A Tribute to Geoff Clarke, Chairman of East Cheshire Chess Club

December 5, 2022

Tudor Rickards

Geoff Clarke who died on 7th November, 2022 was a distinguished business executive and an accomplished sportsman. He was also a remarkable chairman of East Cheshire chess club, a role which could be described as one as difficult as herding cats.

We had a shared experience of life working in multi-national organisations, me towards the bottom of the Unilever pyramid, and Geoff towards the top of the emerging Proctor & Gamble U.K. operation.
He eventually opted to resist the ‘Pack and go’ philosophy needed to reach the summit, settling for quality of life with his family in a quiet Cheshire suburb.

His particular skills were evident at East Cheshire AGMs, which often teetered on the theatre of the absurd, rescued by his gentle steering (perhaps from his rowing days).

My other abiding image of him is of club nights. Typically there is an unnatural silence. The sound of the door opening and someone arriving would be unnoticed or if noticed, ignored. Except for Geoff, would would quietly greet the new arrival, and quickly arrange a game.

A personal confession. I made Geoff the spy master in my crime novel, Seconds Out, who plied his trade under the guise of an avuncular chairman of the East Cheadle Chess Club, where he is known to members as the Dalai Lama. His cherubic bespectacled features reminded me of Alex Guinness superb in his role as Smiley in Le Carre’s famous spy thrillers.

Club Chairman David Taylor of the real- life East Cheshire Chess tells the story of Geoff’s courting days as a military officer, when he became attracted to a young nurse serving in the medical corp where he was being treated for a minor ailment. Her impact led him to create various inauthentic reasons for future treatments. His chess-like moves were successful, as the couple were to become married and went to live a long and happy lives together.


The Lapwing Lane Literary and Philosophic Society

December 4, 2022

The LLLPS will soon be celebrating its twentieth anniversary of daily meetings for discussions and social interactions with passing Didsbury residents, and their children and dogs,
As an outsider, I have a peak-hours visiting membership to meetings held at the Lapwing Lane Deli, one which I make use of three or four times a week.
The full-time members like William enjoy an early start, before the mighty Manchester rush-hour begins. Our meetings rarely end before ten am, with the exceptions for members who are on the social tennis circuit, who leave for a nine am start.
Proceedings are maintained in orderly fashion with effortless benignity by President Judy, in her ceremonial chair in front of the main entrance. Other members have allocated places at tables around her, newer members on the fringes of the gathering.
Why outside? To permit the greetings to passers-by I mentioned, and other briefer acknowledgements of Deli shoppers exchanging their newspaper tokens for their morning Guardians or Times.
I arrive at a more sensible time according to traffic conditions but usually around eight thirty. Unless, as happens recently when I slept late, and am forced to send a grovelling apology before search parties had been sent out.

My discussion topic

Today, I have my discussion topic ready. ‘My friend Oldbutfit is a football fan but has taken a vow to avoid watching or listening to transmissions of the World Cup. Is he unique in this respect?’
Heads shake. Then a suggestion.
‘There’s Carol’.
Carol. Not exactly a member of our Society but well-known to us as a customer of the Deli arriving to pick up her copy of The Guardian every morning. I have seen the change in Carol as the fortunes of Manchester United have waned in recent years. The change is most evident on the day of a United Match, and after another disappointing humiliation.
‘Strange’ I say. ‘Oldbutfit is a Man U fan, too, and a Guardian reader.
We begin a discussion about the distinguishing features of United supporters and Guardian readers. Suggestions range from ‘smug sanctimonious lefties’ to ‘high-minded people with deep concerns for basic human rights.

Next item proposed for discussion

Next item proposed for discussion: ‘Will gin and cheese lunches ever catch on outside Didsbury’s gated borders?’

How much water do you need to drink every day? The answer might surprise you

November 29, 2022

Drinking a litre of water a day has become one of the widest known of wellness ideas. I have friends who stick to the advice, and who have from time to time encouraged me to do the same. So I read with interest an article reporting a reputable international research study which concludes that drinking eight glasses of water a day may be excessive for most people.


Excessive for what?

Excessive for what? Turns out even that question is not straightforward. Perhaps the simplest answer is to avoid dehydration when the body has increasing trouble functioning normally which becomes difficult to reverse without medical intervention.
So a rule of thumb has emerged to keep us sufficiently hydrated. Heat and vigorous exercise are obvious examples of conditions speeding up dehydration. Unsurprisingly, personal factors also play a part.

The study attempts to identify the various contributing factors, to improve on that rule of thumb ‘drink plenty of water’. According to the researchers:

‘Water is essential for survival, but one in three individuals worldwide (2.2 billion people) lacks access to safe drinking water. Water intake requirements largely reflect water turnover (WT), the water used by the body each day. We investigated the determinants of human WT in 5604 people from the ages of 8 days to 96 years from 23 countries using isotope-tracking (2H) methods. Age, body size, and composition were significantly associated with WT, as were physical activity, athletic status, pregnancy, socioeconomic status, and environmental characteristics (latitude, altitude, air temperature, and humidity). People who lived in countries with a low human development index (HDI) had higher WT than people in high-HDI countries’

The Guardian interviewed Professor Yamada one the lead researchers. “The current recommendation is not supported scientifically at all,” he said, “Most of the scientists are not sure where this recommendation came from.”


More may not be better

Remember that other rule of thumb about having three a day portions of veg and fruit? That was adjusted upward to five a day.

The water rule of thumb is rather easier to manage. For most people, a litre a day is almost certainly more than enough, and anyone hoping that ‘more means better’ is probably mistaken,

The Human side of innovation: Everyday creativity and human potential

November 25, 2022

Tudor Rickards

Keynote address to HSE International Academic Conference ‘Сreative Economy: Main Development Trends and State Policy’, 24 November, 2022

I thank you for this opportunity of sharing ideas with an international audience, and look forward to an exchange of views.

One of my great pleasures over the years is to have seen how the fields of creativity and innovation have benefitted from efforts of practitioners and academic researchers. In particular, there has been improved international cooperation with the continued influence of the internet, itself a widely acknowledged world-changing innovation.

There is one important point I like to make at the star of events such as this. I am well aware of the famous Professor Pangloss, in Voltaire’s masterpiece Candide. Pangloss epitomises an unshakeable belief that all is for the best in this “best of all possible worlds.”

In my talks about creativity I focus the enormous benefits from the everyday creative efforts in ‘business, the arts and everyday life’. But not in a way of a Dr Pangloss. There are problems to be solved of global significance that will only be resolved by creative efforts regardless of religious, political, or cultural differences.

Turning to the matter of creative discoveries, I would start by quoting from inventor Tim Berners-Lee on his thought processes involved in the discovery of the World Wide Web.
He explained it as follows:

Creating the web was really an act of desperation, because the situation without it was very difficult when I was working at CERN [The European Centre for Nuclear Research] later. Most of the technology involved in the web, like the hypertext, like the Internet, multifont text objects, had all been designed already.

I just had to put them together. It was a step of generalising, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all the documentation systems out there as being possibly part of a larger imaginary documentation system.

This is clearly a description of how an exceptional innovator described his thinking processes which have had such an impact on our world. But for me there is an apparent paradox. I want to suggest that even in the extraordinary lies the everyday.

My choice of the word apparent is because I believe there is a universal human faculty for discovering the new, shared by world-changing and everyday ideas alike.

In that universality there’s is a deeper reality in our shared capacity for creativity, in our everyday practices. To create is part of what it means to be alive.

I am using the terms creativity, innovation, and human potential as they seem to be used in conferences where participants have a shared understanding of then. One of the purposes of such meetings is to explore important differences, maybe in the lecture room, and subsequently in our more social interactions.

My plan is to take you through my personal creative journey, and offer my reflections on it, and on its future implications. This meeting is well suited for discussions on the future of our personal and social lives, and of the planet.

One useful starting point, is the process of flow, a state in which actions seem effortless, be it on the football field, workplace efforts, or creative tasks. Time seems suspended or distorted as you ‘lose yourself’ in the task.

The outcome is a release of creativity, a flow of ideas.

I can imagine Berners-Lee playing around with those ideas, as he described his great innovation, I suggest the process is also part of the universal experience when anyone tries to complete a jigsaw or a crossword puzzle, or make sense of a work problem.

A recent illustration from my personal life is a period where despair almost overcame me. It was on my 80th birthday, last December. I began to contemplate the end of my days.

I decided sadly to give up the creative process of book writing, as too arduous.
That a friend persuaded my to try my hand at podcasting. I started anew learning a skill. Over a period of months I learned how to create audio blogs.

Soon, my creative energy returned. I found ideas for new podcasts all around me. In science, the arts, and yes in everyday life, all flowing into existence.

The ideas are modest, ideas for taking the everyday news I encounter, and turning news reports into a story. My everyday life became enriched with such moments of personal discovery.

In doing so, I am connecting each new experience with a large number of other experiences, some remembered clearly, some only like the residues of older experiences, like geological strata, each deposited on an older one.

My podcasts are being helped by my earlier writings some of which spread, as they were communicated more widely.

One of the most famous descriptions of this creative process is from the French intellectual and novelist Marcel Proust. It occurs in Swann’s Way, the first volume of his masterwork, Remembrance of Things Past. He describes the experience in great detail, so I have shortened it, already in translation.

“As soon as I had recognised the taste of the piece of madeleine [cake] soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me, the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents, and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took, when it was fine”

Proust wrote in one flowing sentence with diversionary thoughts included, to capture the flood of ideas jostling for attention. In a far from everyday way, he was trying to capture the universal. What lesser writers might suggest to be ‘the whole of my life flashing before me’.

Clearly, Proust and Bernard-Lee are exceptional, as judged by the impacts of their creative thoughts. I suggest however, that there is a process of creativity which is universal. It’s the same processes for highly gifted as for those of everyone else. It is captured in the term Everyday Creativity.

The term has already used, and the concept studied, by the American scholar Professor Ruth Richards.


She writes in The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity:
‘Everyday creativity, as a construct, is not, as some think, confined to the trivia of life. This is an important misunderstanding. It concerns almost anything, anytime to which any one brings originality in an everyday context, including in major projects. Nor are eminent and exceptional creators excluded. Everyday creativity can be seen as the ground from which more publicly celebrated accomplishment can grow. In fact, many an important invention, equation, or painting that has changed culture, started with a fleeting image or wild idea on an everyday walk or hike’

I can illustrate this from personal experience in creating what turned into a well-established international network and its academic journal Creativity and Innovation Management.

I trace its history back to a newsletter typed out manually at the Manchester Business School nearly fifty years ago.It circulated by post, long before the electronic systems that required the idea of the web. It began to strengthen the sharing of ideas, spreading geographically, first to other academics and practitioners of creativity. It was called Creativity Network.

Over time it changed, and eventually became Creativity and Innovation Journal, which is now reaching more and more publishing success, although no longer influenced by my everyday creative efforts, but by an international network.

The success does not come from a single moment of inspiration followed by implementation. It is the result of everyday ideas put into action over time by many within a wider community.
The process includes not only production of ideas, but learning through those experiences, which results in ideas about ideas.

This approach I helped develop became known as the Manchester Method. It treats experiences as living cases from which learning takes place,

Incidentally, these studies have shown repeatedly that the individual efforts result in wider changes. There is a collectivity in team work. Also, that to support the wider goals, a leader has to work at encouraging the creativity of individuals. When such efforts fail, the team eventually fails. We classed such groups teams from hell.

In conclusion, I want to mention a specific example of everyday creativity.
Last week, I met for the first time with two leaders of a group reaching out to encourage sustainability in their locality.
They posted a message in the village square for help with projects. Volunteers have responded in efforts such as repairing computers and domestic products. Other volunteers are planting trees, and helping reintroduce declining species into the landscape.

As you can see, They even recruit ageing academics to spread the word.

To summarise, creativity is an everyday occurrence through which the ordinary can lead to extraordinary results. Each of us has opportunities through experience to develop ourselves, and others.

I wish you success in your creative ventures. Maybe they will help us all create a world a little more realistic than the one Dr Pangloss believed in.

Are we entering the age of the deposed super leaders?

November 20, 2022

Some years ago, business cases were largely examples of near super-human business giants, the inheritors of the great man theory of history. And of course it was mainly the great man, the builders of industrial empires. The great entrepreneurs who magicked wealth from growth, and growth from risk and daring.

But now, the stories are more often cautionary tales. The gods have feet of clay. The emperor has no clothes.

The Masters of the Universe, was a title of a typical book in the 1960s about great business leaders. When I checked with more recent titles, I discovered Masters of the Universe refers now to a computer game of fantasy figures. Although, perhaps that’s not so different from those earlier aspirational books.

I see a shift around the time of the last economic depression, in late naughties. The hero-executives were being brought low. We learned about the Enron case. The major banking crashes that wrecked Iceland’s economy (the country not the supermarket, which had struggled earlier).

In the U.K. the high rolling financiers toppled like ninepins. Fred Goodwin of Royal Bank of Scotland was hauled before a Government committee to accept blame for excessive style and actions. 

Hollywood followed up with graphic, and not totally fanciful accounts of the Wall Street carnivores, a modern kind of Greek tragedy. 

Flash Forward

In time, the world’s financial system recovered from the recession. 

Flash forward to the present day. A book arrives for review. It’s called Pulling the Plug. It relates ‘thespectacular collapse of General Electric’. Once upon a time, GE Made stuff America wanted: fridges, televisions, light bulbs, then wind turbines and submarine detection systems.

Its credit rating was on a par with government bonds for its $600bn assets.

The company began with the efforts of Thomas Edison, whose achievements remain unsullied, for his business acumen as much as his most famous invention the Edison light bulb, ushering in an industrial revolution, and the age of electric power. 

Enter Jack Welch

The next significant change in GE was a shift from making stuff to financing the purchase of stuff. The shift was driven by Jack Welch, an engineer by training, but who succeeded by political and financial skills.

Success involved a shift followed with from a manufacturing basis to one relying on financial arrangements. The buy now pay later schemes created a finance powerhouse.  Welch became hailed as a super-leader, a process not unassisted by his own image-building skills. 

In his glory days he revelled in the tough approach which earned him the soubriquet Neutron Jack, the explosive power which killed off people leaving buildings intact. The style included his beliefs in the benefits of firing the 10% lowest-performing staff each year, to encourage the others. 

He left with a multi-million payoff, and a reputation of a super manager, hailed by Fortune magazine as the manager of the century. 

Later, the consequences of his action were seen as a short-term efforts to maximise shareholder value. His financialization approach collapsed as the 2008 slump took hold. 

The meltdown with Immelt

His successor Jeff Immelt was unable to pull off a rescue, and the company fell into the clutches of an asset management investor still chasing shareholder value. Its future is unclear.

Business Giants of 2022

Our new generation of business giants has not been doing too well. Let’s take some recent examples:

Elizabeth Holmes jailed for a rather old possible fraud in modern guise. Her company created a business with a non-existent medical diagnostic process. Discovery of its status, turned the presumed unicorn (rare beast in the commercial jungle) into a Dodo.

Stock in Meta, the future vision of the creator of Facebook, Mark Zukerberg is  dropping like a stone. 

Then there is the cryptocurrency implosion. In a single week, another billionaire, Sam Bankman-Friend sees his financial empire and his reputation shattered.

And how about the eccentricities exhibited by Elon Musk, currently engaged in the latest bizarre news story over whether Trump should be allowed to join Musk’s new plaything Twitter.

Blame the financial crisis?

It is no coincidence that stories of rock and roll leaders and their companies crashing and burning, are more frequent during financial crises. Some might think the business titans might have contributed to the crisis…

The wisdom of hindsight suggests that the stock market stars turn out to be have rocketed up based on risky gambles which make them vulnerable in difficult times.

From heroes to zeroes?

Im not suggesting our business leaders are mostly inadequates hanging on the celebrity status. But what is surely the case is that hero-worship is for fantasy heroes. And sometimes fantasies are exposed for being just that.

Dominic Raab and Angela Rayner Duke it out at PMQs

November 17, 2022

My shorthand is not up to Pitman’s standard so these notes may require a little concentration for some less than nerdy about parliamentary fisticuffs

PM is away in Bali smoozing w. other world leaders. 

Deputies stand in

Raab, deputy head boy vs Raynor, opposing deputy head girl.

Tough for Raab.

Yesterday was accused of bullying

First Rayner question

Why is he here?

Raab has defence 

Immediately called for enquiry against himself

Now has to wait before saying more

Rayner attacks with several short jabs about his alleged bullying

Raab’s defence immaculate.

The judges assess round by round scores

Possible to assess the fighters as qualifiers for a future tilt for the PM crown

Raab has already tried, defeated by Truss at last attempt.

Rayner tipped as tough fighter, strong working class credentials 

These give her an advantage over most contestants.

In earlier bout did a good trash-talk calling opponents scum.

Both training camps weakened by internal splits.

The new Champ, Rishi, is said to be vulnerable to infighting. 

Raab trained in Judo but his attempts to gain inner calm need more work

If the title is up for grabs he may falter 

Starmer from Rayner’s training camp is steady, but lacks Rayner’s willingness for infighting. 

Starmer is likely to take on Rishi for the undisputed championship sometime in the year.

But if he slips up Rainer will step up and compete for the crown as undefeated champion of Westminster.

Sustainable Bramhall

November 14, 2022

The village square, Bramhall, is the pivot around which the community orbits. Well-trodden pathways converge to the nucleus of our community. It also carries news of an environmental group, Sustainable Bramhall

There is a mini-playground for mini-people, surrounded by all the services any resident could want. A Sainsbury’s, a Pizza house, An Optician’s, Solicitors, Dog-grooming parlour, Oxfam, Gift shops, Herbal remedies (‘Free Hormone Advice’), guitar lessons, a coffee and ice cream parlour, and more. 

There is the free book exchange, excellent for assessing the discarded favourites too dog-eared for Oxfam(Fifty Shades of Grey held the record number of discards, for several months earlier in the year). 

Then the village notice board. Events, and services of all kinds being offered or wanted.

One notice catches my eye. It is from Sustainable Bramhall & Bramhall’s Green Network.

I am interested. Do we have a battalion of biowarriors embedded in our slumbering leafy suburb? Should I convert my passive support for green causes into direct action, chaining myself to the village pump? (Sorry, got carried away. We don’t have a village pump).

I am tempted, and note down the contact email.

Back home, I send a message. 

A quick reply. I am to meet two members of Sustainable Bramhall at the nearby Church Cafe. My eco-adventure begins.

To be continued …

Your chance to create a children’s story. A TudoRama competition

November 11, 2022

You are invited to take part in a competition to create a story suitable for turning into an audio book. The winning entry will be posted here and published as an audio post on the Buzzsprout platform.

The Story Begins …

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Megan who lived with her mother and father close to a forest,  far away from their nearest neighbour. 

One day, walking in the forest, Megan said to herself, I wish I had a friend to talk to. Then a voice said ‘I could be your friend’. 

She looked up,  but there was no bird talking to her in the trees.

She looked down but all she could see was a beautiful mushroom, growing on an old tree log.

And that was how Megan became friends with the last mushroom in the forest, and helped her new friend escape being taken by Gobble the Goblin who liked nothing better than a tasty mushroom stew …

The Challenge

Come up with a name for the story, intended to become an audio book, and a short 50 word description of how it continues.

Entry deadline November 30th, 2022

Gavin Williamson’s resignation teaches us what happens in teams from hell

November 9, 2022

Tuesday 8 November. Another Westminster politician resigns in disgrace. Gavin Williamson had a controversial political career after working for a doubling-glazing business. That would have given plenty of ammunition for political opponents. He might have risen above the taunts of being a double-glazing salesman. But he didn’t. Maybe it also shaped his career. He became an enforcer of party discipline, appointed by Theresa May, one of the hard bunch know as the whips. The archaic language may have come from the days that Parliament  was familiar with sport of fox hunting, with members of the servant-classes whipping the dogs into action. 

The language persisted, as well as a love of fox hunting, in the Tory party. Gavin was ideal material selected from the servile but ambitious lower classes.

As a whip, he brought enthusiasm to his work, and a style suggested he followed Machiavelli’s advice on the advantages of a leader in becoming hated. His props for the job are illustrated in a photograph of a darkly-brooding Williamson, with a whip on display more suited for human punishment than field sports. 

Missing from the image was another part of his brand, a pet tarantula which he kept on his desk. Better, but no subtler than a loaded revolver. Among the accusations arising now, there are documented and undocumented ones of bullying. 

It is easy to assume that with such a start, he had not acquired many close political friends as he elbowed his way into a political career. He was appointed defence secretary by Theresa May but removed for leaking  sensitive information, a charge he denied.

Boris Johnson appointed him education secretary, in a period of chaos over examination grading during the COVID pandemic. During the period he told a newspaper he had held a meeting with Marcus Rashford, when the Govt was resisting the footballer’s campaign to extend free meals. He had in fact been talking to another black footballer.He returns to the back bench obscurity but is granted an honour, a knighthood, unkindly assumed to be in return for dark secrets obtained earlier.He returned to Govt with Rishi Sunak as new PM only two weeks ago. His new post had vaguely defined responsibilities as a ‘minister without portfolio’ . I read this as a euphemism for a kind of repeat of his old whip role, maybe without the tarantula.Current revelations include televised accounts and press reports including threats to a colleague  ‘to slit your throat’. 

His resignation is to ‘devote time to dealing with the various allegations’ brought against him.

These are the fact of the case, m’lud. 

I’d like to widen the story by looking at what organisation group theory tells us about the case, and what the case tells us about organisational theory.

In a recent post and podcasts, I have mentioned teams from hell, as a rarely mentioned aspects of theories of team processes. This case has some highly specific aspects. Gavin Williamson worked as a member of the top government team, the so-called Cabinet. So generalisations to simpler project teams or sports teams have to be treated with caution. 

Hovever, at a molecular level, psychologists have found a large number of personal factors which  are the atoms of a person’s behaviour. These can be assembled into a few more general molecules of behaviour. These have produced a wide range of commercial products assisting in the identification of human behaviours, and how different types might work well or not so well in teams.

Millions of people are assessed in work in thousands of different ways of varying levels of validation. Even more than in science, we are a distance from a unified theory and philosophers seem to be accepting that such a theory does not exist,However, back to pragmatics. As the Williamson case emerged, I was already thinking about the likelihood that Rishi Sunak had acquired a team from hell. 

New thoughts

New thoughts emerge. Work on teams has tended to focus mainly on the positive. The components are suggested ‘in search of excellence’ as one best-seller put it. Now, suppose there is a team role considered valuable to a leader and I’m inclined to call in a Gavin. The Gavin role goes back to agricultural drovers, and further. They were the whipper-ins. I was told they were used to retain order at schools. Now I picture the Galley slaves feeling the whip. 

The Gavin has to be chosen with care. To recycle a saying I am fond of, we get the leaders we deserve. But maybe leaders get the Gavins they deserve

More constructively, there may be some useful research into Gavins, and how to deal with them, to the benefit off others with whom they work.

Chronicles of Leadership (Audio Chapters Guide)

November 5, 2022

This post is to support the Buzzsprout audio-materials on my first fictional book Chronicles of Leadership. Readers can catch up with chapters, as they are added to this post.

Prelude and Chapter 1. Three Unconnected Events


Chapter 2. Wendy Lockinge. A New Career


Chapter 3. Montague Beamer’s Beehive


Chapter 4. John Keane’s First Weeks at Urmston 


Chapter 5. [Flashback] Why John Keane left Meniscus Laboratories


Chapter 6. Visitors to a Sick Bed


Chapter 7. A Slow Recovery


Chapter 8. Jessica starts her detective agency


Chapter 9. The librarian has landed


Chapter 10. A sudden death


Chapter 11. A funeral takes place