David Wilkinson (ambiguity expert)
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David John Wilkinson FAHE (born 24 April 1959) is British academic and writer on how people deal with ambiguity and psychological resilience. He is the originator of the modes of leadership concept which correlates ambiguity tolerance, risk aversion, emotional resilience (psychological resilience) and thinking systems, and in 2009 developed the Metus Model and strategy for developing emotional resilience in organizations.
Wilkinson's first degree was in Psychology, obtained from the Open University. During this time he devised a series of experiments on aggression and video games. He then won a place at the University of Oxford where he conducted Masters and Doctoral Studies on the acculturation of police officers, which involved the creation of a new research process-time lapse reparatory grids.Additionally he has an executive coaching qualification from the University of Cambridge.
Wilkinson started his academic career at the University of Oxford as a part-time lecturer. He became a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University in 1996. In 2001 he was made Head of Professional Development at Cranfield University, where he conducted his initial research into leaders' reactions to ambiguity and published his first book in which he first postulated the idea of the modes of leadership. During this time he was worked to develop and deliver training for disaster management and post-terrorist event leadership in several countries through the Cranfield University Resilience Centre. He has taught lecturing skills to fellow lecturers in the UK and abroad, and currently lectures at Oxford University's Medical Sciences Division, Oxford Brookes Business School, Cardiff University, University of York , University of Southampton, University of Reading, University of Liverpool, and Liverpool John Moores University. He is a lead facilitator and exercise director at The National Crisis Leadership Centre in Kent, in the UK.
Research and theories
Modes of leadership
Best known for his work on leaders' reactions to ambiguity, Wilkinson itemized those reactions into four (originally) and later six Modes of Leadership. Each mode is a system of thinking or series of perceptions. Wilkinson considers that the way people think and how they perceive the world alters their relationship with ambiguity, risk and uncertainty. The original 4 modes published in 'The Ambiguity Advantage' are:
- Mode One - Technical thinking and perceptions
- Mode Two - Co-operative thinking and perceptions
- Mode Three - Collaborative thinking and perceptions
- Mode Four - Generative thinking and perceptions
This was a device Wilkinson constructed to explain the relationship between ambiguity, risk, vagueness, uncertainty and chaos. Additionally it describes how leaders' reactions and perceptions create different outcomes in different situations. Wilkinson also uses it to explain the perceptual connections between certainty and chaos and what he calls the 'Paradox of Certainty' and the 'Paradox of Chaos'.
Metus model and strategy
Developed largely on the back of his work with Emotional Resilience, Wilkinson's Metus (fear of change) Model & Strategy(2009) explains what happens in organisations during change events, how the fear of change develops and describes a strategy for increasing emotional resilience in organisations and getting organisational populations to engage with change. This is now popularly known as the "Fear to Flow model".
The Ambiguity Chess Game
Wilkinson developed a form of chess to teach his students the effects of ambiguity and show them how to solve problems in ambiguous times. This has since become known as the Ambiguity Chess Game and is now used in university business schools[which?] in several countries.
Wilkinson lectures at the University of Oxford's Medical Sciences Division, The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development at Oxford Brookes University, Cardiff University, and the University of Liverpool.
Wilkinson's current writing and research is focused on agile leadership, leadership development, organizational change, leaders' reactions to ambiguity, uncertainty and risk, ambiguity tolerance, and emotional resilience.
He gave the keynote speech at the 2011 ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) conference at NPIA NPIA (National Police Improvement Agency) Ryton-on-Dunsmore, entitled "When in doubt, fool yourself you are getting better". He also presented sessions to the annual ACPO conference on decision making and ambiguity in 2012, 2014 and 2016. In 2016 he gave a keynote presentation at the British Academy entitled "Agile Leadership as Next Generation Management Paradigm".
He was a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). In 2015 Wilkinson founded and became Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Review, which he set up to close the gap between academic research and practitioner knowledge in the areas of leadership, management, organisational development, change and transition, human resources and human resource management, organisational learning, decision-making and work psychology.
- Grint, K. (2007) "Learning to Lead: Can Aristotle Help Us Find the Road to Wisdom?" Leadership.2007; 3: 231-246
- Wilkinson, D.J. (2007) Leaders cause more problems than they solve." Chapter in "Air Force Leadership: Changing Culture." Pages 137 - 147. RAF Leadership Centre. ISBN 978-0-9552189-5-8
- Wilkinson, D.J. (2009) Emotional Resilience - what it is and what it isn't. Web Article
- Wilkinson, D.J. (2009) Emotional Resilience, emotional maturity and the dog with one spot. Web Article
- Citation Index for The Ambiguity Advantage
- Centre I's official website
- The Fear Course website
- Discussion & Interview by Dr. John Chapman School of Management, Cranfield University[permanent dead link]
- Review Templeton College, University of Oxford[permanent dead link]
- Synopsis of reviews
- Cranfield University Review
- Reviews at Good Reads
- The Oxford Review