Smoke & Mirrors: Where was the CIO when his house caught fire?

The comms chief finds a 'significant correlation' between a colleague and Celeste Nibelle.

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 25 Aug 2015


Our CIO, Mike Lamb, burst into the board meeting and announced that his house had caught fire over the weekend. I was about to sympathise but I’ve never seen anyone so excited about his house burning down. He then explained that he’d been away on business but that his whole house was connected to the internet. So the fire alarm had automatically alerted the fire brigade, which came and put it out. Then, even more wonderfully, Amazon had immediately emailed him offering a discount on fire extinguishers. If that wasn’t exciting enough he then got another email from the hotel where he was staying offering him a discount for an extended stay. And that, he said virtually panting, was the beauty of the ‘internet of things’.


For some time Mike has had a very big bee in his bonnet about the internet of things. We’ve all been doing our best to ignore him as IT are famous for premature overexcitement but apparently the programmable world is soon to be a reality. Our finance director said the equivalent for accountants would be if the government legislated that all relationships should be conducted by spreadsheet. The trouble is that Mike’s fire story has provided an example of the internet of things easy enough for our wigged-wonder CEO, Lynton Spivey, to understand. And guess what? Our new strategy is to be at the heart of the internet of things. Preferably by the end of the week.


As soon as he got in, Spivey reminded me he wants some ‘thing’ to be connected, something that’s now dumb but could be smart. I thought of our entire operations department but fortunately the divert between my brain and mouth kicked in just before lasting damage was done. Spivey asked me to facilitate the IoT project. As communications director it has precisely nothing to do with me but my core skill is helping him understand his management decisions. So I sat down and started to think about how we can connect our product lines of surgical appliances to the internet and quickly found myself down some really unpleasant cybergenital avenues. Fortunately just as I was contemplating a bedpan that could text a nurse when required, our operations director, David Eldritch, popped by. He reminded me that he already had some ‘things’ connected and tapped his nose.


Eldritch is never happier than when he’s reducing our cost base. Last year he started this appalling hot-desk regime (directors excluded obviously) where he reduced our office space by getting people to work standing up (or lying down at home). I remember now that he wanted to get rid of even more desks so he wired up all the office chairs with pressure pads to feed him information. He could then map precisely how long people were at their desks. He told me to keep it hush-hush otherwise everyone would put sandbags on their chairs when they went for lunch (I ordered some online when he told me). Later that day I discovered that Mike in IT was suggesting that my comms budget should be slashed because when things started talking to each other humans wouldn’t need to. Bollocks but dangerous bollocks.


I asked Eldritch to show me the results of his internet of chairs. They showed that the IT department never leave their desks which came as no surprise to anyone (but also how hardworking the sandbags in the comms department were). When he’d left I spent a long time poring over the details and I noticed a very strong correlation between the heavy usage of the sofa in Mike’s room and the absence of our gorgeous head of diversity, Celeste Nibelle, from her own chair. A little later I pointed out this significant correlation to Mike and that perhaps there might also be a correlation with her and the hotel bed he was in when his house burned down. Curiously, Mike has postponed his demands for the IoT and my own budget is now beautifully ring-fenced. It’s a powerful thing the connected world.

Guy Browning is the author of How to be Normal: A Guide for the Perplexed, published by Atlantic at £12.99. He can be contacted at

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