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You learn far more from failure

You learn far more from failure

Time to Read: 2 minutes 30 seconds

You learn far more from failure

This month, Clive Barrett, speaks with Professor Mark Durkin, Dean at Ulster University Business School:

IF passion, knowledge and determination to succeed are the benchmark for business success it is no wonder Professor Mark Durkin has scaled the heights.

While bridging the gap between education and business has always been at the forefront of his mind during his time at Ulster University Business School, now, as Executive Dean, he is continually pushing the boundaries to ensure the organisation’s performance rating improves.

Empowerment is a key word for Mark and the phrase ‘He Who Dares, Wins’ might accurately describe his mindset while raising standards in teachers and students.

There are never hurdles, only challenges that can be overcome or opportunities to be realised.

One of the ways Mark has tackled the task of giving the students the best chance of going on to become shining stars in business is to empower the 150-strong team of educators and professional support staff he leads.

He explains: “We pride ourselves on being an entrepreneurial school. We promote a leadership style that connects to the hearts and minds of the people.

“To do that requires changes in the system so that we as educators become more contemporary, modern, more agile. That involves giving staff a different direction of travel to make sure they understand what is expected, empowering them and giving them the opportunity, encouraging them to take risks in trying to achieve a balance between risk and opportunity.

“You learn far more from failure than success and if we are going to fail, we need to do it quickly so we can make the improvements. We want to promote creating opportunities, being brave in our decisions, and risk taking.”
The figures speak for themselves and the school’s student satisfaction performance has gone up 4% to 89% in the National Student Survey this year. The average is 83%.

For Mark, there remains a paradoxical issue surrounding the area of the skills required by employers. For him, it is not so much about the ‘how to’, more about the ‘why to’ – a broader and more informed perspective is, in his view, the key to long-term success.

He explains: “I want students to be action-orientated but in an informed way, so they can translate thinking into action. All action with no thought is entirely ineffective and a waste of resource.

”Evidence thus far is that there is an increasing gap between the capabilities of new technology and the capabilities of the employees to extract commercial value from that new technology.

“As change becomes more pervasive and consumers are increasingly empowered, employees in large and small enterprises must recognise and respond to that power shift.

“The issue isn’t one of skills, but rather of ‘informed perspective.

“Skills are what employers tend to focus on most dominantly and skills are defined as “the ability to do something well” – from an employer perspective this usually comes about from having identified a gap/problem in their firm – they need a problem solved – and experience in the workplace helps make that happen more easily.”

Delivering excellence for his students, to give them the best, is so important and Mark adds: “Education brings a new way of thinking, problem-solving, opportunity-creating and is not job or context-specific – it is general. A graduate of science, engineering, business, arts should all be equally able to add value in thinking, problem-solving and opportunity-creation.”

Mark’s background in financial services marketing means his students are receiving outstanding theory backed up by practical experience and know-how.

Encouraging them to take action, in true Naked Leader style.

They are fortunate to have the benefit of his insight as they strive to keep the entrepreneurial talent pool well filled.

David adds – “Naked Leader value our academic partnership with Ulster University Business School, and I value the many years that Mark has been a close friend, that we have worked together and how often we have helped each other get back up again!”

Thank you Mark and Clive. If you have any recommendations or suggestions for future Leader Features please email

With my love and best wishes to you all



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