Lots been going on recently so I am very behind on the blogging front but just wanted to capture a point made by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, in a relatively recent interview available via McKinsey here (and this is from memory so not verbatim – please follow the link above for the video to hear exactly how it was expressed):
"My job as leader is not to make decisions, as there are enough smart people around Google who know what the best course of action should be, rather it is to enforce deadlines. If I don't enforce a deadline then people just analyse and talk and talk and become a University! The best way to enforce a deadline is a crisis, so if one doesn't exist it helps to create one."
I thought this quote is fascinating for several reasons. a) Leaders are so often portrayed as all knowing so it's refreshing to hear him say that others know best. But b) the point about becoming a University if you don't enforce a deadline i.e. make a decision is pretty cutting but also pretty insightful.
My frustration with academe, and I say this as someone who nearly pursued it as a career, is that it's all analysis and no action. Let me give you a quick example from personal experience. When I graduated I asked a friend who had also recently graduated and studied Philosophy "What was the one big thing you took away from your degree?". The answer was honest, fascinating and depressing (for me) in equal measure. He said "I've learned how not to believe in anything – how nothing can be truly logical and trusted and everything can be deconstructed"!
Now I studied Physics so am not shy of logic noranalysis, however I am less patient these days when the output of a piece of research is to do more research. As Karl Marx has on his grave (and btw I'm no communist)
"the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."
I believe we have more than enough talk and analysis in our government, business and academic institutions. What we lack is the courage to act decisively. We need more space to experiment safely and act on both data at our disposal but also our intuition born of experience. I guess this is what we are trying to do at Nesta Connect and whilst it can be often challenging and by no means always works, that is why it is fun and also, on occasions makes a real difference.