By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy
Taking Positions? Those looking for insight into the UK’s negotiating position on Brexit will be disappointed by the two position papers released earlier this week. Meanwhile those looking for something to criticise will also find little substance. The papers regarding trade of goods and confidentiality basically say that existing rules will continue to apply to goods placed on the single market prior to Brexit, and to confidential information already received. Perhaps there is little more to expect at this stage, as the EU remains intransigent on its order of play – the divorce needing to precede striking a new relationship. More divisive (with both the EU and Eurosceptics) is the paper released this afternoon on the role of the ECJ. For some, any role for the EU court will be an affront to sovereignty, whereas for others the workability of a deal on the single market will require a degree of indirect oversight. The paper strikes a relatively pragmatic tone towards the latter – whether the EU sees it that way is another matter.
Toxic Rainmakers For most of us, we don’t get a choice where we sit in the office. This might expose us to the discomfort of loud and disruptive colleagues, or equally to the benefit of sitting near to people that can accelerate our careers. Research published by Kellogg suggests that those sitting within a 25 feet radius of a ‘high performer’ had their productivity boosted by 15%, whereas those who sat near a ‘toxic’ worker (those about to be sacked) suffered a negative impact of twice the magnitude. With increased activity based working, co-working and more traditional hot-desking, how might this play into the politics of seat selection? If you are a rainmaker, should you be able to charge your co-workers a rent to sit near you? And if you are told to sit in the corner, should you start looking for a new job?
Go Green We are told that tackling pollution in our big cities is an important ambition. Solutions tend to focus on the reduction of emissions. However, an alternative solution may be to let nature take care of the problem. A recent study published in Ecological Modelling finds that trees provide an average $500m pa to each of the world’s megacities (inc London) by making them cleaner, and more pleasant places to live. By providing more tree cover, this benefit could increase by 85% according to the study. Other benefits include a reduction in stormwater runoff and costless cooling of buildings using shade. Earlier this year Sadiq Khan committed £750,000 to plant 40,000 trees in London (<£20 each). A study by the University of Washington found that customers were prepared to pay up to 50% more for convenience goods in landscaped business districts, whereas another study shows that tree-lined areas have house prices 6% higher that non tree-lined equivalents. Time to get planting?
Fair Dinkum The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has published its annual Global Livability Index, and the unassailable lead of the Antipodeans and Canadians continues. Melbourne came top for the 7th year in row, prompting the annual question from my Melbournian wife as to why we choose to live in London. So what makes the Victorian capital so attractive? Education receives top marks, and healthcare also receives a maximum. Those that (try to) commute into Melbourne might be surprised to see it scores 100% for infrastructure, although a free tram service around the CBD is certainly welcome. In fact, had it not been for the strong infrastructure score Melbs would have lost out to Vancouver and Toronto. The good news for the Canadians is that this, unlike culture and environment is something over which the city governments have some control. A common factor in those cities that scored well is a relatively low population density, posing interesting questions for urbanists who predicate plans on high densities.
As Brits we are perhaps fortunate that English has become the lingua franca of the business world (especially as it is only the third most spoken language in the world). However, we should perhaps not rest on our laurels. Although constructed languages such as Esperanto have largely failed to catch on (apparently there are however 350 native Esperanto speakers), the future it seems lies in a form of Japanese hieroglyphics. Emoji is now the fastest growing language in the UK, and with the Oxford Dictionary naming as ‘word’ of the year in 2015, speculation has been raised about whether Emoji could become an official world language. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, a study published this week suggests that those using emojis in emails are perceived as less intelligent. Worse, it seems that emojis are interpreted differently by different age groups and nationalities. Most countries perceive the as ‘joking’ whereas Canadians read ‘Yum!’. Meanwhile those over 25 described the emoji as, unsurprisingly – a peach. Whereas those under 25 apparently identified this character as – ‘booty’ .