Monday, 21 July 2008

How many aberrant apostrophes will you see today?

Sometimes you hear something and you just think: ‘Damn, inconvenient as it is, that’s right, that is. Now how do I change?’ I had such a moment the other day at a talk at Cleveland College of Art & Design by Lord David Puttnam, who despite being a Lord and Chair of umpteen great things, and an Oscar winner, is both a fantastically modest man and a wise man. Asked what was the one thing art colleges such as CCAD should teach their students, he said ‘standards that lead to the very best working practices’. He told a story about his early days in advertising and suggested we (he included himself, though he was just being modest) no longer had the skills or tendency to accept nothing but the best. Management styles and critical cultures were too ready to praise, too ready to accept 'good enough', and too reluctant to genuinely enforce a ‘nothing but the best is good enough’ approach. I think he’s got a point. I think it also has a relevance to how funders work with clients, as there is, to be frank, a resistance (far from universal but also far from rare) to direct feedback on the quality of applications or work, no matter how much people say they want it, which can lead to difficulties in providing it, no matter how much funders say they want to.

Lord Puttnam’s point was that rigour is the best way to learn to be genuinely excellent. There’s a thought for a Monday morning. I’m sure we’d all agree: but how will we live up to it this week?

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