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Of Ulysses and Elevators

Posted By Roger McKinley, 18 January 2018
Updated: 06 June 2018

Over the years I’ve been rather ground-down by posters in meeting rooms telling me how to have a productive meeting. (Is it just me or are these the rooms with overflowing rubbish bins and the projector lead dangling from ceiling because the built in wiring has failed.)

No, meetings should be judged on results, not adherence to process.

The HQ of the Royal Geographic Society is not the easiest building to navigate. Even after a refurbishment it has retained its labyrinthine corridors and mahogany display cases. Not to mention the ancient lift that once stuck between floors whilst filled with Royal Institute of Navigation grandees. (I think they are still there). Whenever I visit I am convinced that I will meet a character in a pith helmet and empire-building shorts who will wave cheerfully and ask me if the war is over. (The Boer one, that is.)

And it was in this building a month ago that the Cognition and Navigation (CogNav) steering group meeting got off to slightly ragged start because people could not find the room. Over a period of ten minutes the assembly grew from a few people seated round a table to one needing more chairs.

The reason? Lots of new faces belonging to people who had never been there before. Full marks to the chair, Professor Kate Jeffery, for attracting so many new players. The minor delay caused by navigating unknown corridors was well worth it.

There is a lesson here for any Learned Society. Learning means change: new members and a continuously changing viewpoint. Just as Tennyson’s Ulysses saw “all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move” so a Learned Society should be on the move. CogNav – the role of the brain in navigation – is indeed part of the gleaming untravelled world. And what of the fading margin? For anyone not wanting to go anywhere fast, may I recommend Royal Geographic Society lift.

Tags:  COGNAV  cognition  navigation 

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