Research update

December 2015

An exciting future for research

The new Research Institute aims to produce high calibre, ground-breaking research that directly informs management practice at both the individual and organisational level. 

Over the coming year, we will be developing research projects across campuses around our four key themes – leadership and change, innovation and digital disruption, sustainability and pedagogy.


Our priority for the year ahead is to use that research to help build the undergraduate, post-graduate and Ashridge executive education brand and to meet the needs of three key audiences:


High quality, in-depth, academic research is a vital part of our drive to obtain joint accreditation from EQUIS (an international accreditation body) and AACSB (the US accreditation body).  These accreditations are key in helping students and potential clients decide whether to study and work with us.

Executive education clients:  

Our research is grounded in the everyday realities faced by leaders on the front line.  The findings and insights are fed into our open and custom programmes and used to inform the design of new learning interventions. We help clients understand the practical implications of our research and explore how they can use it to improve performance at both an individual and organisational level.

Undergraduate and post-graduate students: 

Research helps us keep our qualification programmes at the cutting edge. Students benefit from innovative teaching practices, informed by our research into how to make learning effective and sustainable.  They also have access to the latest thinking about management practice, which will underpin their development as leaders of the future.

The new Research Institute will work with experts from across Ashridge and Hult to develop research projects that help leaders respond to fast-changing and ever more complex environments.  Our key themes for the year ahead will be:

  • Leadership and change (Ashridge and London):  Already in the pipeline are projects designed to help leaders develop individual and team resilience and to explore how they can use mindfulness to improve their management practice.
  • Innovation and digital disruption (San Francisco):  Work done by Hult faculty member John Beck on use of a video game to teach strategy to MBA students has already attracted widespread media attention
  • Sustainability (Ashridge and Boston)  We have recently done research in conjunction with the Ethical Trading Initiative to get a snapshot of company perceptions and current responses to modern slavery.
  • Pedagogy (Ashridge)  We are currently piloting a mobile phone app designed to help ensure learning is transferred into the workplace.  We are also applying to host an Academy of Management Conference on *REBECCA TO ADVISE*

You can find details of all our current research projects here.

If you would like to find out more and get involved in future projects, email

How we work

The Research Institute is currently made up of six research centres, specialising in areas ranging from leadership and strategy to sustainability and coaching.  Olaf Groth, in San Francisco, is currently working with Vicki Culpin, Global Dean of Research, to set up a seventh centre, specialising in digital innovation.  We hope this centre will be launched in January 2016.

Research activity in the Institute happens in a number of ways:

  • Faculty and researchers conduct internally sponsored research, driven by our four themes, and sponsored by one or more of the six (and soon to be seven) centre directors.
  • We conduct research in partnership with organisations where there may be a cost-sharing relationship, or where the client pays for a bespoke piece of research.

The Ashridge Leadership Centre (ALC) is an academic research unit which acts as a catalyst for creative thinking, dialogue, research and writing about leadership.  Led by Kerrie Fleming, the aim of the centre is to generate new insights and thinking about leadership, through practical and applied research, that will benefit leaders today and in the future.

Matt Gitsham heads up the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability (ACBAS), which conducts research into the implications of sustainable development for leadership, strategy and change. The centre works in partnership with leading companies and networks to understand how organisations are changing in response to issues of sustainability.

The  Ashridge Strategic Management Centre (ASMC) is a widely recognised authority on strategic management issues within large companies.  It produces break-through insights with a particular focus on how corporate and divisional leaders in a multi-business company can add value to the businesses in their portfolio. Director Felix Barber leads the team, all of whom have held senior positions with top strategy consultancies such as McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group.

The Ashridge Centre for Coaching (ACC) is an internationally recognised centre of excellence in the field of executive coaching. Under the leadership of Erik de Haan, it conducts research into coaching outcomes and practice, which in turn feed into the Ashridge Masters and Post-graduate Certificate in coaching.

The Centre for Research in Executive Education (CRED), led by Patricia Hind and Lee Waller, explores the cognitive, behavioural and neurological processes involved in adult learning. It conducts research into the individual and group experience of the classroom, the transferability of learning to the workplace, and the development of an organisational culture that supports learning.

The work of the Ashridge Centre for Action Research (ACAR), led by Gill Coleman, is grounded in the principle that the best way to understand a situation is to participate in it. It aims to help action learning practitioners draw out knowledge, create a better understanding of the situation or problem being studied and in the process, change it for the better.

The new centre, on digital disruption, will be led by Olaf Groth, and will be the first centre based outside of Ashridge. Olaf will be building a centre, based in the San Francisco Bay area, and hopes to attract significant interest from academics and practitioners working in the field of digital disruption and innovation.

Each of our team of experienced, professional researchers is broadly aligned to one of these centres.  The specialist areas covered by our 11-strong team, range from developmental psychology to women in leadership and the role of virtual learning in education.

We also conduct research which has been specially commissioned by clients to give them an insight into their own organisational or sector issues.  Recent projects have included work with the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) on ageism in the workforce and with the CIPD Police Forum on strategic human resource management.

The Research Institute’s work is overseen by a Research Committee which guides the development of the research strategy, considers applications for funding for research projects and oversees progress on projects.  

There is also a Research Ethics Committee, which is responsible for ensuring all research undertaken is conducted in an ethically sound manner. Its remit covers research being conducted by researchers and faculty, as well as by associates and students. More information about these committees will become available soon.

To find out more about how research is planned and managed, please contact Emma Bradbury or Rebecca Coatswith

You can see details of all our current research projects here.

Meet the team

Each issue of the newsletter will introduce a member of the research team, to help you put faces to names and develop your knowledge of what people do.  In this first issue, we put the spotlight on Global Director of Research Vicki Culpin

Get Involved

We are actively looking to get faculty and staff from across Ashridge and Hult engaged and involved in the work we do. You can attend one of our monthly learning bites, sign up to attend or submit a paper for one of our research conferences or put a research project forward for funding.

Learning Bites

Our monthly learning bites are designed to help us share knowledge and insights from our research across the organisation. They are open to all Ashridge and Hult staff.

The next session (Tuesday 12 January, 13:00 – 14:00 GMT, Ashridge, U.K.) will provide an update on the Learning App currently being piloted at Ashridge. More information will follow on how to watch or attend.

Future learning bites will look at topics ranging from leadership legacy and modern slavery to mindfulness and baby boomers. You can see the full schedule here.


Our research centres hold a regular programme of conferences throughout the year.  You can either sign up to attend, submit a paper or offer to review submissions put forward by others.

A conference on ‘Action Learning in Challenging Times’ will take place at Ashridge from 21 – 23 March.  Contributions, in the form of academic papers or practitioner accounts, are currently being invited on a range of themes from creating sustainable futures to fostering creativity and innovation.  See the conference web page for full details.

The Fourth Relational Coaching Conference, scheduled for 13 June, will explore the topic of leadership hubris.

Global disruption, organisational innovation’ is the theme of the fifth Ashridge International Research conference on 3 July.

Later in July (12 – 14) we have the 8th Developing Leadership Capacity conference, on the theme of ‘building leadership capacity for the next global challenge’.

You can find full details of all forthcoming conferences on our events page.

Weekly research meeting

Another great way to keep in touch is to join our ‘making research everyone’s business’ weekly meeting, held every Friday, 08:00 – 09:00 (GMT) at Ashridge.  For more details contact Rebecca Coatswith

Submit a Research Project

We welcome submissions for research projects that fit within our four key themes.  For an informal discussion contact Vicki Culpin or Emma Bradbury or the appropriate research centre director (see story above).  You can also find details of how to apply for funding here.