Creative design ideas: Harrods gets a face-lift; Jodrell Bank sends another message into space

July 24, 2017
A designer looks at the historic Harrods  building, and conceives a great design idea. It reminded me of an unfulfilled dream of mine after gazing at the main telescope disc at Jodrell Bank
The image from Twitter jumped out at me. The grand old Harrods building in Oxford Street had acquired a giant pair of cool sun-glasses. I’ll spare you technical stuff about creativity and design. (Well, OK, for those interested, here’s one article on the subject.)
Not Banksie this time
I wondered whether Banksie had been at work with another of his pieces of urban art.  No, it was from a business  trialling vending machines for sun glasses, currently operating in and around Los Angeles.  The mini-display inside Harrods does not yet have a vending machine for shades, and you will have to visit California for that experience.
Hubble trouble and beyond
There are  connections between the technology of high precision lenses of prescription glasses and lenses for optical instruments. Remember the near-disaster story of the Hubble telescope trouble, [or to give it its fancy name its spherical aberration? ]
The Harrods specs reminded me of a great piece of astronomical engineering, the Jodrell Bank radio telescope. It remains up there with Manchester University’s contributions in nuclear physics, computing, and Graphene science. I  drive past the giant assembly regularly, and am reminded of it by the front-cover image of a text-book on R&D management which I have since mislaid.
The unfulfilled dream
My crazy unfulfilled dream for some years is based on the idea that the Jodrell Bank disc would make an ideal surface on to which images could be projected. Why not make it the University’s largest publicity display, viewable from passing aircraft, satellites, or even deeper space sites.
I think I’ll have a word with some of the boffins to be found appreciating the excellent hostelries of Holmes Chapel and surrounding townships.

Book Titles: The long and the short of it

July 17, 2017

IMG_0373[1]Ever wondered why some book titles are very short, and others are very long? Here’s an explanation.

Every month I scan a long list of book titles that I have compiled for further study. Recently, I noticed the remarkable variety in the lengths of titles. In general, books purporting to be for minority audiences tend to be very long, books for popular consumption were on the short side.

For an example of the longer variety, here’s a twenty-six-word mega-title.

Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It, Richard Reeves, Brookings Institution Press, 2017.

In earlier times, the lengthy book title was commonplace for tales where the author felt compelled to spell out their redemptive message or cautionary tale in some detail. This practice was well and truly inverted by Jane Austin’s one-word titles Persuasion, and Emma. These made her three-word titles Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice appear, well, wordy.

The longest book title in English

The Guinness Book of Records (where else) accepts the claim of a Dr S. Subramonian for producing the longest title in English.

The book, is about Daniel Radcliffe, best known for his starring role in the Harry Potter movies.

According to Atkins Bookshelf

The longest title begins with

Daniel Radcliffe the story of the not so ordinary boy chosen from thousands of hopefuls” and after about 1,000 words ends with “whom let many more laurels be blessed with to his ever royal crown of fame.

Atkins Bookshelf provides the entire title, on the link I have provided.

The book itself is a mere 123 pages long. Like other Guinness Book of Records entries, this one is a blatant bid for a claim for fame.

Not so with the book of the play:

The persecution and assassination of Jean Paul Marat as performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Chareton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade.

In word length, this just just creeps ahead of Dream Hoarders etc etc.  Its title was insufficient to deter playgoers and literary commentators.

Why such long titles?

Presumably the trend to long titles has something to do with selection algorithms, that recent electronic illustration of Darwinian theory.  Such a title permits large number of keywords which increase the chances of a book reaching the attention of its niche audience.

My modest proposal

Shortly after this week’s post was published, The Economist accepted a briefer version, shown below.


Leadership and The Third Imposter Syndrome

July 13, 2017


The magnificent draw by the Lions’ in New Zealand earlier this month, is followed by widespread outbreaks of The Third Imposter Syndrome

The spectacular rugby series in New Zealand ended in a hard-fought 15-15 draw. The result was in doubt to the last minute. The teams had each won one of the othr two games for the series.


A feeling of flatness followed

Most commentators have shown the signs of being in the first stage of mourning, expressing a feeling of flatness and being unable to experience emotions. One sports psychologist suggested that biologically we are hard-wired to compete and strive for victory, and equally fight to avoid defeat. (Flight or flight drives). We are not able to deal with the experience an unresolved conflict or draw. I’m not sure of this, but it is an entertaining idea. It also brings to mind Kipling’s ‘Two Imposters‘ of Triumph and Disaster.


Minutes after the game, Lions’ captain Sam Warburton spoke articulately about it, adding that he felt ready for extra time. That was a natural first response. It might be added, in context, the draw was secured by Warburton, after some special pleading with the referee to reverse a penalty as the final whistle approached.

The third imposter

Dealing with grief is natural, and only later are there other reactions as feelings of numbness and denial diminish. If this first reaction persists, we will fail to celebrate the magnificent rear-guard action fought by the Lions last weekend.

We have not overcome those two impostors triumph and disaster, but been become gripped by that third imposter, frustrated ambition.

Have we forgotten the way we celebrate other great sporting ‘draws’ in Cricket test matches against Australia, and last-minute victories denied stronger opposition in football? And even more spectacularly, how we continue to cherish acts of spectacular courage such as The Great Escape and Dunkirk?

Chewbakka Jones and the Temple of Doom

July 7, 2017

Chewbakka Jones?

I was browsing yesterday for a book on horses in the Simply Books No 1 emporium. As I did so, my eye was caught by an instruction manual entitled How Not to Write a Novel.

Horse book nicely installed in its gift-wrapped box, I add How Not to Write a Novel to my purchase. It was a sound investment. And, as they say in many a blurb, I read it long into the evening, as the battles of tennis supremacy at Wimbledon pass me unheeded across the room. I tick off various crimes against publication I commit on a regular basis.

Mind reeling from what I had learned, I cross out a load of post-modern film-flam from my uncompleted novel. My previously unnamed narrator gets a memorable name, and  faces more heroic challenges.

The title? One comes to mind. But I fear for legal challenges at a later date. Still, I can at least make it the topic of this week’s blog post …

“Chewbakka Jones and the Temple of Doom”

Sports psychologist Chewbakka Jones is attempting to rescue his academic career by identifying the ingredients of sporting success. His most promising pupil is Tim, a would-be chess-boxing champion.

 His research, which takes place in a sleepy community centre, is disrupted by an invasion of bats, and disturbing ghostly manifestations. The setbacks are connected to a feud between a wealthy businessman and the Dalai Lama, leader of a secret society operating at the Hall.

When Tim and the Dalai Lama are kidnapped, Chewbakka is reluctantly dragged into a perilous rescue attempt.

The Queens’s speech, and how we get The Leaders We Deserve

June 29, 2017
 I have written often about leaders and their actions in Leaders we deserve for over ten years and in a thousand posts. The State Opening of the new Parliament provides me with yet another case example.
The event [wednesday 21 June 2017] took place after a spectacular disruption of events in the UK. A year ago, the unexpected result of the EU referendum dislodged Prime Minister Cameron. Infighting finished off leading pretenders, and outsider Theresa May took over unopposed.
At the start of the election campaign, the Prime Minister faced a Labour Party opposition led by the unpopular Jeremy Corbyn. She resisted the temptation to call a premature second election but then changed her mind. The campaign was badly run, May campaigned weakly on a platform of her being a Strong and Stable leader. Corbyn offered his expected radical alternative. The result shocked most observers, and left the government worse off in seats in Parliament .Rule with a minority of votes was a possibility. An attempt to boost numbers of seats by support from the Northern Irish DUP (Democratic Unionists Party) was being negotiated. The State Opening of Parliament took place without resolution of the matter..
Meanwhile, events conspired against the wounded leader. Several dreadful terrorist attacks, and a horrendous tower-block fire, reinforced her difficulty in revealing her deeply-held emotions. Her description as robotic, The Maybot, gained traction from regular political sketches by John Scace, and entered political vocabulary.
The Ritual Opening of Parliament
The Queen eschewed the customary State Carriage with its requirement for full ceremonial dress. This was announced earlier, but the occasion retained its air of unreality and still with much ritual. There were plenty of weirdly dressed personages. The Queen arrived in a very large car. The royal crown arrived it its own car, and had its own special place as she read out ‘her’ speech. The charade of knocking on locked doors and enacting the mystical relationship between monarch and parliament is enacted.
The proceedings are transmitted to a bemused world, showing what a funny place this country is. The image make up a simulacrum, a fiction based on an original which never existed of Olde England.
In the space of a few hours, a scene unfolded which captured the stability, perhaps the over-stability of the culture transmitted around the world. The bizarre trappings of the State Opening of Parliament have ossified over centuries and reinforce.the image of the funny old-fashioned country we are.
The Queen’s Speech and Brexit
I concentrated on the speech. It had been made widely-available earlier. The main focus was the departure negotations from the EU.
“The main focus of the speech was breakfast,” says a TV reporter, adding “Brexit, not breakfast. Sorry, I knew I’d get that wrong, sooner or later.”
Brexit was indeed much-mentioned in the speech, which was briefer than usual. It had been revised hastily to remove mention of the policies on which the Government fought and dismally failed to convince the electorate, during the General Election.
The little problem of the DUP
“The DUP are very experienced in these matters” Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP and ultra-committed Brexiteer said afterwards, trying to explain why the planned confidence and support arrangement is still being negotiated. This leaves the Government with a parliamentary minority.  It has not go unnoticed that the Government’s negotiating difficulties with ten DUP members does not auger well for the tasks ahead with the EU team of crack negotiators..
The Great Repeal Bill
An excited Brexit advocate insists the social benefits of membership of the EU will be retained by the Great Repeal Bill which will incorporate all Euro legislation. I need guidance, I can’t make sense of it and look to be enlightened in the debate on the queen’s speech. If the original legislation was bad, why take it over with the claimed intention of not changing anything?
Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the speech.
Corbyn began with his deepest regrets of the loss of life in the recent disasters, and from the Houses of Parliament. He moved on to strong condemnation of the paucity of policy in speech. He welcomed absence of several undesirable policies in the manifesto, including new grammar schools, offering a new vote on fox-hunting, and repealing the triple-lock on OAP pensions.
He asked for a response from the Goverment mostly on points just about exhausted during the election. He also offered a few signals for attack points to be expected, during the further days of debate. The speech was not exactly a block-buster. Unlike the effect of many of his earlier efforts, the noises from the government benches sounded half-hearted in response.
The PM rises to respond
First she sends best wishes to the hospitalized Duke of Edinburgh. Then she chooses a less combative style than usual in her opening remarks about terrorism. Soon however, the orchestrated questions return her and viewers to the same old PMQ culture.
The PM seems uncomfortable with the requirements of being heart-broken, and needs a little more practice.  Her first attempt at a joke was a dreadful pun over the missing (Alex) Salmon, but was applauded loudly by her loyal supporters.
When challenged about the election result, the PM tries to rouse the ranks with a ploy which used to work, three questions requiring a crescendo of triumphant cries in answer. Something went wrong amid points of order. Something has changed about the House. She was not helped by the lethargy behind her. In contrast, Corbyn had more support from erstwhile opponents in his own ranks. She continued pluckily, but the speech always promised to have an uninspiring end. In that,  I was not disappointed.
Dinosaurs and unparliamentary language
DUP interventions give an indication of hallmark truculence and easily-roused resentments in Northern Ireland’s political encounters.  Sir Geoffrey Robinson objected to reference to his party as Dinosaurs. Speaker Berkow  assured him it was not unparliamentary language, and anyway, dinosaurs existed for a very long time. It is easy to see how the Goverment discussions with the DUP were taking longer than anyone thought at the outset.
Corbyn and May: Compare and Contrast
Image and reality. Since her unelected accession to leader of the Conservative party and prime Minister of HM’s Government, Teresa May has appeared as a dominant force in the public showings in Prime Minister’s Question Time. Her weekly humiliation of Jeremy Corbyn showed a streak of cruelty in her cleverly constructed put-downs. All polls suggested a sudden election would produce a landslide. The encouragement from the Main Stream Media prompted the PM to complete a U-turn on the grounds of obstructive behaviour of opposition parties at a time the country needed strong and stable leadership. This was to become her at the election slogan, and one which contributed to her party’s election misfortunes. Her performance increasingly revealed her skills at Question Time were not replicated in unstructured situations. Corbyn was winning large audiences of young people who were immune to the daily venom supplied by the Conservative Sun and Daily Mail, partly because they got their information from social networks and media.
The Guardian’s John Crace produced a series of brilliant political sketches during the Election campaign. His description of Theresa May as the  Maybot has moved into popular use. Here is an extract from his take on the State Opening of Parliament.

No one could say they weren’t warned. The Supreme Leader had promised a coalition of chaos if she lost six seats and a coalition of chaos was what the country was getting. What she hadn’t made clear was that the coalition of chaos would be all hers.

After a morning’s work of emergency repairs to her circuits, which had overloaded the night before, the Maybot was eventually in a fit state to meet the Queen shortly after 12 o’clock. Her husband Philip put her through her final tests. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am the Supreme Leader,” the Maybot replied, rather more confidently than she felt. “Strong and stable. Strong and stable”.

John Crace, The Guardian, Friday 9th June, The Maybot is trapped in the first phase of election grief – denial

The earlier perceptions of Theresa May as strong and stable, and Corbyn as wildly radical and unable to command respect were shown to be at best based on partial and temporary sets of beliefs. Both became leaders because other candidates were considered wanting. Both came to power almost my accident, Corbyn after forty years of activism on the fringes of power  Almost immediately, his parliamentary party suffered voters’ regret, and have been trying to get rid of him, and his unfashionably  and socialist policies and closest political supporters. ever since.
For the first time, the General Election result has made him perceived as an asset to his party. His popularity among new party recruits was a big factor in his apotheosis.
In contrast, May is considered politically toast (a dead woman walking, as the former  Chancellor George Osborne put it), with would-be successors lined up silently (for the moment) among her cabinet colleagues.
 May and Corbyn are in one sense the leaders their supporters wanted and worked for, the Leaders they deserved, for better or for worse.
Post postscript
The snarling debate on the Queen’s speech continues this week. The Government finds a £billion to ensure support from Northern Ireland’s DUP, to keep it going.
Jeremy Corbyn auditions for a career as a pop star while waiting for a vacancy to arise as Prime Minister.
To be continued

Aging Lions maul coach Warren Gatland

June 19, 2017

Warren Gatland


In advance of Saturday’s test match against New Zealand’s All Blacks, [scheduled 24 June 2017] Warren Gatland, the coach of the British and Irish Lions is mauled in a bitter attack by Rugby Union pundits around the world, including former Lion players

Gatland’s heinous blunder

His crime? Dealing with a series of injuries to his squad, Gatland made the decision to call up additional support from members of the Welsh and Scottish teams, touring in the region.

A storm of protest burst out, led by England coach Eddie Jones, whose team is touring in Argentina, half way around the world. The headline Eddie Jones says what we have all been thinking about Gatland’s supposed call-ups sums up the nature of the ‘debate’.

Revenge attacks?

I was struck by both the ferocity and uniformity of the attacks. Gatland had triggered an avalanche of criticism. In some ways, this can be traced to disenchantment with Gatland, who will resume his role as coach to the Welsh national team after the tour.  Accusations of bias have followed Gatland from the outset of this tour against the world champions, who are odds-on favourites to win the three-test series.

His original selections were viewed as biased in favour of players he knew and trusted from Wales, and why strong candidates from England were omitted. The objections were mostly from the English media. Garland was criticized for Nationalistic bias, an ironic charge for someone of New Zealand not Newport Gwent roots.

Players omitted from the England squad were outspoken.

During the few weeks of the tour in June, tour criticism of Gatland built up. The coach was put on the defensive.

The emotional argument

So, returning the six replacements, the emotional argument against the extra six players can be summarized simply. Commentator after commentator echoed it:


“The decision devalues the Lions’ shirt


Few seemed to find it necessary to add (as Gatland found it necessary to point out) that the decision was reached  after long discussions by the international management coaching team of the Lions. Nor was there comment on how these players the pundits dismissed as not fit to wear the shirt might react, if their team mates on their arrival treated them as second-class citizens.

Historical baggage?

There seemed a lot of historical baggage about the media treatment of the story. For example:

England’s former Lion Jeremy Guscott found headlines in a half-time roasting of the Welsh team against Japan in the last World Cup. In particular, he blasted the Lions on the pitch.  Ironically, Wales upped their game against Japan, and Japan contributed to a display which led to the humiliation of England on home soil and the eventual appointment of new coach Eddie Jones.

Returning to the present controversy, even a Welsh rugby great has weighed in.

Jonathan Davies is a much-loved national figure who has suffered hardships and tragedy in his personal life with fortitude and public grace. His views are generally forthright and honest. He again took the devaluing the Lion shirt line.

Putting my frayed academic nightcap and bed socks on, and supping my Ovaltine, I suspect each player is demonstrating the core issue of social identity. Pundit Guscott now preserves his aura of greatness earned as a Lion through the symbolism of the brand. Davies never achieved the honour of playing for the Lions, as he made the painful decision to leave the amateur game of Rugby Union to support his family as a rugby league player, returning later as professionalism entered the Union code.

Gatland’s stubborn streak

There is a well-known streak of stubbornness about Gatland, although no more than the one apparent in the public pronouncements of Eddie Jones.

The test series may well be lost to the mighty All Blacks. If so, it would be helpful to conduct post-mortems in a more clinical fashion than the ‘expert’ diagnoses to date.

New Leadership Events at Sunderland Business School

June 12, 2017

15th June:  David Land, Director, Drive 2 Business will be speaking about  Leading through Supply Chains in the Automotive Sector

6th July:   Emma Walton, Head of People (Operations) will be speaking on Responsible Leadership and Social Impact

Sunderland Business School is pleased to announce its second series of the popular Business Breakfast Seminars, which began in January and will run until July 2017. All of the award-winning businesses invited to lead these events represent different facets of the core theme which is Leading with Impact. Not only do they represent a clear alignment with the core values of our Strategic Plan, the award-winning businesses leading these free events have been carefully selected as aligning with the core values underlining our new strategic plan: inspiring, innovative, collaborative, inclusive and excellent.

Leading with impact

Leading with Impact a reflects our commitment to developing excellence in leadership and management development as one of our strategic growth areas.  The seminars provide a learning and networking opportunity where award winning business leaders share their experience and expertise on the major challenges facing organizations today. This is a great opportunity for business leaders to start the working day with some with some time out to learn from their peers, share experiences, reflect, and engage in lively dialogue about the best ways of addressing key strategic challenges.

Participants are also able to take advantage of a light business breakfast and an opportunity to make initial introductions and network. During the seminar itself, speakers will leave plenty of time for an interactive dialogue and debate on the lessons learnt from their experiences.

The seminars will take place between 8-10am on Thursdays at Sunderland Business School, the Reg Vardy Centre, St Peter’s Campus, St Peter’s Way, Sunderland SR6 0DD

Contact us via

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 Dr Rob Worrall BA (Hons), MA, MSc, PhD, SFHEA, FCMI, FRSA, ACIPD Principal Lecturer, Faculty of Business,  Law and Tourism Tel: 0191 515 3060 | M: 07748 334 833 | E: