Thursday, August 31, 2006
BOOK AND BRUISES
Have just pressed SEND on version 3 out of 5 of the new book with Pamela Hartigan, which has been taking a fair amount of my time this year – indeed, in recent years. Now we’ll see what Harvard Business School Press have to say.
Meanwhile, my bruises are beginning to turn wondrous hues, hopefully in preparation to fade. It’s like seeing an X-ray image of the handlebars and kerbstones coming out. Have made the acquaintance of a wondrous variety of painkillers since my encounter with the Mongolian woman and her car, but have been weaning myself in recent days. Next thing will be to take my bike to the bike hospital.
As I nursed my cracked ribs, I have also been working on a whole bunch of different projects at SustainAbility, including our latest Network Debate (which serendipitously spun off a column for Grist, http://www.grist.org/biz/fd/2006/08/29/plastics/); on the survey of our 8000-member Compass Network; on our globalization report; on a couple of new appointments to the team, including a Skoll Fellow; and, with Rupert Bassett, on a major revamp of our branding and of our slide formats – ahead of the Australia and New Zeland tour on ‘The Innovation Imperative’ in mid-September (http://www.sustainability06.com.au/).
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Nursing my cracked ribs, and feasting on painkillers, I made it across to the ‘Will non-green brands survive?’ session organised by Esomar (http://www.esomar.org). Was standing in for Julia Hailes, who is speaking at Esomar conference later in the year. Spectacular views all around, of Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast. Facilitated by John Kearon (CEO and Founder, BrainJuicer), and the other speakers were David Bickerton (General Manager, Brand and Group Communications, BP), Mark Palmer (Marketing Director, Green & Black’s), Alison Austin (Head of Brand Policy & Sustainability, Sainsbury’s), Stephen Philips (Director & Founder, Spring Research) and Will Galgey (Director, Henley Centre HeadlightVision). My view was that the pressures for greener brands would grow, overall, but that – sadly – there would continue to be plenty of room for non-green brands. Afterwards, Sam and I walked back along the river to Tower Bridge, to catch a taxi back to the office.
On the theme of our latest Radar
Greater London Authority building
Black egg echoes Erotic Gherkin
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
THE OUTLOOK ON PEER PRESSURE
Media interviews are strange. You do (or maybe it’s just me who does) them in the midst of everything else, quite often without thinking too deeply, and then the paper, magazine or whatever comes along and you’re stuck there, like a butterfly on a pin. Pleased to see myself on the cover of the leading Indian magazine, Outlook Business (August 20, 2006, interview on pp 54-55: ‘Peer pressure is a big change agent’), given that India is one of SustainAbility’s focus countries in the coming years. But also interesting to see myself quoted as saying that Transparency International (http://www.transparency.org) is an “aggressive” campaigning organisation, something I would never say. Energetic, certainly. Effective, without question. But aggressive, hardly. Overall, one of my favourite NGOs.
My mother has always insisted that I was born with an extra rib – a doctor told her so when I was small. Just as well, really, since I seem to spend most of my time cracking my ribcage. Last night, as I cycled home via Olympia, a Mongolian woman – first day driving on London roads- swivelled around in her seat as she drove along, she later told me to constrain a 6-year-old daughter who had escaped from her safety belt, in the process veering into the cycle lane I was pedalling along.
The long and short of it is that I was once again airborne, flipped, landing with my ribcage on the kerbstone. The driver turned out to be perfectly charming, but as someone put it today, one pays a price for the city’s diversity – the first time I was left unconscious in London’s streets was in 1975, when an Indonesian (first day out on London’s roads) overtook me as I sped down Bow Street, Covent Garden, en route (it’s a longer story) to Cairo, and then turned hard across me. I sailed clear over his roof.
Last night’s fracas, however, was the first cycling accident in my growing portfolio where the police were involved and I found myself ferried off, after an eternity of different people taking the story down in notebooks they didn’t seem to know their way around, to hospital in an ambulance. The service at the Charing Cross Hospital was lamentable. I couldn’t sit down because of the pain, and no-one bothered to ask whether I wanted the oil, grit and other matter washed out of my grazes. So I finally gave up without having the x-ray and rode the buckled bike home, literally screeching in pain as I went along. People must have thought I was a banshee, with the front wheel wailing in sympathetic harmony.
But my latest set of cracked ribs have been subjected to a wondrous assortment of painkillers today, and I came home this evening to find two boxes of further pharma-wonders on the table. All of which made the session we had today at SustainAbility on the future of the pharmaceutical industry seem quite relevant.
Friday, August 18, 2006
As part of SustainAbility’s Skoll Program on Social Entrepreneurship, we have posted our first podcast on the SustainAbility website (http://www.sustainability.com/insight/skoll_article.asp?id=538). It features a conversation between Sophia Tickell (our Chair) and myself on the field of social enterprise – and why we are so interested in the field. The title: ‘What is it about Social Entrepreneurs?’ Any comments on the content and format always welcome, not least because we intend to do more of these things.
JOYS OF LIFE
Cycling home last night, heading south towards Hyde Park Corner by the Joy of Life fountain inside the Park, I was once again struck by how beautiful and cathedral-like the ride of plane trees is there, with the setting sun slicing between the great trunks. The photos below were taken as I zoomed along, hence the blur. But the cathedral-like setting was appropriate, since around the same time the funeral was taking place of Clark Turner, to whom we were related via his wife Charlotte.
Over the years, we have visited the Turners a number of times on Vashon Island, not far from Seattle, in their extraordinary glass and wood home right on the water. Indeed, the last time I went – last year – I was there just in time to see Clark off to the ferry and hospital. I called Charlotte a couple of days back to see how she was and, in the process, recalled Hania catching a salmon from the beach in front of their home. Her face – this was many years ago – was the most extraordinary blend of excitement and devastation at ending the life of such a beautiful creature. And then, irony or ironies, we discovered it was out of season. Must do something for salmon conservation in Puget Sound.
One of the great joys of Clark’s life was sailing – and there was one memorable day when he took all four of us out for a long sail around the Sound, a gloriously sunny day with Mount Hood rearing in the distance. All a bit like that long-ago album cover for the Beach Boys’ Summer Days, but sunnier still. I shall remember him that way.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Have just joined the Tomorrow’s Global Company Inquiry team (http://www.tomorrowscompany.com/global/news.aspx). For more information see: http://www.tomorrowscompany.com/uploads/TGC_pressrelease.pdf
Thursday, August 10, 2006
CAROLE AND LARK ASCENDING
After I cycled home, Elaine and I walked across to St Mary’s Church, Barnes, for a 15.00 start to the funeral service for our long-standing friend, Carole McGlynn. Appalling how many of our female friends have died of breast cancer. We met because I worked with her husband, Roger, at TEST in Covent Garden in the mid-1970s, and it was because of them we first came to Barnes and decided to settle here. Still remember the day we walked across Putney Common, past a fair, to have lunch with the McGlynns, and – to my surprise – I found myself beguiled with the area. A wonderful celebration of a gentle woman, themed around gardens, her great delight. Beautiful violin solo of the last cadenza of ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Vaugh Williams. First time I have seen a wickerwork coffin. Then back for a gathering in the Old Sorting Office, under lowering clouds, before heading home to continue work on the new globalization report.
Cycling back through Hyde Park early this afternoon, I was struck by how savannah-like the landscape is becoming – with grass not even golden but dead-white and giving way to dirt. Many visitors sit on benches, seemingly oblivious. How long before we all look like extras in Lawrence of Arabia?
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
DINOSAUR BREATH AND UNICYCLE
Ah, the sweet smell of tractor diesel as I cycled along Great Marlborough Street this morning, in the wake of some sort of road-mending vehicle. Brought to mind the heady aroma of the small flock of tractors and harvesters that would head out from the next farm in Ireland in the 1950s, into a cool, sunny summer morning. A flock of metallic dinosaurs, their breath on the morning breeze redolent of the fossil fuels they consumed – and which look set to become wildly more precious in the coming, post-Peak Oil decades.
Odd how the mind works – sometimes linking things you are already thinking to external smells, sights and sounds. As I cycled in to Holborn yesterday, I looked along the Thames foreshore as I crossed Hammersmith Bridge, but saw no herons – having always chosen to view them as a sign of good luck. Then, as I passed Kensington Palace, a great swirling, honking cloud of geese, perhaps 80-100 strong, came in to land on the great pond. As I continued alongside Rotten Row, eight geese did a flypast, heading east in Victory V formation. My brain was processing all of this symbolically, concluding that the absence of herons and the cloud of geese symbolised a need to move from individual to collective initiative in our field, and that the ‘V’ of geese spoke to the need for leadership.
Then an extraordinary unicyclist shot across my path, atop a single wheel at least twice the size of mine, whizzing towards Hyde Park Corner. Well, said the brain, that’s a powerful signal that we also need creativity.
Then as I rode home across the Tames, I looked the opposite way to usual, downriver, away from the dazzling sunset, and there – camouflaged among the stretching fingers of river mud was the vertical accent of a heron. And riding in again this morning, there were two. Don’t ask me what it all means, but my brain – always seeking patterns – saw today’s twin herons as symbolising my continuing need to work in tandem with another key person, as with Pamela Hartigan on the book or, now, Ritu Khanna on our new report on globalisation.
Friday, August 04, 2006
After interviewing a new candidate for the SustainAbility Associate Director role with Mark and Maddy, I headed across to the Royal Academy of Arts (http://www.royalacademy.org.uk), to meet up with Elaine and see the Summer Exhibition. Some fascinating things, but needed to race home to let in Kim (Russell) from SustainAbility, who is helping me sort out some computer problems. Then clattered on with the book – and with the analysis of the first round of responses to a major survey we are doing online at the moment on the subject of globalization (http://www.sustainability.com). The number and quality of replies has been extraordinary.
I was asked to cease and desist when taking pictures in the Summer Exhibition, not having realised it was forbidden. So here are some illicit fruits:
Rat and Elaine
Vincent and William
Scissormen: one of Elaine’s favourites
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The news that Fidel Castro has gone into hospital and that his brother Raúl has taken over the reins of power reminds me that in 1969 or 1970 I was Raúl Castro. At least in a war-game at university, I played the role of the dictator’s brother, with observers watching us all from behind a one-way mirror, never realising that I would be in power something like 36 years later. One of the papers today notes the comments of a Jesuit priest who taught the three Castro brothers at school – that they were the worst bullies he ever came across.