So, answer me this: what happens when the language of citizen science collides with the edicts of senior management? You guessed it. We look to the heavens for inspiration.
Top of the clichés is ‘blue sky thinking’ – or BST to those in the know (or is that something to do with Mad Cow Disease?). After a few moments of ‘research’ – i.e. skimming through the Ladybird Book of Cognitive Enquiry – it transpires that not long ago BST was actually understood as ‘not grounded or in touch with the realities of the present’. However, through overuse, misuse and executive-usage it has been fundamentally reframed to mean a ‘creative activity for trying to find completely new ideas’. Knock me down with a cirrus stratus. It may not surprise you to hear that BST was recently ranked as the 5th most irritating phrase used by business leaders. I’ll leave you to guess the other four.
My favourite senior management leadership phrase at present is ‘sky to ground’. I use it at the drop of a parachute. I think it means taking an idea from strategy to tactics, from vision to implementation, from the nebulous to the now.
So while riffing on the imagery of fluffy cumulus and beribboned contrails you’ll be pleased to know that a new addition has been added to the already voluminous International Cloud Atlas. What’s that? You mean you didn’t know there was such an atlas? To be honest, me neither. But all your favourites are there – nimbus stratus, alto cumulus, muchas gracias, and so on. The most recent addition is the rather inelegantly termed Volutus – a ‘tube-shaped mass that rotates slowly around a horizontal axis’. If you are struggling to visualise this phenomenon, just think of the miracle that is candy floss, the extraordinary way it is coiled and whisked into shape around those rather feeble but essential wooden sticks.
While Volutus is a newcomer, Asperitas was identified as long ago as 1896 and is a rather fetching cloud formation with a richly rough-ish rounded bottom. Though incredibly, it has only just found its way into the Atlas. I hear you gasp with surprise and, dear reader, I share your incredulity. Happily, its acceptance into the elite typology of cloud forms has been celebrated by the British Cloud Appreciation Society who have been earnestly campaigning on its behalf for decades. Yes, really. A Cloud Appreciation Society. It could only be an institution created in Britain.
According to my impeccable scientific source, the venerable Clive Cookson, Volutus is a perfect example of ‘an undular bore’, which surely must be the point where clouds, management and academia come together in perfect aerial alignment?