Light Bulb Moment: Lesley-Anne Alexander on drawing from the strengths of others

A key insight from the working life of the chief executive of the sight-loss charity the RNIB

Lesley-Anne Alexander
Lesley-Anne Alexander

I lived through the Thatcher years of "private is good, public is bad" and, sadly, I began to believe all that. In the early 1990s, when I was working for a local authority, I blagged my way onto an MSc course in operations management. There was a mix of people on the course from different backgrounds in the private and public sectors, and I realised that we did some things at the local authority in a better way than the private sector did them.

My defining moment was to realise that to be the best you have to pick the best from each sector. It is important to find out what you or your organisation is good at and promote that, while also acknowledging what others are good at and drawing from those.

Since then I've never been scared to find business models and examples of good practice from all sources to benefit my organisation. It could be from the NHS or from private business. For example, when we opened our flagship office in Cardiff, we wanted to create the most welcoming environment possible, so we sought the advice of the retailer John Lewis for the design.

We ran a warehouse but struggled with stock levels and orders, so we outsourced it. The service still feels like the RNIB, but we do not deliver it and it's more efficient. We've also advised Microsoft and Apple about how people with sight loss use computers.

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