Professor Peter Williamson is Academic Director of the Advanced Leadership Programme at Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and Jesus College, where he is Director of Studies in Management.
Professor Williamson has wide experience in research, consulting and executive education as well as serving as a non-executive director and chairman of both publically listed companies and new ventures in industries as diverse as whisky, textiles, hedge fund management and Chinese software. He has lived and worked in Australia, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, before returning to Britain to join Cambridge Judge Business School.
His research interests include globalisation and its implications for corporate strategy; strategies for success in China and the internationalisation of Chinese companies and their global impact, merger and acquisition strategy and post-merger integration; business ecosystems and the management of networks of strategic alliances; strategies for a carbon-constrained world.
Prior to joining Cambridge Judge Business School, Professor Williamson was ten years with the Asian Business and International Management faculty at INSEAD (1997-2007). Between 2003 and 2007 he was also Visiting Professor in Strategy at the Cheung Kong Business School in Beijing. He was Visiting Professor of Global Strategy at Harvard Business School (1993-1996) and Dean of MBA Programmes and Professor of Strategic and International Management at London Business School (1987-1992).
Formerly with the Boston Consulting Group in London, and Merrill Lynch. He serves on the editorial boards of European Management Journal, Business Strategy Review, and Academy of Management Learning and Education. Peter has acted as consultant on business strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and international expansion to numerous companies, governments and international organisations throughout the Asia-Pacific region as well as in Europe and North America. He has experience in China since 1983, assisting numerous multinationals and joint ventures, and more recently, Chinese companies venturing abroad.
He currently serves as a non-executive director of the global renewal energy firm Green Gas International and non-executive chairman of the technology-enabled training company Imparta.
His awards and honours include Sloan-Pricewaterhouse Coopers Award honouring those articles that have contributed to the enhancement of management practice, 2005; Lloyds Tercentenary Fellow, 2001; Fulbright Scholar, 1980-1984; and Frank R. Knox Memorial Fellow, 1980-1984
Professor Peter Williamson in an interview with Casium
What area of research are you currently working on?
Three main areas: Innovation in Asia, the internationalisation of Chinese companies, and leading business ecosystems made a up networks of diverse partners.
A case study that you think is important. Why?
The BanKO case is important for three reasons. First, it illustrates and analyses how Asian companies are succeeding in business model innovation, especially in unlocking latent demand of the large base of lower-income consumers. Second, it demonstrates that this kind of business model innovation usually depends on attracting and engaging with a diverse set of business partners – it is seldom something one company can do alone, but it is something one company can lead. Third it shows how diversified conglomerates, which are very common in Asia, can leverage complementary capabilities across their different businesses to do something new.
A management book you think highly of (written by someone else). Why?
Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters, by Richard Rumelt, because the process of strategic planning in many companies has become stuck in a straightjacket and is often irrelevant to day to day decisions. This book makes us go back to first principles and ask what makes a strategy good or bad, instead of just going through the motions of planning.
A very recent business or management title you read, and its significant lessons.
The recent article (21st April, 2017) in the Financial Times by Demis Hassabis is co-founder and CEO of DeepMind entitled: “The Mind of the Machine”. The key lessons are that, rather than fearing artificial intelligence (AI) was need to understand and embrace it. If we do AI can help society to not only make business more efficient and innovative, but also help save the environment, cure disease and and better understand ourselves.
What is one of your well-liked teaching moments (case, discussion topic, …)?
I enjoy teaching about strategy for mergers and acquisitions and post-merger integration because although we have some useful frameworks and rules of thumb, no one has all the answers – so I always learn something new working with executives in this area.
What was your most interesting consulting assignment? Why?
There have been many, but one of the assignments that had the most impact on me was way back in 1983 when I was sent to help a British textile company grapple with one of the first foreign joint ventures in China. Everything was so new for both the foreigners and the Chinese, both had a great deal to learn, but there was also enormous potential and underlying goodwill to find a way through all the obstacles. This experience opened the way to what was to become 30 years of research and consulting in China.
If tomorrow you could occupy an executive function in any company, what function and company? Why?
I am non-executive Chairman and Director of a number of companies and while one can add value in these positions your influence is always indirect. If I took an executive position it would be as the Strategy Director because I think there is a great need for good strategy to chart a course in today’s volatile world and getting that right is essential for the long-term success of a company.
Source: Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge website/Casium sources
The Case: Banking the unbanked: http://casium.net/banking-the-unbanked/