34 years at Rolls-Royce

I am Andrew Harrison, my background is 34 years at Rolls-Royce, where I did everything from fundamental research, product design, in-service support of products. The last 20 years of my career were all in the engineering for services world.



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What are the main global challenges for business leaders?

I think the major challenges I see at the moment are changes in the pace of society. If you look at the younger generation, they are much more used to things happening immediately and it is completely different to the pace of changes that were around when I first started my career. As we start to introduce things like artificial intelligence and various other modern technologies, I can’t see that slowing down. 

I guess the other big challenge is that everyone has now had a taste of working in that more remote fashion and I think that is going to have a big long-term effect. Various industries are now struggling about whether they want people back in the office, if so for how many days a week, and do they even want to come in if we want them to come back. So, I think that will take a while to settle and to work out what the new working norm is. 

There are many organisations that I have worked with where if you really start to understand what the value is they bring, quite often it’s in the decision making and knowing when not to do something. Many companies were built around designing, making, and selling something and I think more and more the world is now changing to ‘I don’t want a car, I want the ability to get from A to B’. Lots of people are now getting more used to renting equipment or actually buying the use they get from assets. I think this is going to change the way businesses must think. The majority of my career being with Rolls-Royce, it used to be an engine designer and manufacturer and actually when you look at its current business model it is more about a supplier of understanding and insights.


What skills do graduates need to become good business leaders?

I think the essential skill is to be able to take a step back and take a picture, a university sets out by teaching people to be adaptable because the only thing you can be absolutely sure about is that things will not be the same in 10 years as they are now. They must be big thinkers who are prepared to continuously learn throughout the remainder of their careers.

Why did you want to be a Visiting Professor?

There are lots of things I am looking forward to as a Visiting Professor, the exposure to new thinking and new learning and on the other side is the opportunity to interact with the students. Every time you talk to a student you learn something new. 



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