Forum: Reflective Repasts

Reflective time is scarce and hard to take, yet it is from reflection that we spring forward re-invigorated. As a bit of grit in an oyster provokes the pearl, good company combined with a pinch of paradox and discussion provokes insight. Z/Yen seeks to create situations for clients and friends, as well as ourselves, where insights can be found.

Z/Yen values the support of clients and friends. Many of our clients and friends enjoy opportunities to share experiences with each other. We enjoy creating these "networking" opportunities and hold many events during the year - seminars, cocktail parties, lectures, exhibitions for struggling artists, workshops, boat trips. We also hold a few events, our Reflective Repasts, where we hope our guests experience a high degree of interaction, some in-depth conversation on an interesting subject and intellectual stimulation. These events are by special invitation to a small number of people, typically to those people whose ideas and thoughts we feel will shape the nature of our economy and society, whether they are well-known or behind-the-scenes.

Reflective Repasts centre around the guests of honour’s favourite puzzle, koan, conundrum or paradox – "you know, there’s been one thing that always bugs me…". The guests of honour are not called upon for a presentation, nor a humorous after-dinner speech, nor an assembly address, rather an observation or two combined with two or three thought-provoking questions which our guests can get their teeth into (particularly if the entrée is a bit bland) – we call this the Koan Kourse or Muse Course. Guest numbers are sometimes limited to 12 (apparently this is a traditional number for dinners). Obviously, all remarks are off the record, the "Chatham House Rule", and any press presence is there on a personal level only. We try, with modest success, to have three clear contributions to discuss, about four to five minutes each:

“I have a dream!”

“I have a theory!”

“I have a problem!”

followed by … “I have a train to catch!”.

We have held Reflective Repasts in the evening at a large number of locations around London, from Thames sailing barges to livery halls, Guildhall, the Gherkin, the BT Tower, Spencer House, and other places. Since 2008 we’ve also held some Reflective Repasts at the Farmer’s Club, rethemed as A-Musing and B-Musing Dinners in cooperation with Culliford Edmunds Associates, specialists in global wealth management recruitment. Since 2014 we've also had some Reflective Repasts of polymaths from the Hyperion Club. Some past puzzle posers include:

  • Stewart Brand and Bernard Lietaer, with Faisal Islam, Jan-Peter Onstwedder, Richard D North and Brandon Davies on Long Finance. A lively discussion ensued over whether or not financial markets could truly think long term, and whether current ideas of sustainable finance were just, as cheekily suggested by Dudley Edmunds,"Woodstock Revisited";
  • Richard D North who drew from his book, Rich Is Beautiful: A Very Personal Defence Of Mass Affluence, to provoke thoughts on whether wealth was ever excessive, capitalism could exist without fear, firms should strive to be virtuous or wealth could be spiritually uplifting;
  • Faisal Islam (Business & Economics Correspondent for C4) who, returning from meeting many of the major players in the credit crunch, challenged our diners to work out if amongst the herd thinking anyone really knew what had gone on, what was going on or what might happen in future;
  • Dave Prentis (General Secretary of UNISON the UK’s largest trades union) who led a discussion with the likes of Dr Douglas McWilliams and Shaun Woodward - "Trading With Unions – Friend, Foe or Futile?" – and signed up a new union member on the night, the Chairman of a healthcare company;
  • Dr Douglas McWilliams who posed a real teaser – "Is the Precautionary Principle the Best Precaution?" – the group response was "No";
  • Professor Ian Angell of the London School of Economics who led a very animated, Nietzschean discussion on the puzzles "Beyond Good and E-ville";
  • John Lloyd (producer of BlackAdder, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (co-author too!), etc). John spoke on "Paradox and Confusion, The Guardians of Truth?" to launch his new BBC show "QI", Quite Interesting;
  • Dr Gerald Avison of The Technology Partnership who asked "Is Failure Really a Good Thing?";
  • Loyd Grossman who pondered whether museums were Temples of the Muses or Temples of Amusement" and made everyone realise how they love museums in the abstract, but in practice?'
  • the Rt Hon John Gummer, who questioned "Do Good Principles Make Good Profits?";
  • Sir Willie Purves (Chairman of HSBC) started off all our Reflective Repasts in 1999 with a question as to whether "the UK is to Europe more as Manhattan is to the USA, or more as Hong Kong is to China?";
  • Hyperion event at the Old Bailey, “I have a song!” (Michael Poll on guitar), “I have a problem!” (John Harle – Artistic-Business Fusion), “I have a dream!” (Henry Price – Complexity Theory in Archeology - “Traum” for in that sleep of death what dreams may come – The Virtues Of Vagueness), “I have a theory!” (Sarah Winckless – Row On);
  • Hyperion event at the Guildhall, “I have a problem!” (Commander Sarah West on Leadership), “I have a dream!” (Vinay Gupta on Hexayurt – Weapons of Mass Construction), “I have a theory!” (Ling Ge on China, Climate Change, & Fashion).

We welcome ideas and themes that are genuinely thought-provoking and are happy to change the format or venue to suit particular circumstances or requirements.

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