And there’s a lot of talk about novelty. How novel are the proposals? How novel are the approaches? And how novel is what we’ve all been doing here all week? Is this really any different from a conference or a chat in a University common room. Before we started, five days seemed like an age. Nearing the end, it feels pretty tight. There’s no denying that, as a way of funding science, this is pricey. As well as the cost of keeping everyone here, there are the opportunity costs of taking some of the country’s best scientists away from their desks. For me, there are many reasons to do things like this, and many reasons why they make financial sense. But the important, intangible value is in bringing people together, bumping them into each other, sparking thoughts and challenging assumptions. Everyone talks about interdisciplinarity, multi-disciplinarity or whatever. Few are trying to make it work in practice.
Our facilitators, Martin Taylor and Gudrun Friedrich, who run a company called ClearSpot Consulting, reminded me about ‘Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.’ It’s something Bruce Tuckman talked about in the 60s and Wikipedia tells me that it informs Big Brother. At the end of a process, it’s difficult as a participant to look back and see the point of everything that happened. But I reckon that, as we come to performing stage, the storming part has been vital. My hope is that, in months to come, our scientists will look back and appreciate the new ideas and relationships that were seeded earlier in the week.