Innovation: communication and inspiration in the organisation

The overarching theme of this blog is to show that better use of the skills and creativity of the UK advertising and communications sector would benefit society as a whole as well as business.

But even I admit that, with all the creativity in the world, none of us could stop the floods which have dominated our media landscape – even if, as our austere Prime Minister said, ‘money is no object’.

However, one doesn’t get the impression that the relevant parties were communicating very effectively with each other:

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, was criticised for getting involved when it was too late and events were escalating out of control.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, was accused of shabby and brutish conduct and making an ‘epic blunder’.

Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, said his staff know ’100 times more about flood risk management than any politician’.

Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary, complained to Number 10 about Mr Pickles’ criticism of the Environment Agency. and said he was ‘grandstanding’.

Downing Street rejected suggestions that the Cabinet was at war over the Government’s response to the floods.

Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat energy and climate change secretary, attacked ‘the ignorant, head in the sand, nimbyist Conservatives who question climate change’.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, called Lord Smith a ‘little git’ and said ‘if I have to stick his head down the loo and flush, I will.’

You don’t get the impression that these people could run a bath, let alone quell the tide of our wettest winter month since 1767, do you?

From the above, I think we can take it that the people in charge of the response to this crisis were not communicating very effectively with each other, if at all.

Their rather pitiful performance certainly antagonised the unfortunate people whose houses were flooded and who felt stranded, abandoned and afraid.

Let’s hope that, should floods such as this return, our governing bodies will have a prepared communications plan to improve the effectiveness of their response.

I do have one thought which might help:

Would it be feasible to identify all the houses in Britain which are vulnerable to flooding, draw up a list of of their occupants and develop a communications campaign informing them, on a regular basis, of all the actions and innovations that are being drawn up on their behalf should the apocalypse reoccur?

After all, over the last few weeks, one of the most common complaints of these unfortunate people has been their complete ignorance of anything, if anything, was being done to help them.

Even better, perhaps such a campaign could include input from these people to reassure them they are being looked after and help them feel they have a say in their own recovery process.

I don’t see why such a brief could not be issued. After all, if we are to have a quango called the Environment Agency, surely we are entitled to know what keeps them busy? And, as with all quangos, do any of us really know what they do all day? The EA should be pushed and challenged and, above all, be accountable for their actions.

Me? Fortunately, I live in London and my local river which, I am told runs below my local High Street, has not burst its banks.

Last week, I found myself watching a TV documentary about the fascinating and extraordinary career of Gordon Murray, the ‘renowned’ Formula One car designer.

Not only was he responsible for some of the most iconically innovative ideas in motor racing but he designed the fastest and most sophisticated road car ever built – the McLaren F1.

Nowadays, Murray is at the cutting edge of more ecologically efficient and affordable road car design and development – the T.25 and T.27.

Some of Gordon Murray’s thoughts are well worth considering on a wider level:

Innovation

‘In the 70s, I got to design the monocoque, the engine installation, the gearbox, the suspension geometry, the aerodynamics, the cooling systems, the fuel system. Everything on the car. Nowadays, you’ll find someone doing front suspension. And that’s what they do. They sit in an office and draw front suspension for eight or ten years. That culture stops innovation.’

Communication

‘I’ve followed my own mantra all the way through and that’s communication. You have to communicate with people if you want the team to work properly and you can see in an instant the teams who have communication and the teams that don’t.’

Inspiration

‘I definitely could not have done this without F1 experience. You think differently. We have worked with a lot of the large manufacturers. It’s not that they are not bright enough. Its just the constraints of the large corporate structure that tends to suffocate the innovation. And stops it coming to the surface and stops people taking a chance.’

Conclusion

Frankly, if you want to attach the word ‘innovation’ to any human being on the planet, Gordon Murray would have to be on your shortlist.

I wish I could force every one of the political goons listed above to read and heed his words.

Not one of them is qualified to polish his boots.