The focus of this study is leadership learning in small business organisations using immersive technologies. Taking the established Lead2Grow (L2G) model of leadership development (Hutchinson, 2016) and the research underway in Future Screens NI, this PhD study will investigate the impact of an immersive learning experience in improving the leadership capability of small business leaders. The Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world of business has led to a growing recognition of, and need for specific leadership skills to help navigate challenging contexts and changing environments, sometimes imminent and sometimes unexpectant (Powley and Taylor, 2014).
For small business leaders who operate with more limited resources and a higher propensity of risk, crisis induced change brings significant new and unchartered territory. While large businesses may be able to survive for short periods without effective leadership in place, the opposite is true for small businesses (Perry, 2001; Beaver, 2003). We are entering the fourth industrial revolution, and recent research points to the irrelevance of current leadership development tools, strategies and techniques (Kelly, 2019).
To date programmes have focused primarily on training the “fish” (the individual leader), but neglecting the “pond” (the company context) in which the fish swims, and “scripted leadership” training produces cognitive dependency, and a continuing inability to function outside of boxed matrices. Future leaders need to focus on developing a cognitive mindset that relates to a digital world informed by sensemaking, data-ism, collective intuition, and multiple intelligences (Kelly, 2019). The advancement of immersive technologies and learning potential with regard to leadership is at a very early stage of development.
Research by Kelly (2019) reported on the development of a virtual game where participants placed in a volatile environment are left to figure out various tasks and challenges. This study found the revisiting of decisions and peer feedback led to changed thinking and behaviours by leaders.
While in its infancy, this research forms the basis for adapting the current L2G model to incorporate an immersive learning experience for small business leaders. Specifically, the study seeks to:
1.Identify the leadership skills and behaviours required to deal with the tactical and human aspects of challenging contexts and changing environments for small business entrepreneurs
2.Design an immersive technology learning environment for small business leaders that simulates a variety of crisis induced change assignments
3.Develop a new L2G programme that monitors leader responsiveness to crisis/change through immersive learning experiences and feedback
Immersive technologies are used in many domains to supplement and enhance education and training, health treatment, and business processes. Recent technology innovations mean that XR, along with Artificial Intelligence (AI) are set to transform situated and practice-based learning in the workplace. Considering the focus on developing the capability to lead in challenging contexts and changing environments, Flow Theory will be adopted to intelligently adapt tasks and personalise interactive stories to aid the learning of individual small business leaders.
- To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
- A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
- Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project
- A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship
If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.
- Masters at 65%
- Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:
Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)
Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,500 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)
Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,750 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)
Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Department for the Economy (DFE)
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,500 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies