For a little distraction today, I went to a NESTA funded conference in London on innovation. Bob Geldof was there and was really cogent and inspiring. I suspect he always is but I hadn’t seen him speak before.
Gordon Brown seemed a little less in touch with the mood of the conference, I felt. He suggested (rightly) that innovation is about people; but I think he missed the point when he suggested that innovation was all about success for Britain in a very competitive global market place.
I suppose as Prime Minister, you’d expect him to frame the problem that way. But if his advisors had been listening a bit more deeply they’d have heard several people in the audience, and on stage, say that this was a global problem, shared by all of us living on the planet. Not simply a national issue. Tim Berners-Lee (by video-link from CERN or somewhere), for example, was passionate about global cooperation and collaboration. So was just about everyone else I heard.
Competition clearly plays a role in business. But most of the time I think collaboration is just as important – if not more so. Creativity in business requires collaboration. So does implementation of anything more complex than making a cup of tea.
In the afternoon I went to a break-out group about climate change, etc, hosted by the very, very reasonable David King (ex Government Chief Scientifc Advisor). On the panel were David Puttnam (a bit less reasonable, and therefore to me, more fun), Fiona Harvey (Environment Correspondent at the FT), Jeremy Leggett (CEO, Solar Century) and Juliet Davenport (CEO, Good Energy).
All good stuff. Including the now standard question about “shall we just get started now and turn off the air-con?” (I have a lot of sympathy with this question). Lots of talk about World War II and how we had better gird our loins.
Perhaps it was watching the PM doing his very polished turn. Watching him tell his highly practised jokes. Being the entertainer. But I was left wondering something about all the speakers (including Sir Bob), and hence probably really about myself. Am I really more co-operative or really more competitive? Is my personal view of this different from what I say it is (when facilitating, coaching etc). Don’t I really just want to be the best?
And if I am not alone, how do we square this? The desperate need to collaborate when we are also desperately competitive creatures.