Working on building sites in my teens I first realised how reductive the project working environment could be. Of course, I would not have used the word reductive maybe “this just doesn’t make any sense”. For I could sense, even at a young age, that the people doing the work felt no connection to any purpose or larger endeavour.

I could have put this down to the construction industry, a much-maligned industry, however as I began my career through the food and pharmaceutical industries I began to realise that much of business and society is hampered by the same reductive thinking which comes with an amnesia of purpose and a huge loss of value. The approaches and attitudes of the last century, which we were all part of, have led us to a point of crisis.

As I studied and researched systems thinking, and psychological understanding and analysed great stories of achievement I found evidence of how shared purpose and joined-up, holistic approaches yield better, maybe exquisite, outcomes on every level; individual, team, company, society, eco-system and planet.

At this point in human history I will argue that we have all the technology or technological development capability we need to solve our problems, what we lack is a scale of vision and connected approaches. Not the reductive visions of companies and governments, but expansive visions and shared purpose that look to deliver value to all society and the planet synchronously.

And not the approaches written in our procedures, workflows and bodies of knowledge; approaches which align to expansive visions and work with the complexities we live in.

As we continue to build and develop the world we inhabit I will argue in this lecture that there is a way to find both treasure and redemption.


Join Professor John Dyson for his inaugural lecture 'In Search of Treasure and Redemption' at the University of Birmingham on 22nd November at 5:30pm in 124 - School of Chemical Engineering (Y11).

Secure your place by filling out the mandatory form, or attend online:

Meeting ID: 876 1663 6350Passcode: 932368

John Dyson, Consultant, Bryden Wood, The Dyson Project, GSK, University of Birmingham

Professor John Dyson spent more than 25 years at GlaxoSmithKline, eventually ending his career as VP, Head of Capital Strategy and Design, where he focussed on developing a long-term strategic approach to asset management.
While there, he engaged Bryden Wood and together they developed the Front End Factory, a collaborative endeavour to explore how to turn purpose and strategy into the right projects – which paved the way for Design to Value. He is committed to the betterment of lives through individual and collective endeavours.
As well as his business and pharmaceutical experience, Dyson is Professor of Human Enterprise at the University of Birmingham, focussing on project management, business strategy and collaboration.
Additionally, he is a qualified counsellor with a private practice and looks to bring the understanding of human behaviour into business and projects.
To learn more about our Design to Value philosophy, read Design to Value: The architecture of holistic design and creative technology by Professor John Dyson, Mark Bryden, Jaimie Johnston MBE and Martin Wood. Available to purchase at RIBA Books.