Curiouser and curiouser

Channel 4 is due to launch a new £50m public fund, 4IP, this autumn and last night Policy Unplugged’s Steve Moore organised a dinner to brainstorm ideas around funding, innovation and public service.

I got chatting to (ex BBC now) Channel 4 Commissioning Editor, Matt Locke, who had some interesting stuff to say around the subject of leadership. Matt said I could quote him and he seemed reasonably sober at the time so here goes:

  • You have leadership of hope, leadership of fear and then something which you might call curious leadership. Each style has its pros and cons.
  • Greg Dyke came to the BBC in a time when everyone was really down on their heels. He spoke in a language of hope and got people to feel good about themselves again. Even though the outside world was changing and the BBC’s needed to adapt to survive, Greg’s strategy was focused inwards. This was necessary at the time but it wasn’t sustainable.
  • When Mark Thompson arrived [in 2004], he spoke the language of fear. He had to cut 10,000 jobs. He had to deal with a below-inflation licence fee settlement. He had to bring the BBC kicking and screaming into the digital age. Everyone looked to new media as the way out of the rut.
  • At Google, by contrast, they have curious leadership. Everyone who works there is encouraged to develop their own ideas. This is great, and creates a highly innovative culture, but the reality is that a lot of those ideas are completely unworkable. Because there is such a culture of idea-generation, people come up with projects just for the sake of it, projects that in other companies simply wouldn’t see the light of day. So that, in itself, is a problem.