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4 Key Ingredients for Success

4 Key Ingredients for Success

Does your organisation have the right ingredients for success? Primavera Quantrill writes about our recent 1698 Club Dinner.

On 18 January, 30 friends and members of SPCK sat down to dinner at Jesus College Cambridge where the guest speaker, Sir Andreas Whittam Smith, founder of The Independent, spoke on what makes a successful organisation. The dinner was the highlight of an evening that started in the ancient college library where under the expert guidance of the Fellow Librarian, Professor Stephen Heath, SPCK’s guests were shown some of its many treasures, unavailable to the public.

Guests were greeted with ancient books and manuscripts, including a copy of the first published New Testament in Greek, in an edition of the text prepared by Erasmus, a work of great historical significance that was owned by Thomas Cranmer. Afternoon tea was served as a prelude to Evensong, celebrated in traditional style by the men and boys of the Chapel Choir. Jesus College chapel is the oldest University building in Cambridge still in use, and predates the foundation of the College by 350 years and of the University by half a century.

During a drinks reception, Sam Richardson, SPCK’s CEO (and himself a Jesus alumnus) and Primavera Quantrill, SPCK’s Partnerships Director (a Newham alumna), alongside Bishop John Pritchard, SPCK’s Chair of Trustees, presented SPCK’s vision of a world where everyone can be transformed by Christian knowledge. Dinner was served in the medieval Prioress’s Room, an architectural testimony to the college’s original foundation as a convent. Sir Andreas Whittam Smith, founder of The Independent and, until recently, First Church Estates Commissioner, spoke after dinner, exploring the topic What Makes a Successful Organisation?

Sir Andreas identified four key features of successful organisations. Firstly, unity of purpose, that everyone from the Chair to the receptionist knows why they’re there and can articulate it. Secondly, facing up to reality as while business must be conducted from an optimistic standpoint, organisations should always be aware of threats, which always appear slowly, not as sudden cataclysms. Thirdly, that training for everyone should be part of the warp and weft of any organisation and lastly, but maybe most importantly, innovation. Organisations that don’t innovate eventually die, but for innovation to happen, the organisational structures must be porous. Good ideas bubble up from the bottom, especially from younger staff members. Successful organisations have mechanisms for allowing those ideas to be articulated and become reality.

After a thought-provoking address, guests lingered over coffee and then, pondering this advice and how it could apply to organisations in which they were involved, departed with goody bags containing SPCK books, pens, sweet treats and other items. SPCK’s guests visited the college at the invitation of the Dean of Chapel, The Revd Dr Paul Dominiak, himself a long-time SPCK supporter.

SPCK, The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, is the UK’s oldest Anglican mission agency and largest independent Christian publisher. SPCK’s mission is to lead the way in creating books and resources which help everyone to make sense of faith.


Words by Primavera Quantrill