Smith, Christopher Ph.D. | École des Ponts Business School

Christopher Smith

Ph.D. , Australia


Professor, École des Ponts Business School

  • Affiliation: University of Adelaide Business School, South Australia/Warwick Business School, UK
  • Module(s): Human Resource Management and Change


  1. Strategy and organization
  2. People (in organizations)
  3. Improving learning outcomes in higher education

In my first career as a psychologist I came to understand the importance of context on the behaviour, emotions and cognitions of human beings. Having failed many times (failure is the best teacher) to achieve anything meaningful with people with the ‘tools’ of management during my time in Corporate HT and as a GM/CEO I went back to university to complete a doctorate in strategy and organization (i.e. people in context). Here I re-learned the very old lesson that ‘there is nothing so practical as a good theory’ (Lewin). And so I learned from practice, failure and studying.

I like the fact that they are sufficiently self-confident to challenge the views I present. We have the classic intellectual thesis-antithesis-synthesis that is at the heart of all new learning – their’s and mine


That as employees and managers they are the most powerful ‘tool’ they have. It is not knowledge or technology that enables people to perform well (or better than others), it is the specific application of that knowledge by the person. Anyone can buy the same shoes, racquet etc. at Roger Federer – but that will not be enough to match him at tennis.

It helps them come to grips with the fact that in most of the static decisions they are going to make in their corporate lives they are going to be wrong and that the key to success is to use this apparent ‘failure’ as feedback to correct their inputs and hence shape their actions towards ones that are ‘right’. Being wrong is not necessarily a sign of incompetence but a sign of taking a risk in situations where the odds of success are not as high as the odds of failure. Learning from error rather than hiding from it is a key characteristic of successful managers and entrepreneurs.