Entreprenerial Mind Map

This one has been a while coming. It’s a visual exploration of some of the traits and states associated with an entreprenerial mind. Obviously not everyone will possess all of these traits or states and neither are they static – these will change over time too as a start-up grows and new people join the business. Perhaps a question is which states work best throughout an organisations lifecycle?


Peta Levi, ‘Flourishing in the Cambridge parkland’, Financial Times, November 1980

Segal Quince Wicksteed, The Cambridge Phenomenon: The Growth of High Technology Industry in a University Town, 1985

Lyle M. and Signe M. Spencer, Competence at work: models for superior performance (Chapter 17, Entrepreneurs), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1993

Sally Caird, What do psychological tests suggest about entrepreneurs? Journal of Managerial Psychology, 8(6) pp. 11–20, 1993

Tom Byers (Stanford), Heleen Kist (Stanford) and Robert I. Sutton (Hass), Characteristics of the Entrepreneur: Social Creatures, Not Solo Heroes, Handbook of Technology Management, Richard C. Dorf (Ed), CRC Press, October 1997

Yin M. Myint, Shailendra Vyakarnam and Mary J. New, The effect of social capital in new venture creation: the Cambridge high‐technology cluster, John Wiley & Sons, June 2005

S Kavadias, SC Sommer, The effects of problem structure and team diversity on brainstorming effectiveness, Management Science, 2009

T Miller, M Grimes, J McMullen and T Vogus, Venturing for others with heart and head: How compassion encourages social entrepreneurship, Academy of Management Review 37 (4), 616-640, 2012

J Hutchison‐Krupat, RO Chao, Tolerance for failure and incentives for collaborative innovation, Production and Operations Management, 2014

The Cambridge Phenomenon: 50 Years of Innovation and Enterprise, Kate Kirk and Charles Cotton, Third Millennium, 2012

M. Frese & M. M. Gielnik, The psychology of entrepreneurship. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 1, 413–438, 2014

M. J. Gorgievski & U. Stephan, Advancing the Psychology of Entrepreneurship: A Review of the Psychological Literature and an Introduction. Applied Psychology, 65(3), 437–468, 2016

Lynda Applegate, Janet Kraus, and Timothy Butler, Skills and Behaviors that Make Entrepreneurs Successful, HBR Working Knowledge, June 2016

Dean A. Shepherd and Holger Patzelt, Entrepreneurial Cognition: Exploring the Mindset of Entrepreneurs, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018

Nicos Nicolaou, Phillip H. Phan and Ute Stephan, The Biological Perspective in Entrepreneurship Research, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, November 2020

Early roughs…

A biological model of innovation

Can biology teach us anything about innovation? The essence of Darwinism is that progress is created by adaptation to changing circumstances. What starts off as a random mutation often spreads throughout a population to eventually become the norm through a process of natural selection. The same is surely true with innovation. New ideas are mutations created through chaos and adaptation, especially when two or more old ideas combine or reproduce in unusual or unexpected ways. In short, innovation = inheritance (history) + variation + selection.

Serendipity clearly plays an important part in this process and the list of things created by accident is certainly impressive; Aspirin, Band-Aids, credit cards, DNA finger printing, dynamite, inoculation, Jell-O, Ferrari, Lamborghini, microwave ovens, penicillin, ink-jet printers, X-rays, nylon, heart pacemakers, Coca-Cola, Teflon, Vulcanised rubber, Nintendo, Lego, Smart Dust, matches, dynamite (yikes), safety glass, Corn Flakes, Super Glue, Viagra and Velcro to name quite a few.

Pursuing experiments – and tolerating the inevitable failures that result – is therefore one practical way to make an organisation more innovative. But is there is another option? Is there a strategy, process or even a culture that will embed innovative thinking at the very core of an organisation’s being? I think there is.

Think about when individuals and institutions are at their most innovative. You might think about the cross-fertilisation of disciplines and experience. This is indeed one way to kick-start innovative thinking and it’s not that difficult to design spaces where diverse people will bump into each other in a random manner. Office kitchens and staircases immediately spring to mind. Lunch is even better. A Harvard Business Review article once claimed that P&G had attempted to “systemise the serendipity” that so often sparks innovation. When the Hollywood producer Brian Grazer heard about this he commented: “that’s what we call lunch.”

Another route is to combine the energy and naivety of youth with the wisdom and cynicism of old age. This can work too. Reverse mentoring is a very practical idea championed by the likes of former GE boss Jack Welsh. Or there’s the thought of recruiting both the newest and the oldest members of staff for brainstorms. Diversity in terms of skills is key, but so too are age and experience.

And, of course, there’s the idea that if you generate enough ideas one will surely be good enough to use. This does occasionally work, although in my experience not very often. I prefer the opposite, which involves thinking inside a small box rather than thinking outside of one. Read, for example, Adam Morgan’s book called A Beautiful Constraint.*

So, what’s my big idea for generating big ideas? What’s my million- dollar idea? Death. That’s right, demise, departure, disappearance, extinction, the grim reaper. Hold on, am I seriously suggesting that we kill companies and organisations just to reinvent them?

Sort of.

It strikes me that true clarity only arrives occasionally and generally it’s when we think we are going to die. If we are looking down the barrel of a gun – or a microscope – we tend to see our death (and with it our entire life) in high definition. This creates a tremendous sense of urgency to put it mildly. This might not be of much use if we have seconds to live, but if we are given weeks or months we’re often able to focus on the things we really want to do and separate what’s merely urgent from what’s actually important. Relationships are rekindled, ideas are hatched, things get reinvented.

Sometimes we are fortunate. We think we are going to die, but we don’t. The tests or the analysis were wrong. The threat failed to materialise. We were lucky. Sometimes the change resulting from serious threats is enduring, although more often than not we revert to our bad old ways once the grim reaper has gone elsewhere. This is true for institutions as much as it’s true for individuals.

One of the reasons that Apple, sometimes cited as the world’s most valuable company, is so innovative might be to do with the fact it was 90 days away from being bankrupt back in 1997. Similar near death experiences abound, ranging from Telsa, SpaceX and KFC to Airbnb, FedEx and IBM.

So, the second million-dollar question must surely be this…can you fake your own death in order to think straight or to become more innovative? Believe it or not a company in South Korea once tried to do precisely this, although it backfired somewhat.

Back in 2008 there was a South Korean craze called ‘well-dying’ in which employees would write and then read out their last words in fake funeral services. Organisations such as Samsung and Hyundai sent their employees on courses organised by Korea Life Consulting in order to question their life paths and priorities. The idea got a lot of bad press at the time, partly because people were required to get inside a real coffin, but it wasn’t a wholly bad idea.

Asking people what they’d do if they had a day, a week or a year left to live can be a good way to reveal what they really think about things, including themselves. Asking a leadership team inside a large organisation to do the same is a similarly good way to reveal not only priorities, but potentially to revaluate strategies too. What might you do differently if you didn’t have to worry about regulation, unions, governments, quarterly earnings and so forth?

After all, if you have absolutely nothing to lose you will behave very differently than if you do. You will try things that are riskier and be far less concerned with what others might think of you. In short, you will be brave and be led by your heart as much as your head. You’ll dream big and be less inclined to get stuck on practicalities.And, of course, we only truly appreciate what we have been given when there’s a real chance that these same things will be taken away. It is only through death that we really learn to live.

As Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Try using a narrative of rapidly changing circumstances and ultimately the imminent extinction of your organisation to radically revaluate where you are going and how you might get there.Or write an obituary for your organisation and then treat it as a strategy for reincarnation.

Carpe diem.

* A Beautiful Constraint: How to transfer your limitations into advantages, and why it’s everyone’s business by Adam Morgan

2017 Trends & Ideas

Continuance of volatility, confusion, ambiguity and uncertainty

We’ve moved from a G-7 world order dominated by the US to a G-Zero world with no clear super-power. The resultant vacuum is being fought over by just about everyone, including an assortment of nutcases and crackpots. We shouldn’t discount the ability of the US (or perhaps China) to re-stabilise the system, but having removed balance and added hyper-connectivity things are likely to get more unstable and uncertain, not less.

Growth of dystopian sci-fi to counter (or at least dilute) the above

Good Science fiction has always been about contemporary concerns. While there’s not much geo-political sci-fi around there’s plenty concerning our anxieties around automation, robotics, super-humans and immortality. Is it too much of a stretch to link the Zombie genre with ageing societies? – probably. I also quite like the idea that the vampire genre can be read as a metaphysical rendition of the impact of connectivity addiction and information overload.

Growth of the Internet of (everyday) Things, especially smart sensors

We’ve been connecting information and then ourselves to the Internet for a while, but we’re now connecting ‘things’, which produces information, sometimes useful, sometimes not. In theory this should result in huge efficiencies and the ability to predict exactly what people (and things) need.
But it could also result in an enlarged ‘attack surface’ for people intent on causing havoc along with significant breaches of privacy and data theft.(See first trend – volatility and confusion).

Growth of Virtual Reality and entry into business applications

It’s still a bit early to call this one (remember Google Glass?), but it does look as though VR (and AR) could be the next big thing until we get bored at search for the next next big thing. Initial applications will be gaming and possibly ‘adult entertainment’, but it should bleed into security, retail, education and health among other areas.

Emergence of hybrid or mixed reality environments in retail

When retail isn’t about convenience or price it’s about experiences. So VR, AR and mixes of both (along with injections of highly sensual reality) are were retail will go. Retail will thus likely polarise between quick and easy (and cheap) and highly sensory experiences.

Continuation of cyber-attack attempts on critical infrastructure

Could there ever be a digital pearl harbour? We’re half expecting it, so possibly not. Nevertheless, the amount of damage that can be done to our ever expanding and hugely interlinked systems is immense. With this in mind I’d expect some kind of ‘Balkanisation’ of the Internet with what was once an open global system being replaced by smaller units each with varying degrees of local control and interference. BTW, if this worries you always have a back up that’s not digital and isn’t digitally or remotely controlled.

Growth of nationalism/protectionism and to a degree isolationism

The more the world becomes global and homogenised the more that cultural identity comes to the fore. We saw this with Brexit where identity (and to some extent sovereignty) trumped economics. We slightly saw it with Trump too when the threat of rising powers and disappearing influence and employment created a turning inwards and backwards. Trump and Brexit were also about a popular revolt against elites, but the bottom line remains the same. You might link tribalism being fuelled by the internet, resources being put under pressure by climate change and population growth, but whatever you include the end result is much the same. Fear is making nations (and people) turn inward and backward.

Digital services added to physical products (mirror worlds)

A mirror world is an old sci-fi idea where everything that exists in one domain has a twin somewhere else. This is where VR, AR and the IoT are taking us. This is a world where everything of significance or substance has a digital equivalent containing useful information about its origins, location or state.

Voice interfaces becoming more mainstream (e.g. Amazon Echo)

Goodbye keyboards, computer mice and even touch screens. The future seems to involve humans taking to machines to control them and the machines taking back. Ironic, don’t you think, given that humans don’t really talk to each other anymore, preferring to type or tap on screens instead.

Emotionally aware machines and conversational computers (See above)

As above, but the machines can now figure out what mood you’re in and respond or reconfigure themselves accordingly. If you want to know where this could go watch the movie Her or tune into Black Mirror on TV.Links with virtual assistants.

3D printed food gets discussed, but generally disgusts

OK, so NASA is doing experiments printing food for far-flung missions. Pizza and cookies aren’t too bad apparently. But we’re not stuck in space and humans are deeply sensory. Food is creative and social too, so this idea leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Having said this I can imagine 3D-printed food being a fun thing to use in certain retail and leisure environments.

Wireless charging pads in workplace, home and retail environments

Putting aside my cynicism that we’ll ever build a true IoT or smart city when we’ve been totally incapable of creating a universal charging cable for digital devices, wires are still a pain. So perhaps charging plates for phones in Starbucks are a good idea. Or how about charging plates in the ground under parking spaces so that your electric car wirelessly re-charges when it’s parked. This could catch on.

Next generation of fast charging batteries competes with the above

OK, so my iPhone5 (I know, I know!) has more computing power than an early NASA mission, but the battery hardly lasts a day. My festival phone (a Nokia 105) lasts a week. Clearly what we need are batteries that last a whole lot longer and/or fast charging. Expect both to appear in 2017.

Sunscreen pills appear, but nobody trusts them

Now a male contraceptive pill that also prevents sunstroke would be a good idea….maybe. Maybe not.

Portable laser pens to treat minor wounds (e.g. on battlefields)

This one is pure Star Trek, but it’s also almost here. It’s healthcare Jim, but not as we know it.

Growth of the virtual economy (e.g. people paying to ‘see’ virtual bands)

This one is really interesting. On the one hand the success of live music and the renaissance of vinyl surely shows that people sometimes like the ‘real thing’. But then when people spend a whole concert watching the concert through their phone screen what’s the point? Why not just watch the whole thing on a giant TV. Or, perhaps, the future is a mixed reality where people show up at a stadium ‘in person’ but watch a VR or holographic band. The possibilities are mind-boggling. Artists could play ‘live’ in more than one stadium at once or you could watch ‘dead bands’ like Abba ‘live’.

Software than can write itself

Software can take an age to write, so why not write software than can write itself?

Prosthetic limbs with a sense of touch

Mixed reality again? It’s getting somewhat confusing. And let’s not even delve into the possibilities for virtual or remote sex.

Blockchain applications beyond payments

I still don’t understand Blockchain, but apparently this is going to be a big thing

Epidemic of ‘study drugs’ in UK and US universities

Cognitive enhancement is becoming something of an epidemic in higher education – so called ‘study drugs’. This is a symptom of global hyper-competition and our relentless pursuit of productivity. Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine – all attention deficit drugs – are being used to create focus and task motivation (i.e. make really dull things seem interesting). And guess what? They are all coming to the workplace soon – an update, if you will, of strong cups of coffee, cigarettes and Red Bull.

Continuation of energy decentralisation

The days of national grids are fading. Local energy networks where users are also producers and distributers are becoming more mainstream. Expect Google to enter the energy market as a trader and/or supplier.

Apple either announce an iCar or an iLock

Just a thought. The iCar has been expected for a while. I wrote about it ten years ago in fact. A physical padlock that is digitally operated would be kinda cool too.

Resurgence of craft and analogue products

Most strong trends create counter-trends, so as the world becomes more automated, accelerated and virtual there will be pockets of resistance in the form of locally made craft products and slow services.

Back-lash against digital privacy invasions

See the IoT, smart sensors and alike. Remember this is your data they’re using.
Like the man says: If something is free on the internet, you are quite often the product.

Back-lash against Big Tech

This is partly a story about wealth, income and opportunity polarisation. It’s partly one about tax evasion, the avoidance of regulation and various ethical and moral responsibilities. And it’s partly one about privacy and whose data they are using.

…I’ll add links for all these trends and ideas over the coming week or so.

Thought for Thursday


“And what was the true object of this superstitious stuff? A final clue came from “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” (1996), in which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi acknowledges that, far from being an act of individual inspiration, what we call creativity is simply an expression of professional consensus. Using Vincent van Gogh as an example, the author declares that the artist’s “creativity came into being when a sufficient number of art experts felt that his paintings had something important to contribute to the domain of art.” Innovation, that is, exists only when the correctly credentialed hivemind agrees that it does. And “without such a response,” the author continues, “van Gogh would have remained what he was, a disturbed man who painted strange canvases.” What determines “creativity,” in other words, is the very faction it’s supposedly rebelling against: established expertise.”

Taken from Salon, ‘TED talks are lying to you’ by Thomas Frank
(Article originally published in Harper’s)

London’s best places (& spaces) for inspirational thinking


Further to my post earlier this month about London’s best thinking spaces I’ve been thinking, appropriately, about some further places to think. But it’s become exceedingly obvious that this subject could be split into two or even three distinct parts. My original post was, I suppose, about inspiring places to hold idea generation meetings in London. But I think there’s also a need for places where individuals can think alone – without the need for Post-it notes. And then there are places where individuals might want to think about things that have nothing whatsoever to do with work – spiritual places perhaps.

I’ll get to the last set of places in due course (maybe), but here’s a more comprehensive list for the first two. BTW, if you’re wondering where I’m writing this, the answer is the 41st floor of The Shard, the tallest building in the European Union (image above and entry later on below).

London’s best places to hold inspirational meetings*
The wine cellar at the Stamford Hotel

You might need to like wine for this to work, but if it’s an unusual venue you after for a medium-large dinner this 380-year-old cellar might be it (see image below).

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The material’s library, University College, London, WC1

If you’re a designer and you want to be around inspiring people and materials try this (below) as something a little bit different.

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The solar shuttle on the serpentine, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, W2

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Slightly bonkers, but why not hire the whole thing (above) and go for a float on a nice day. Ideas need to be agreed by the time your time runs out.

The rooftop bar at Boundary, 2-4 Boundary Street, E2

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Again, if you want some fresh air to fuel your thinking try this rooftop in Hackney (above).

The rooftop Terrace at Madison, 1 New Change St, St Paul’s, EC4

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And another (above).

The Kensington Roof Gardens, London, W8

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And another…if you’ve got a bigger budget (Kensington roof gardens above)

The Skybar (and private room) at the Gerkin (Searcy’s).

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The top of the Gerkin (above) has some great spaces. I did a catered breakfast talk here for PWC and it worked really well.

Inner Temple Hall, EC4

London’s livery companies are worth a look if you want a sense of history (I’ve spoken at Stationers Hall twice) as is Inner Temple. Temple Hall (below).

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The Shard

See main image at head of this post, but you can hire a variety of spaces in the hotel and the view is just as good as the observation deck.  Hutong, a Chinese restaurant, which is accessed via a separate entrance, also has some good small (8-12 people?) private dining spaces with fantastic views, especially at night (image below).

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Somerset House, London, WC2

More of a big budget venue, but the river terrace is worth consideration, especially in summer. (Image below, Seamen’s hall).

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The ‘business playground’ at Pullman St Pancras station, London N1C

A bit ‘out of the box’ especially the boxes that come with the room (below).

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The Balcony on the 28th Floor at Galvan at the Hilton Park Lane, London W1

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The best view of London…in the 1970s (except for Telecomm Tower, RIP, of course).

Private dining room at Bob Bob Richard, 1 Upper James St, Soho, W1.
Private dining room that’s a cross between the Orient Express (with Agatha Christie on board) and a private yacht that’s gone a bit, well, overboard. Strictly for Russian Oligarchs.

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The Delaunay, Covent Garden, 55, Aldwych, WC2
Another private dining room (below) that feels a bit like a private train carriage from the 1930s. Edge of the City rather than Soho this time.

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Daphne’s, South Kensington, London, SW3.
Yet another private dining room, but this time with light. The roof comes off in summer.

(Daphne’s below)

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The British Museum

The British Museum. How could I not include this? Hire a space or just walk into the Great Court, one of London’s most amasing spaces, by Foster & Partners. (Image below).

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Tate Modern art gallery

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Tate Modern? If it floats your boat. Actually I was part of a London Business School workshop in a hired space here. The room looked out across the Thames and worked out really well. Turbine Hall (above) is great for solo thinking.

Museum of brands

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Something a bit off-beat (above). Perfect for FMCG company brainstorms. You can also just wander around by yourself and work out how old you really are (“OMG, I remember those”).

Kew gardens

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Not much mention of outdoor thinking spaces so far. Just go for a walk, even if there’s twenty of you. Try somewhere busy (the length of Oxford Street perhaps) or somewhere quiet, like a London park. Kew Gardens (above) can be hired for events.

The Gallery at the Imagination building, South Crescent, WC1

This (below) feels a little like something from Star Wars. Bring your own storm troppers.

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Other thoughts for corporate events? Try the ICA, Museum of London, Royal Academy, Wallace Collection and the Wellcome Collection.

London’s best places to inspire individual thinking**

Here’s the second set of locations, although, as you can see, there’s considerable overlap.
British Museum reading room

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(Above British Museum Reading Room…Shhhhh)

The London library, 14, St James’s square, SW1

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(London Library above – you’ll need to join).

The garden of St Dunstan-in-the-East, Idol lane, EC3

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(Garden of St Dunstan above – you may find me here in summer)

Sir John Soane’s museum, London, WC2

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(Soane above – possibly my favourite museum in London).

Dennis Severs house, London, E1

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Dennis Severs House (above). If you need a blast from the past….

The conservatory at the Barbican, Silk Street, London, EC2

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Nobody seems to know about this – possibly because finding the entrance to the Barbican is almost impossible (hint: look for the escalators just off the roundabout. Go see the Museum of London while you are there).

Geffrye Museum walled herb garden, London, E2

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Geffrye Museum (above). A good place to think about anything to do with the home and household goods.


Chelsea Physic garden, London, SW3

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(Chelsea Physic – above. Another of London’s hidden gems).

The cake shop at the London Review bookshop, London, WC1A

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Slightly off the radar, but a lovely quiet spot to think.

Smithfield Meat market
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Smithfield (Above, some time ago). Go about 5am when London is waking up. Good for breakfast from about 3am onwards.

Victoria & Albert Museum.

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V&A (above) if you must – never cared for either of them myself.

Design Museum

(Design Museum below. A must for designers seeking inspiration).

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Horniman museum

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Another of my favourite museums above (Alongside the Soane and the Ashmolean in Oxford). The gardens are great too. All built from tea if I remember the story correctly. BTW, nice Buzzfeed link here on amazing London spaces, including Horniman museum.

Waterstone’s bookshop, London, WC1E

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A Shop? Yes. A giant bookshop. I used to have an office a few feet away from here and would wander in aimlessly from time to time. I would often walk out with an idea, largely due to the serendipitous nature of bookshops. (Image above).

Some other ideas (I’m too tired to add more images).

Science Museum

National Portrait Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Natural History Museum

Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge walk – but try running it.

Running track in in Regent’s Park, London, NW1

Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, EC4

Or Even song at Westminster Abbey
(All getting into category 3 a bit here!)

A few other offbeat places to think…
Highgate Cemetery

Great sunrise spots
(Do sunrise, not sunset…energy is more positive

The natural swimming pond at King’s Cross, London, N1C
Or try the sauna!

Feeding the ducks in St James’s Park, London, SW1. Got kids? Get ducks!

Driving around the entire M25 (try it!)


By the way, if you’ve found a space but need a speaker, get in touch!


* Most of these places will need to be booked well in advance.

** The assumption here is that you’ll wander around in relative silence. If you try to hold a ‘meeting’ you will probably be asked to leave. Many of these spaces do, however, have meeting rooms and other spaces that can be hired.

*** If you’re looking for other restaurants with private rooms I’d suggest you look at Harden’s restaurant guide.



Idea of the month

What to do with thousands on unused red telephone boxes? One idea is to remove the coin-operated telephones and printed phone directories and put library books inside instead. A kind of mini-mobile library if you like. The idea obviously depends on trust (you take one and put one back) and is open to vandalism, but the cost of trying is so low why not give it a go?