That’s bad news for Britain’s Net Zero challenge

Recently, in response to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UK government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, wrote:

“The IPCC report is clear: nothing short of transforming society will avert catastrophe... individuals, employers, institutions and international partners will need to work together to understand the trade-offs, agree compromises and seize opportunities.”

In other words, reaching Net Zero will require sacrifice. As governments have found time and again — on issues ranging from house building to adult social care — agreeing on the problem is only the…


The death of the Industrial Strategy Council is a positive step

Last week, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced the dissolution of his department’s Industrial Strategy Council — a group of business leaders the government would tap for advice and ask to monitor its performance.

The news was greeted with some dismay by industry bodies and commentators, who fear the Conservatives are losing interest in industrial strategy. The RSA’s Matthew Taylor called it a “sad and bad” decision, while Make UK described the news as “frustrating.”

But, putting aside the debate about the efficacy of industrial strategy, are the critics’ concerns valid?

All…


Any explanation of trust that doesn’t explain Amazon or the Queen is not to be trusted

Trust is the social capital that allows civil society to function. Countries with high aggregate levels of trust trade more, embrace innovation more easily and require less regulation. Government by consent requires trust, so it is right that governments should consider how best to strengthen the trust bonds with, and between, citizens.

Unfortunately, the conversation about trust is often distorted by wishful thinking, self-serving recommendations, and piety.

The wishful thinking stems from the belief that trust flows naturally to those who deserve it. This false-premise leads advisors to assert that the best way to build trust is to ‘do good.’…


Progressive values are constant, the ideas they value are not

I went on my first march back in 1992. I took the day off school to protest on behalf of Britain’s coal miners, whose pits faced another round of closures.

I didn’t know anything about coal mining. I had never been anywhere near the pits or the villages that relied on them. I didn’t understand the economics of the industry. What I did know was that the Tories were determined to see them close and many innocent, working class people would lose their livelihoods as a result of Conservative callousness.

The other thing I knew a little bit about was…


Our polarised political climate is partly the result of where we choose to live and who we choose to live with. Flight from major cities would burst bubbles that have been growing for decades

Pew Research shows the gradually widening political divide in the US that blew up into a Culture War

San Francisco real estate marketplace Zillow reports that new listings are up nearly 100% as Bay Area residents seek new lives beyond the city limits.

In New York earlier this month, Governor Cuomo begged for the city’s rich to return after they fled during lockdown: “You got to come back! We’ll go to dinner! I’ll buy you a drink! Come over, I’ll cook!”

In London, house…


Social networking technology will have the same polarising effects on company culture as it has had on the outside world

As I write, Microsoft is embroiled in a public controversy that began as an internal argument about the company’s diversity strategy and which quickly found its way onto news media sites ranging from Quartz to Breitbart.

This is the latest in a growing number of acrimonious internal debates that have become reputational flashpoints — from complaints about Slack-bullying between journalists in New York newsrooms to the infamous case of James Damore, an employee who was fired from Google after his…


This article was written for the TBD Conference, taking place on December 6th at Here/East in London.

We can fix politics from within

We can all play a part in reversing the political and social polarisation that is making compromise, consensus and collaboration impossible. But we need to take a look at ourselves in the mirror.

It’s easy to spot the signs of radicalisation in others:

They get their news from an increasingly narrow range of sources, they won’t let facts challenge their views and they hold worryingly strident views, falling out with friends who demur. They are dupes. They’ve…


This is an edited version of the speech I gave at the launch of MHP’s Guide to The Networked Age, a response to a world of growing polarisation and tribalism, developed with Dr Tali Sharot and her team at The Affective Brain Lab:

We are not here to wring our hands about The Networked Age. It is the age we live in. The world corporations, institutions and leaders operate in.

We need a response, not a sermon.

This is not about good versus evil. Although it is about people who think the world is like that.

Our world is driven…


In an age when individuals can impact businesses as powerful as Starbucks, Disney or the Daily Mail, the importance of influencers is obvious.

But if your first question is then ‘who are the influencers I need to worry about next?’ your approach to issues management is wrong. In The Networked Age issues come first, influencers second.

Swedish activist Elin Ersson holds up a plane to protest a man’s deportation

The influencers who will shape your licence to operate in future are not out there meticulously building their knowledge of a topic and cultivating people interested in a single issue, they are strident generalists, collecting followers with shared values, hungry for new material.

From…


Like many professional experts, fund managers face a constant battle to convince people that they have what it takes to outperform the market. In The Networked Age, direct communication through digital channels is a powerful tool to build and maintain investor base and it’s one that fund manager Neil Woodford has been deploying.

As The FT’s Lex column writes:

“Speculation on whether Neil Woodward, a star fund manager, is any good has become a national sport in the UK… His flagship fund has returned 3.24 per cent over three years compared with 22.55 …

Nick Barron

Deputy CEO of strategic communications consultancy ENGINE|MHP+Mischief.

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