Hallowed Halls of Inaction!

Hallowed halls of no action, inaction, progress retardation.


“These hallowed halls of learning and inactivity, moving to engage with businesses and then achieving nothing at all, perpetual motion is just as impossible as these two Universities thinking they can change………..”


Back in January 2012 I engaged with two Universities who wanted and courted my involvement in their desire to engage with Entrepreneurs and commercial innovators in order to generate new income streams with all the Government cuts. I think their aim was to combine researchers and Entrepreneurs to develop projects that generate income from the commercialisation of their research or academic ideas. Sounded good to me, in this busy retirement of mine and I had projects on the back burner for years that I wanted to explore too and needed academics to input.


One even set a building floor up with offices that handpicked Entrepreneurs and Businesses/organisations specialising him health and wellbeing could be neighbours. Again the theory was really innovative, it was to have similar, likeminded people all looking at some of the bigger problems relating to an ageing population, to look at these negative effects of ageing but from outside the box to find new approaches and solutions. Well I was all in and so looking forward to immersing myself in the world of academics, researchers and other innovators. I even got given the grand title with both Universities I was engaging with, that of Entrepreneur and Innovator in Residence. Ha-ha love it, they dish out such cool titles – lol


Anyway, I moved my team and me in to the one University and continued to develop relations with this second University. With regards to the second University the main contact that I was developing a relationship with was like minded, an innovator, an inspirer, an entrepreneur, a visionary, but I felt he was stifled, but a wonderfully sincere and honest individual I instantly knew I would be friends with for life.


So with University #1 I moved my team in and we started a round of meetings with their leading Academics, Directors, Professors, Researchers and all the key people in the University. Some I liked very much, some were so bright I could hardly understand what they talked about, some looked down on me, some were just going through the motions of meeting, as I was doing too, just going through the motions. It was if I had to pay homage to them before I was accepted, which was a bit strange as it was me that was courted, but hey this is their world and I was learning a very insula world. I have a natural ability to weigh people up within a moment of two of conversation starting, and many of the meetings were with people that looked down on me, but I knew they needed my entrepreneurialship, my innovation, my ability to see and commercialise their ideas.


During these ‘induction and orientation’ type meetings, I met some wonderful people too that I want to stay in touch with forever and a day, a Neurolinguistics Professor, Pain Management Profession, Communications professional, a woman managing Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, and best for last a person heading up health and social care, whom I have mentioned above. These meetings allowed me to meet so many world class people within such hallowed halls of academia. As this was all happening at University #1, the exact same meetings were happening in University #2. Perhaps this was the accepted courtship process that I was unable to recognise at the time.


March went by and then April, meeting after meeting of saying the same thing, asking the same questions, being judged and dismissed at times, absolutely dull and was becoming pointless. So when May passed I decided to go on the offensive and start pushing out my innovations and concepts, and they were met with wonderful interest, and full throated support, which was fab, really made me feel that they wanted me involved and respect the contribution I could make. But wow was I in a steep learning curve about the politics and conflicts, the systems and processes, the complete lack of decision making and the meetings after meetings to get movement. The irony was now one ever talked about the students, and one person actually said to me that they got in the way of the research they wanted to do and another (paraphrasing) said it would be so much better if students weren’t around. These comments were not said in fun and I tended to let them go.


So May comes to an end and we review, with the so called managers of the business engagement unit, where I was based, my original agenda, which I first went through with them in March:

  1. To establish a large engagement project to train staff in healthcare, an academy;
  2. To do some lecturing, as I was keen to pass on my knowledge to the next generation;
  3. I wanted to be involved with disabled students within University to help them succeed and get the most positive experiences they could from this experience, as well as preparing them for employment, and engaging them to set up innovative and support systems to stop them dropping out;
  4. To explore my ideas and concepts;


In return I agreed to be involved in any way they wanted me to be involved, without thought of reward or recognition, and I would dedicated as much time to any project they wanted. Looking back I think they didn’t get that I wasn’t interested in reward, as I was only interested in making a positive difference, which kind of became my mantra at every meeting, “I am only here to make a positive difference to others”, over and over again this would be said by me. They were nearly applauding me and agreed with everything, but yes I could see they were thinking “what’s the catch?” but sincerely there wasn’t one. This was the same at University #2, my God I felt I was in identical parallel worlds, as if I was in a ‘Ground-Hog Day’ with both Universities, the same meetings over and over, again and again. I could have recorded the rhetoric I had to say at the first meeting and just sent them all a disc with it on; it would have been so much easier.


June occurred and I was getting on with some significant projects without the Universities and quickly realised it was also despite the Universities. They kept saying we want to find ways of working with you and I kept saying please, please engage with me, and as my forth project became live and surrounded by another company vehicle to explore where it could go. And still nothing was happening with both University, and my frustration levels were rising, I mean I was sixth months in from my first meetings with them and there was no engagement, despite meeting after meeting.

Come the end of July I was feeling disappointed, I was reassured over and over again but nothing was happening and I was developing project after project without any support from either University, I mean it was JULY – HELLO! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! I could see why many of these managers are within these hallowed halls of learning, these walled environments of total insulalisation (think I just neologised?) of institutionalisation, as in the private commercial sector they would be slaughtered. In commerce you have to move fast, weigh-up complex situations quickly, make decisive decisions and lead from the front, but also own those decision and make them in the best interest of those you serve, clients, customers and staff. As long as staff are fully aware of what is happening and why, what you need from them and why, what needs to be achieved and why, then you can move quickly with your entire staff team supporting drive forward – I know this as I have taken the lead for 25 years in companies and in business. University managers and management are so slow that they have less speed than hair growth; they were having meetings to decide what meetings to have. Seriously they couldn’t lead a charge if they were dragged by stampeding horses, they are singularly the most inept change managers I have come across, all rhetoric and no action. If speeches were gold they would be rich, if action were gold they would have starved to death.

University #2 finally allocated me an office to use, which wasn’t wheelchair accessible – the building I mean not just the office, so I was, after another month, allocated another space, only the disabled loo was locked so if I wanted to use it I had to be humiliated and ask someone to open it. I kid you not it was ridiculous, humiliating and embarrassed me! I asked why they kept the disable loo locked, and they said that they didn’t want people using it for illicit drug injecting. So why the hell was the male and female allocated toilets open?!?! Do drug users feel that other toilet cubicles are below their standards and will only use disabled loos! Such a ridiculous excuse and I told them so. The most stupid argument I have ever heard, especially from a University, are they really that dumb, no common sense, pathetic nonsense – educated people, perhaps, but I doubt many of them could dress themselves.

I reached September and nothing had changed since January, I had developed firm friends through these meetings, as I said at the beginning, and have made many contacts some of who I am helping despite the lack of action on the side of the Universities. 9 months and in partnership with the two Universities I achieved nothing, everything that was achieved was done regardless of these hallowed halls of lack of action. I had over a 100 meetings at University #1 and 25 at #2 and I achieved nothing with them, nil, zilch, zippo, a big fat zero.

With reflection, it occurred to me that actually #1 wanted to engage but didn’t know how to, I asked one manager about this and he said “well we are engaging between 50 and 100 companies”, I mean having a variance of plus or minus 50 just shouted he was talking crap, and when I said I was leaving as it was pointless being there I was accused of disengaging – talk about transference.  The allocated floor to engage businesses in was so quiet as there was only 4 businesses in, including myself, one was out all the time, one did their own thing, one was folding and we were going. You could hear a pin drop there, the tumbleweed being blown down the corridors. The management and admin staff outnumbered the residents 2 to 1, it was like a morgue and the management and staff had disengaged into their own trenches, their safe little siloes. It had become the worst place in the world to be creative in, innovative in, to be change makers and problem solvers, it had died and it was the worst waste of an opportunity to engage with businesses and genuine Entrepreneurs I have ever seen, the lost potential still bothers me, the lost potential to make a positive difference is incalculable.

At least with #2 I met some game changers, some people I respect and can work with regardless of the University, and we are doing, as I am currently supporting two private ventures, and there are more to come, that have come out of these relationships and I am honoured to help. But the key issues are that the people in management with the real power don’t want to change don’t want to innovate; they can barely tolerate students let alone the Entrepreneurs that they are desperate to engage with, as long as nothing changes – GRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!

University #2 told me they had helped form 350 companies over the years, so I asked how many were sustained past the year and two year mark, they changed the subject. Well I can tell you anyone in this country can form 350 companies overnight, doesn’t mean a blasted thing guys if they don’t do something, create something, employ people, make a profit or at least break even, what is the point, unless it is just another useless stat they through at people that looks good. It was all image and no detail, no substance, as my grandfather once said, “There’s no soil over those rocks so nothing can grow”. They embarrass themselves with this nonsense and don’t even know it. Considering within Universities are some of the brightest minds in the world, there are some complete fools with too much power within these walls.

I never got to do any lecturing, I never got to do any projects in partnership with them, I never even got to work with students with disabilities, or barriers to learning. With this last point, to me the most important one, I am working with both Student Unions at these two Universities to get things sorted, mainly because with their management I achieved no progress at all in 10 months. My advice to other companies is to run away as fast as you can from these pointless hallowed halls of utter inaction, just be aware that what these Universities can say to companies is not what they are likely to deliver, as they don’t know how to work with companies and don’t even want to try, regardless of their meaningless rhetoric and so called facts, their depthless figures.

It was however an experience I am glad I have had because of the people I have met and the positive relationships I will carry forward, for this and only this reason I am glad I tried to work with #1 & #2, these are wonderful people and I will enjoy working with them privately, thankful of their friendship.


Jonathan Wade

Smiling Cat Ventures and Innovations Group


Smiling Cat Ventures Ltd (www.smilingcatventures.org)

Innovative Minds At Work Ltd (www.innovativemindsatwork.org)

Moments in Time Ltd (www.momentinmind.org)

Innovative Business Consultancy Ltd (www.ibcv.org.uk)

Systems of Equality Ltd

Passport to Care Ltd (Social Enterprise – Not For Profit)

Spiritual Inclusion (Social Enterprise – Not For Profit)

Disability In Business Centre (in development)

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