Friday, June 08, 2012

Here's my Sitting and Thinking Place

That was the title of a song from a Beatrix Potter tape I used to listen to when I was a kid. It came back to me on a recent train journey from Cambridge to Ipswich for a meeting. Chugging past fields and rolling pastures, with no reception on mobile communication devices, it struck me how liberating it can be to be incommunicado for a little while. Alone with my thoughts, I had a chance to get them in order, as well as just having the chance to take in my surroundings and observe my fellow passengers.

News that London's Underground network is to be connected to the WWW via Virgin Media's wifi wizardry will no doubt be hailed as a great breakthrough for business in the capital, where the famously "Always on" economy will no longer have to include the disclaimer "Always on except while you're on the Tube" - with associated boosts to productivity, working hours, GDP and the rest. But is this really a good thing?

Quite apart from the mental strain of living such relentless lives (26.4 million working days lost to stress-related illnesses last year), there is the simple fact that everybody, at whatever level of an organisation or walk of life, simply needs time to think. As the string of high-profile business collapses shows, we work in such a knife-edge economy that the slightest mis-step or bad executive decision can have calamitous commercial effects, and considerable knock-on effects for businesses elsewhere in the supply chain (think of the collapse of Zavvi, or Clinton Cards).

At a time when companies are pumping money into creating sleep pods, breakout rooms and thought spaces, in an effort to provide some thinking time, it seems crackers to take away one free outlet already available.

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