Every weekend I cross the Saclay plateau to go food shopping. The road is straight flat and boring, so I have a game; I count cranes! The record over the last two years is 38, last weekend there was 32, and this is important. Let me explain…

I took this on Sunday. It shows the smaller part of campus with the housing and research facilities near the Polytechnique campus.

The ambition of what’s happening on the plateau amazes me, and I’m saying this as a child of Milton Keynes. From the outside, France is consolidating universities onto a new campus. The more I look at it, they’re creating something unique in Europe.

The Economist wrote about the project this weekend…

A huge modernist university campus is emerging amid farmland on a plateau south of the French capital. The University of Paris-Saclay, officially launched this year, merges some 20 higher-education and research institutions. It has a teaching and research staff of 9,000, catering to 48,000 students—more than Harvard or Stanford.

They wrote about Paris-Saclay this week because the University has been ranked 14th best in the world in the Shanghai rankings. This is great result for year one and The Economist give the impression that things stop here.

Which brings me back to the cranes. The rankings this year are based on the data of 2019 and they’re not forward looking. However, the project is not even half completed, the investment continues and it’s massive.

This year the campus was extended with the arrival of the Ecole Normale Superieure. The building is stunning!

The end result will be a town of 50,000 people on the edge of Paris, connected to the city by a new metro, containing a massive university and a enormous number of research facilities.

Most of these facilities are not new but having them in one location is. 48,000 is greater then Stamford or Oxford.

I’m convinced that I’ll be counting cranes for years!

Fixing the weak link…

The first 15 minutes of this interview have kept me thinking a reasonable part of the weekend.

The question is what parts of your organisation are strong link games and which are weak link games.

I think that we’d all find that far more parts of our organisations are weak link organisations than strong link ones. However, most organisations organisations that I work with are worried about the next star player and the next killer move.

I’m left wondering why!

Hidden away from the rest of the World…

So there is something I don’t understand. Or more precisely, another thing that I don’t understand.

Fifty years ago a revolution occured in a valley in California because Xerox filled a building as far away from head office as possible with very clever people. Over the course of a decade, they created the future.

There is a brilliant account of what happened that is well worth reading.

So this worked. Brilliantly!

So why don’t people try and copy the method? Why aren’t there moon shot guesses spread around the world?

We see the same thing in war as well. All sides create secret towns cut off from the front lines, Las Alamos, Bletchley, or the closed Russian cities.

However, companies today, put these places where the bosses can ‘drop in’ and mess things up. Why?

Decentralised Culture…

Sometimes you find the most amazing things in the strangest of places. However, whenever you do, it makes the discovery somthing special.

A number of years ago, I was wondering around EPCOT in Florida because I had a day to spare and a childhood of images of Disneyworld to experience. EPCOT is a strange place, it’s built for far more people than visit it therefore it’s quiet and a good place to reflect.

I had no plan and few expectations when I started wandering. I came across the massive China Pavillion and wandered in. From memory, there were five of us in the massive 360° cinema, so basically it was empty.

On leaving the cinema/ride there was a small exhibition about China and, wonder of wonders, sitting in the middle of the room was row after row of the Terracotta soldiers.


Would I have travelled to China to see them? Probably not, but I have to say that they were wonderful to see and started me down a road of reading about China and it’s history.

To the person that decided to make this exhibition possible. Well done, mission accomplished!

Which brings me to Lens, the old mining town in Northern France. A few years ago the Louvre (yes the world famous museum in Paris) opened a branch office in Lens. A strange place for an investment like this but I think that was the point.

250 works were moved there and displayed in an innovative single room where the position in the room of the object depends on when the object was made. Oldest at the front and with European on the left and Asian on the right!

So we went to visit when we were travelling north and what did I find?

Well surprisingly, I found the Egyptian version of what I’d seen in Florida years before.


A lovely surprise, because everything is not in one place!