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 Stephen Hickman

Stephen Hickman

Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies, and Programme Director Business School, Cornwall


+44 (0) 1392 722126

Science and Engineering Research Support Facility (SERSF):, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK

Stephen Hickman is an educationalist with over two decades of senior management experience in; marketing, distribution, inventory management and then, prior to moving into academia  a long term secondment to a European IT project. After several years with the University of Greenwich (2000-2007), a subsequent role as HE Manager with Cornwall College, Stephen joined the University of Exeter Business School as interim Director for the Exeter MBA. In 2009 he led the transition to the new One Planet MBA, a collaboration with WWF, before in 2011 directing a curriculum change initiative to embed sustainability in the MSc International Management. In June 2012 Stephen’s article ‘A new trajectory for management education’ was published in The European Financial Review. In 2013 he co-authored a chapter for the ‘Collaboratory’ a book comprising ideas which originated in RIO+20 UN 2012 from conference conversations about societal transformation. In 2014 Stephen took on a new role at Exeter: leading Business School activity in Cornwall. He is now based at the University of Exeter, Penryn campus where he is Programme Director for BSc Business which successfully recruited its first cohort in September 2015.


MBA, DMS, PG Dip HE, PG Cert e-Learning

Research clusters

Research interests

  • Ethnography (using photographic narrative)
  • Participant observation
  • Micro-business operations and strategy
  • Logistics
  • Coastal zone management

Through his teaching and research, Stephen has become acquainted with a range of literature from the domains of: Operations Management, Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Adopting a ‘value chain approach’ in his own qualitative logistics research project, while reacquainting himself with the notion of ‘routines’ for implementing innovation (Tidd 2007), he developed a ‘network perspective’ as a focus for a longitudinal field study begun in 2006. Adopting an ethnographic approach, he began to investigate the notion of cooperation and sustainability in micro-business networks. He now intends to return to the literature, to connect certain common interest ideas emanating from his study of this relatively small group of businesses about; interdependency, confidence and operating autonomy. The intention is to connect these common interest characteristics with ‘group exclusivity’ and ‘collective action’ (Olson 1971) as a proposition for studying organisational leadership, sustainability and change.

More recently, because of personal interests, and a change of academic work context, Stephen’s learning and research intent has increasingly overlapped with ‘environmental technological management’ matters. This is taking him beyond the more conventional business disciplines, integrating such concepts as ‘Natural Capitalism’ (Hawken 1996) with relevant operations management and logistics literature.

Research projects

  • The Presidium adventure: A participatory comparative study of low-tech industries operating in micro-business networks. The aim of this project is to contrast two separate networks of micro-businesses, who operate in the UK shellfish industry. The first, a network of independent fishermen who search and gather shell fish (cockles) using highly mechanised dredgers operate in the Thames Estuary. The second group, again independent operators dredge for shellfish (oysters), by hand, under sail in the Fal Estuary in Cornwall.

External positions

  • External Examiner, University of Westminster
  • Chartered Member, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport
  • Member, Marine Conservation Society

Stephen’s home domain is Operations Management and Strategy. Amongst the more critical and interesting areas that he has come to explore are; integration of systems people and process, the impact of change, ongoing improvement, technological innovation and collaboration that leads to action. It is these themes, together with significantly the most critical and relevant – sustainability – which distinguish his teaching.