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Of ballads, songs and snatches, and dreamy lullaby PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 00:00

Head of Telecoms StrategyGilbert and Sullivan’s wandering minstrel was indeed ‘a thing of shreds and patches’ and, though opportunistically dependent for his living on the varied needs of others for whom he could craft his music, he regarded himself very much as a free spirit. 

Self-sufficiency and independence, as a personal aspiration, has in recent times been somewhat off-set by the turn of the economic tide and daily reminders that we are not only ‘all in the same boat’ but that we all need to pull together to weather these storms.   

Collaborative Advantage has not had such good press since the late 1970’s – and even then it was considered a bit soft and altogether too mutual.   Recent overdosing on ‘shock and awe’ power politics and commercial complexities has left many of us with a deep suspicion of free market efficiency and an urgent need to avoid being unexpectedly struck by wild pendulums. 

So it is not surprising that words that were once in favour are now saddled with new layers of meaning.  Bankers, once the heroes of the new get-rich economy, are now the bonus-fuelled villains.  Islands of excellence are now suspect for being overly elitist or not being sufficiently interdependent.  Patches, that used to be rough and ready fixes are now to be seen as locally adapted solutions and part of a larger fabric; a patchwork of (now) desirable diversity and not an inconsistent post-code lottery of loose standards.   Assets become burdens, dodgy debts have been ‘securitised (if you don’t look too closely), warfare is pre-emptive defence and broadband is the old narrowband with lip-gloss.  

For anyone attempting to explain fresh ideas to only half-open minds the ambiguity of the English language plus its variably semi-detached baggage and unregulated distortions (aka lies) is a mixed blessing – or, as I once inadvertently said in Northern Ireland, 'a bit of a minefield'. 

Which thought brings us, inevitably, back to the challenge of explaining how a totally different approach to local telecoms infrastructure investment can make a massive difference to the way we all work together – as opposed to the way we pulled apart the more cooperative notions of mutuality, community and society. 

So, in matters of broadband infrastructure, one person’s ‘Islands of Fibre’ are another’s patchwork of perfection – each adapted to local needs and each well connected to the shrinking last generation territories but neither requiring some massive top-down national plan for conformance to a drab lowest common compromise of under-performance. 

Does our choice of words to explain fresh concepts have an impact upon the policy influencers or the assessors of what is possible?  There are many doors to open and, inevitably, many keys.   Ultimately, because the Internet has taught us all that we do not need permission to innovate, the value of being an islander (or a patchworker) is that you have far fewer minds that need to be retuned to new ways of providing future-proofed access to competitive and innovative services. 

In this cause, hawking around fresh ideas, we are all wandering minstrels - and no man is an island because not one of our fibre-woven patches (or islands) is sufficient to itself but part of the main. 

We can, however, be sure that in our designs we will adapt our ballads, songs and snatches (and even dreamy lullabies if need be) to the needs of local community stakeholders and not to the convenience of last generation communications providers. 


The author is managing director of Groupe Intellex - a consultancy providing support for technology transfer, new venture incubation and services innovation.

See also 'Islands of Fibre' - first published in January 2008 in NetworkingPlus magazine



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