Archive for April, 2008

Spaces between . . . . . . .

Tuesday,29 April, 2008

Places are made as much by spaces between buildings, as they are made by the buildings themselves.

And the world of buildings has a parallel with the world of organisations and work disciplines.

The focus used to be on organisations, or work disciplines.

But over time, and with the benefit of new technology, most advances possible within organisations or within disciplines have already been achieved.

The future now lies in the spaces between organisations or disciplines. For example:

  • nano-technology is where physics, biology and chemistry meet;
  • sustainable regeneration is only possible if social, economic, environmental, and cultural issues are all advanced.

No one organisation can achieve the complexity required to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

And therefore we must all become more adept at managing the spaces between, if we are to succeed.

This means, in practice:

  • enhanced partnership working within organisations, working between disciplines;

so as to build the skills and culture that will be needed:

  • to create the strong, lasting partnerships between organisations and ever more work disciplines, and across private, public and voluntary sectors.

[The photograph above is the space between two buildings in Nara, Japan. While only a few feet wide, the space is interesting and inviting in its own right – even though its ‘function’ is just to provide somewhere to wait while a table comes free in the adjacent Tea Room.]


Surprises can be good!

Tuesday,29 April, 2008

Looking at things from a different angle can be interesting.

And it can be fun as well!

Can Adults be Adults?

Sunday,27 April, 2008

In a supermarket in Hull I found a clear plastic sticky label stuck to the inside of a shoe.

The label read, in several languages, “Do not eat”.

There was nothing to say whether the exhortation “Do not eat” applied to the label, or to the shoe, or to everything in general including food.

Is it not reasonable to assume that, if we can understand what was meant by the label, we would not need it?

How much of the earth’s scarce resources are we now consuming because we are treating adults as if they were children?

In Ireland, vacant buildings carry a sign to say that they are dangerous, and that anyone entering does so without any legal redress against the owner. Reference is made to an Act of Parliament under which such a Notice can be displayed – presumably not in contravention of EU Laws.

Should we not be able to expect adults to behave as adults, taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions and inactions?

Lunar21 Launched on 21 April 08

Sunday,27 April, 2008

Derby is in the middle – not just in the middle of England, but also in the middle of a major transformation: perceptions of our city are being transformed (as we learn that the percentage of Derby’s workforce involved in High Technology Engineering is more than double that of Cambridge); and our city is undergoing a major physical transformation (including the recent opening of England’s largest shopping complex last year).

This puts Derby very much in the place where the past meets the future.

This is both exciting and confusing. To help us think differently about the future, City Growth (part of our Derby City Partnership) created Lunar21 – where issues can be the subject of debate, and where we can enjoy questions without feeling that there must be immediate answers.

On 21 April we launched Lunar21 with an Inaugural Debate, which feedback suggests was very well received.

Jonathan Wallis (Assistant Head of Museums for Derby Museums and Art Gallery), spoke of the original Lunar Society and its place in Derby Society, the Society being a group of 18th century Midlands’ business men – engineers, factory owners, entrepreneurs – who met to share ideas, always on an evening near the full moon so that they would be more able to find their way home afterwards. It was clear from his presentation that Derby’s Erasmus Darwin and others contributed greatly, and that Derby has a massive track record in innovation which goes back to the Lunar Society and beyond.

Lunar21 was then launched: as a Derby-based re-incarnation of the spirit of the Lunar Society – open to those who share curiosity, inquisitiveness and creativity – who want to meet, hear and ask questions that shed light on Derby’s place in the 21st Century.

Toby Barnes (Managing Director of Derby-based Pixel-Lab) then looked at recent innovations and how technology has altered society’s relationship with media, culture and institutions.

Ian McMillan (poet, raconteur and media pundit), concluded by offering his view of the issues from the perspective of the Arts.

Lively questions and contributions from the floor raised the issue whether technology is opening up new opportunities, or restricting chances for reflection and the development and application of values. How should we make the best use of our time in the future, in the face of so much choice?

How lucky to be you, and living now!

Friday,18 April, 2008

The chances of winning the Lottery have been said to be about 1 in 14million.

That’s the equivalent of throwing a dart and, by good luck, just happening to hit the right one millimetre square, out of the 14million one millimetre squares which would be on a piece of paper 3.5metres high (11’6″) by 4metres long (13’0″).

But that’s nothing compared to the chances of being you, and living now!

Since the beginning of humankind, it is likely that 100,000million people have lived or are living. And if you were going to be one of them, which one would it be? What’s to say you would be born now, rather in the Middle Ages with no dental care? Or perhaps in a war torn region of the world? Well the chances of being you, alive now, could be the equivalent of throwing a dart and, by good luck, just happening to hit ‘your’ one millimetre square out of the 100,000million one millimetre squares on a wall the size of about 10 football pitches.

By anybody’s reckoning, aren’t we really luck to be us, and alive now?

Changing organisational cultures

Wednesday,2 April, 2008

At a presentation given by Kevin Williams (at the time Chief Executive of YMCA England) we were shown a photograph of the people responsible for running YMCAs in the 1960s. They were all grey suited men.

Kevin then went on to explain that, currently, the majority of the larger YMCAs are now managed by women.

Clearly this cannot be the whole story – so what other changes have also taken place which might support such a change in leadership? And what might we learn from this?

I began by drawing a line down the middle of the page, putting “Male” at the top of the left hand side, and “Female” at the top of the right hand side. The following is a list of changes which seem to have happened in the world with which we work, during the same period of time:

Male to Female

Heavy Industry to Service Industries
Machines to Ideas/Knowledge
Strength to Nurturing
Specialisms to Multi-tasking
Power to Influence
Hierarchies to Networks
Control to Encourage
Command to Persuade / “sell”
Mono-culture to Valuing Diversity
Facts to Intuition
Books to Internet
Vote to Buy
Membership to Shareholder or User Group
Grants/Subsidies to Social Enterprise
Competition to Collaboration for mutual benefit

As with all caricatures, this needs some careful handling – but much of the world we work in is undoubtedly moving this way, and we all need to be able to respond. Even where organisations still need to work to the left side, some of their activities will need to work to the right side if success is to be achieved.

It seems likely that some of us are more comfortable when working in the way shown on the left side, others to the right. The solution to this must surely be:

  • awareness of the issues;
  • recognition of the inherent tensions between people, disciplines, organisations, and sectors; and
  • having the right teams or partnerships in place to cover all bases.

If, from where you see the world, you feel that there are any other issues which should be considered, or added to the list, I would be delighted to hear of them.


Wednesday,2 April, 2008

What is a Blog? Blogs (or weblogs) are websites where you can post text and images each day. The most recent blogs are always shown at the top, with older entries falling off the bottom of the page.

How to blog? Blogging is supported by a blog system – an example is WordPress used here (see To add new text or images it is necessary to log on – which makes editing password protected. New text is added by typing into a format created by the blog system, (a bit like creating e-mails,) and so the blog system automatically sorts out the appearance, as well as creating links for each day’s posting. Blog systems can help readers search for text, as well as allowing writers to ‘tag’ keywords so that blogs on similar topics can group together. If wanted, incoming comments can be held for moderation before being added to a site and published for a wider audience. Whether for personal, organisational or commercial reasons, the content, style and appearance of a blog will say much about the author – whether intended or otherwise. Being passionate about a topic can make a blog more compelling, but caution is needed to avoid the passion reaping a whirlwind in response!

Why blog? Blogging can be undertaken for personal reasons (to have a voice, expressing opinions on politics, sport, community or cultural matters), or for business or commercial reasons (to reach new markets, sound out new ideas, and develop marketing strategies). Sharing problems, advice and information can be of particular benefit to those with minority interests, where finding others with the same interest can be akin to searching for a snowflake in the Sahara.

Why am I bothering?

  • It might just be that practiced use of blogging could become a tool for intuition – mixing rational thought, and creative spontaneity.
  • Blogging offers an opportunity to provide information about Catch the Vision and business activity.
  • Blogging holds the promise of wider debate on a range of issues.
  • As a resource built up over time, blogging will offer a chance to look back and review progress.

When to blog? The general consensus is to blog regularly – whether daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly – so that the blogs can best be identified by search engines, and so the author can practice the skills and generate good habits.

How can I access a blog? This can be difficult. In the early stages of someone’s blogging, their content may not be picked up by the ‘Internet Spider’ and may not be offered in answer to a search on Google or whatever. The same thing can happen with websites – you know they exist, but you can’t get to them through the search box on a search engine. The answer can seem strange, but it’s workable if you know the full internet address. Just open up a clean page as if writing a new Word document. Then type in the full Internet ‘address’, (e.g “”). When you press Enter or Return, you will find that Word recognises the text as an ‘address’, making it blue. When you move the cursor over the ‘address’ the pointing finger should show and, (provided you have an Internet connection) if you click your mouse then you should go straight to the blog or website. No one has ever told me this, nor have I ever seen this written in any guidance. Presumably some people think this is too obvious, but to me it wasn’t and I hope it helps.

A ‘Cautionary Tale’! Blogging with the best of intentions may not be enough. After three months, over 1,000 visitors to this site, and receipt of many appreciative and generous comments, I’ve hit my first obviously negative response. To explain. When blogging on a topic, I’ve often sought out others whose blogs suggest they might be interested in my current blog – after all, isn’t the web-log there to allow people to exchange opinions on matters of common interest? Having located a suitable blog, I’d then leave a comment with this site’s Url, so the reader can track back if they wish (secure in the knowledge that they can always delete my comment if they prefer, so no harm done). Unfortunately I have left a comment on the site of someone who subsequently described himself as “A bitter, hateful man with nothing good to say about anything”. His site now contains some insulting stuff about me – not a big issue as I can easily avoid looking at his site – but he has said that my comment has been “Akismet’d”. Wikipedia defines Akismet as a spam filtering service, which combines information about spam captured on all participating blogs, and then uses the spam rules to block future spam. Wikipedia also advises that many bloggers have complained of commenters being wrongfully flagged as spammers – once a commenter is flagged as a spammer, it becomes difficult to participate on a wordpress blog which uses Askimet filter because comments are sent to the spam queue before approval or deletion. Wikipedia also defines ‘spam in blogs’ as the automatic posting of random comments or promoting commercial services to blogs etc, to artificially increase the site’s search engine ranking. Clearly this is not what my comments were about, and so Akismet is being used as a sledge-hammer to crack my comment/nut! So I will wait and see what happens from now on. Ironically the text written by the ‘bitter and hateful man’ on his site now includes words which automatically generated a hyperlink to this blog – giving much more prominent and easier access to this blog than if he had just accepted by comment with its Url in the normal course of events . . . . . . .  What a spectacular ‘own goal’ that was?