A week of slothful living
17 July 2020 by David Bott
I get away without the “start the week” meeting because I am working at home. However, my penance for this is a Low Carbon Innovation Group teleconference where everyone wants to be seen to be nice to one another whilst they are secretly trying to kill the others to take the crown for themselves. Paul Durrant of DECC was probably the most honest, but the Carbon Trust now have a competitor for the title of “most duplicitous LCIG member” because it turns out that the ETI are secretly bidding to be the delivery arm of the Green Investment Bank. I had to have a shower after that one!
Next up was part II of my extended interview with the guy from Innovation Investor Journal that Lady Claire says I must be nice to. The first 15 minutes was spent correcting his errant memory of the first hour, and it turns out that he wants another slice next week. Actually, it was fun to debate the whole idea of the GIB with someone who actually understands both sides of the argument and I am warming to the guy. The afternoon was then full of answering e-mails and phone calls until the sun set!
Tuesday was a bit of blur with a lot of home stuff to get organised, but I did manage to fit in more telephone calls and e-mails – the size of my inbox is going down – but only because I am filing things more assiduously.
Wednesday added to the malaise with another day working from home. The young padawan had agreed to lead on our meeting with Foresight and Sustainability Man was going to the House of Lords to drink wine as me, so I could do more “catching up”. Strategy Man caused a frisson of excitement in an otherwise quiet day with a long and fascinating debate about what an innovation ecosystem was, whether we did (or indeed could) understand it and how one would attempt to lead it. We also agreed that he would come to the next Heads of Innovation Programme meeting – which is conveniently next Monday – to induct them into the dark ways of strategy.
Thursday I was allowed out of the house to make the trek to Cambridge, for the launch of a finished Retrofit for the Future house. It was an interesting house too. Before the retrofit it had a steel frame, steel panels for upstairs walls and hardboard internal walls – why do architects consistently ignore materials scientists when it comes to choosing materials. The project was also interesting in that the family – father, pregnant mother and 2 children – had lived in the house through the conversion. What was nice was that without the guided tour, it looked just like a nice family home. Talking to the family, it sounded like the 9 weeks it took was longer than would be acceptable – they had spent much of the previous few weeks living on a picnic blanket on next doors front lawn – but that 4 weeks might have worked. Talking to the contractors, better organisation beforehand could have cut the cost and time. Luckily, the architects won several places on the roster and so are busy transferring their new knowledge into the later projects. Prisk was to have been there but the Finance Bill intervened, and so we lost MacKay too. It was nice to hear several of those involved say things like “we wouldn’t be so advanced in our thinking and practice if this competition hadn’t spurred us to think and act”. Ian Meikle and I circulated a lot and covered most people, but media seemed a bit light on the ground.
Friday was a Swindon day. After catching up with Jools, I met with Lady Claire’s new media assistant and attempted to impose my prejudices on her, then went into another meeting about co-ordinating our media activities. In what seems like another lifetime, Lady Claire had noted that we seemed to spend a lot of time and effort sorting out exemplars for press releases at the end of the process. She suggested that we get a paragraph from the consortium at the beginning of the application process, and then pick from these pre-approved descriptions those that we thought gave a good idea of what the competition was about to use as examples for the press release and votive offerings for the great gods of BIS. I am not sure why, but her first attempt to get this enacted fell flat but on the second time around (about 3 months ago) I joined the fight because it wasn’t only the Comms team that ended up chasing their tails, it was often the Technologists as well. I had worked out that adopting her plan would make everyone’s life easier. Although I thought we had left the last meeting with agreement, it seems those empowered to act on the decision decided that they wouldn’t so our plucky media person was going after it again. Since we, once again, agreed that it was a good idea, I hope this time it sticks. By the time I got home, it was time to take another couple of phone calls – one in particular from a renegade member of the design community who was interested in how we might better engage with the wider design community – I think by this they meant those outside the coterie of the Design Council. I love it when a community sticks together. I also had the joy of reading a slew of e-mails that were the result of someone we know quite well once again losing out in one of our competitive processes. They had therefore organised a write-in campaign whose goal was to get me to abandon our proven assessment process and arbitrarily allow his badly explained idea through to the next stage. Fat chance!!