skills to tap the new global knowledge economy. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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As we enter uncharted territory, businesses must be ready to innovate, argues Scott Sinclair

The “excellence agenda” in Scotland tends to go unheralded. Many believe it is already embedded in our business culture and we don’t have any sound reason to actively promote it. Can we afford to rest on our laurels, though? We are in uncharted territory as the ramifications of Brexit are yet to be fully revealed.

We are a nation content with our offering to the world, but I think we should perhaps take time to reflect. At CeeD – the Centre for Engineering Education & Development – we foster links and partnerships across industry, business and academia and consider ourselves a good barometer for what lies ahead.

Many of the CeeD members I talk to – some of the most illustrious names in Scottish business, engineering and manufacturing, as well as our universities – are cautious of what the future might hold.

When CeeD began life in 2006, we could not have foreseen anything as radical as Brexit. Of course the engineering and manufacturing sectors in particular have never had their problems to seek, but these industries remain stable and have been at the vanguard of spearheading business excellence in Scotland.

Since its creation, CeeD has built out an impressive membership base from these businesses . Our idea – drawn from a project in the US car industry – is intuitively simple. We bring together large companies and their smaller supply chain partners, mix in some world-class academic expertise and combine the collective knowledge to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.

These companies will typically have reached a level in their own maturity where they recognise that no single entity has all the answers and are prepared to look outside the firm for catalysts who can bring a variety of skills and knowledge to the table.

Fundamentally, we want to improve the effectiveness and competitiveness of business and organisations by helping to solve the day-to-day challenges, encouraging them to develop an aptitude for being increasingly forward thinking and enterprising. Business clinics help to engender this ethos that companies can freely share knowledge and improve the operational excellence of a company.

However, for many, there are both real and perceived barriers to growth – for example, to whom do they speak to help them navigate the business to the next level? That is just one of the reasons why we launched The Growth500 initiative.

Growth500 is a business management programme designed to take 500 ambitious Scottish companies on their own growth journey. The programme has been academically validated by the University of West of Scotland.

This was a new and ground-breaking joint venture for the Paisley-based Higher Education Institute and focuses on a series of themes to deliver the very practical information businesses – particularly SMEs – need to develop their own growth plans.

A mantra for businesses and organisations should be “never be too proud to ask for advice”. Others have gone through the pain barrier and witnessed the highs and lows of doing business. The CeeD community continually finds new and practical ways of helping businesses and organisations overcome some of the habits and bad practices that are perhaps limiting current or future effectiveness.

We want “Scotland plc” to have “excellence” running through its veins. To accomplish this, it is absolutely necessary for everyone within an organisation to continue on a journey where we never stop learning and understanding the core concepts of how being smarter, leaner and learning new capabilities makes us skills-rich and competitive.

Scotland has an exceptional talent pool with the skills to tap the new global knowledge economy. Innovation will be even more important in the years ahead and CeeD helps to lay the foundations for this future innovation drive.

• Scott Sinclair is Managing Director of CeeD