It’s a nice idea, but it will never work…
Those words were (allegedly) said by the Head of Cambridge University’s Engineering Department to a young Frank Whittle when the latter presented a new idea for aircraft propulsion, the jet engine. I’m always reminded of those words when people poo-poo the potential for clean energy. At every stage in the renewables revolution, a choir of naysayers has launched a chorus “yes, but…” with perfect timing. And yet the milestones keep coming – today it was announced that offshore wind was now cheaper than new nuclear.
This is not to say I disagree with a certain amount of cynicism. Regular readers will know I have strong reservations about the effectiveness of carbon capture and storage and heat pumps – I can’t get my head around how the second law of thermodynamics doesn’t render them impractical. But we need to hit the right balance of realism and ambition; challenging wishful thinking while embracing potential.
In my early days as a Sustainability Consultant, I used to get frustrated that my wonderful ideas were rarely implemented by clients. They never said “That’s a bad idea.”; rather it was “We won’t be able to resource that until our restructuring has been completed.” or a similar excuse. Individually these seemed reasonable, but I soon noticed there was always a reason to do nothing.
So I started down a different approach – facilitating workshops where the client’s employees developed the ideas. The difference was palpable – they wanted to implement these ideas as a matter of pride. Often we wouldn’t get to the level of what I would have recommended from my experience of best practice, but I soon learnt it was better to implement a less-than-perfect solution than not implement a perfect solution. We would also uncover wholly unexpected cans of worms which needed tackling.
I’m current working on workshops for three different (very different!) clients. If you rang me up and asked me to help you with a task, I would almost certainly suggest running a workshop. Because they work!
Check out our Workshop Facilitation Masterclass which sets out the unique way we go about structuring and running our workshops.