A week of contradictions

As a celebration of diversity, I think it is amazing that we live on a planet with the starkly contrasting environments that I have observed this week. We have huge multinational companies striving to make the world a more efficient or easier place with technology that makes your mind boggle and climbers on Mt Everest facing perhaps the world’s greatest natural challenge, particularly in the face of this week’s monumental earthquake. In our modern day global village, these stark contrasts butt harshly against each other, appearing as they do on my PC window onto the world in nothing more complicated than two Google tabs. Despite the close connection in physical space, there could be no greater disconnection between these contrasting environments this week, and I think that is a shame.

Let’s start with the natural challenge that is staying upright on Mt Everest’s base camp on the Saturday morning of 25th April. Within hours of the earthquake that decimated every building not built to withstand  a 7.8 richter scale impact, drone footage was broadcast around the world of Kathmandu and the devastation it experienced. Facebook was awash with tourists sharing past photos of people smiling in front of buildings now destroyed, expressing concern for people they met. Less immediately accessible but available now, here and elsewhere, was footage of the resulting avalanche at Mt Everest’s base camp. This footage comes from an interview with a man called Nick Talbot, aiming to be the first person to climb Mt Everest with the genetic disease, Cystic Fibrosis, he has had from birth. Nick is an experienced climber who has been to Nepal on many occasions and has trained hard to climb the nearly 30,000 feet to the summit with his impaired lung function. Indeed, he was there last year to attempt Mt Everest’s summit when the avalanche hit, killing 13 sherpas, and abruptly ending the season’s climbing opportunity. One year later and the link above has Nick talking from a hotel in Kathmandu about running from an avalanche, not as he points out because you can outrun one of these, but simply to reach a position of some shelter. Being knocked down and pulling himself up numerous times I can’t help but run the Chumbawamba song in my head and marvel at the internal strength that makes someone dig themselves out of the snow, with fractured ribs, in a T-shirt and trousers (no shoes), in freezing temperatures, knowing that their whole camp is destroyed. Anyone who has laughed at a Dilbert cartoon and remarked on their first world problems cannot fail to be shocked and humbled by listening to this short interview. Nick himself is doing all of this to raise money and attention attention for Cystic Fibrosis and the ever present need for better therapies. His fundraising page is HERE. I ran a half marathon for this cause in 2014, so anything you can do is much appreciated. So far, Nick has raised over £50,000, just over half way to his target.  So what will £50 or even £100,000 get you in the drug development world? Average costs to develop a drug now stand at $1billion dollars. Even those now confused by my laissez faire attitude to converting $ to £ cannot fail to see a monumental gap here. So raising awareness is even more important, please share this blog if you feel moved to do so to help with this. Because until corporate sponsors pay little more than lip service to their social responsibility, public donations are not going to increase the budget for funding research into diseases that have small numbers of patients.  And this brings me to the corporate tab on my Googling history this week…..

In other posts (here and here), regular readers will know that my mind frequently boggles at HP printers in particular that despite having both a PhD and MBA, I am totally incapable of operating. I suspect it may be printers in general and it is unfair to wage war on HP’s offering in particular. However, HP has been in the news recently as this 75 year old birthplace of Silicon Valley is splitting in two. hp Inc lives on with all the unmanageable printers and a new sibling is born, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. A new company requires a new logo and so this was the big announcement from the CEO of a company that employs as many people who live in Leicester/Iceland. The new logo and back story behind it was unveiled on the 15th April:

hp_enterprise_logo

I can’t help but wonder (in relation to Nick’s fundraising) how much they paid for someone to come up with a green box and to join the t’s together. These two features are symbolic of simplicity and collaboration apparently. The internet is awash with opinions on this announcement which can be summed up by “meh”. For a company with the tagline “invent”: as the CEO puts it, “we are innovators at heart – that’s in our DNA”, perhaps a box was not the best branding metaphor?

I can’t help thinking that if collaboration was really important to HP would it not be reaching out to connect with the rest of the world on a more meaningful level than remarking on how the two tt’s in Hewlett are joined together for the first time in history? I would be slightly more moved by evidence of connecting with others than font kerning. Perhaps HP are enabling the data streams from every one of those drones taking film footage over Kathmandu, perhaps they are restoring communications to thousands of homeless Nepalese families as I type. If so, Google does not know of it and hp do not seem to be shouting loudly about doing so. I am not pointing the finger deliberately at HP alone; philanthropy is at the heart of HP’s founding history, with continued connections to the Lucile Packard children’s hospital at Stanford University. I’m sure many other companies share Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s seemingly heightened ability to look inwards whilst expressing the values of collaboration. Every day there are companies all round the world struggling to differentiate themselves to the jungle of customers and a green box proudly presented to the world 10 days before an entire country felt the force of nature at its most raw was undeniably, unfortunate timing. It would be great to see some corporate social responsibility at work in action not words now. I wonder how many companies will sponsor Nick in his continued quest to raise awareness and funds for people like him with Cystic Fibrosis?

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