Why Britain needs to start celebrating its successes
17th Jul 2013 | 09:39
Time to stop knocking people from their pedestals
In the past few years I've asked many luminaries of British tech and gaming why we have not become or maintained our role as world leaders and uncovered some fascinating pet theories ranging from the dull but realistic (tax breaks) right through to the more eccentric (the tradesman's entrance).
But there is one particular thing that a surprisingly number of those questions brings up, often completely unprompted, and that is the British attitude towards success.
Stereotypes are all too easy to attach to an entire nation of what are clearly very different people. But when the same issue is raised time and time again it's difficult to object too strenuously, especially when the media often does its best to underline the problem.
The fact is that, when it comes to success our most likely response is predictable; we hate shouting about our own wins and we are immensely talented at taking those that are doing well 'down a peg or two' or even 'knocking them off their pedestal'.
Examples to us all
"We're a typical British company - we're not going to shout about [our success]," ARM's Ian Drew told me earlier in the year.
"One of the most damaging [things in Britain] is that people who try hard to do things are sneered at. Think of the whole swot thing at school... I think that runs quite deep in our psyche," gaming icon David Braben said.
Raspberry Pi: Leading the British charge
Can British gaming be great again?
EE Praises British attitude to technology
"In America the fact of success is celebrated but in Britain it's sneered at, and that is a real problem."
Sir Richard Branson suggested when I interviewed him that Britain 'needed a bit of saving', Sir James Dyson told me that science and engineering in schools 'needed a bit of an image change' and it was he that pointed to the Victorian attitude to people who did practical things as the start of the problem.
So how do we start being more positive? How do we get over this fear of shouting about our successes without sounding arrogant (something that Brits seem far more scared of than any other nation).
Well, the signs are actually quite positive; and in a very British way those green shoots of positivity are seeping in via our love for sport.
Take last year's Olympic Games: like many, I was readying my best eye-roll ahead of the Opening Ceremony and yet Danny Boyle's remarkable staging cut through all of that and brought a positivity that was then added to in spades by success.
Lions wins, Andy Murray's Wimbledon triumph, even the early stages of the Ashes; our reaction seems to be moving on from only really appreciating a plucky loser (Eddie the Eagle anyone?) to celebrating the winner.
Even in tech, the celebration of Sir Jony Ive's influence on Apple points to a growing confidence in shouting about our heroes, and as editor-in-chief of TechRadar in the UK I make no apology in singing the praises of the likes of ARM, Imagination, the BBC, Sky, BT and a host of audio brands along with digital media 'winners' like Shazam and 7Digital.
There is no shame in putting British brands on a pedestal. I very much doubt that the national propensity for a bargain will ever be replaced by a 'buy British' movement that can rival the US' self-promotion.
But, if our attitude continues to change about our success stories, if we start supporting those on the pedestals and giving the 'swots' the credit they deserve, there is absolutely nothing to stop Britain becoming a regular at the top table in both technology and gaming.
"Britain needs a bit of saving, and we have got to encourage [Brits] to be coming up with the next big breakthrough," Branson told TechRadar when we asked him his thoughts a couple of years ago.
"There's no reason at all why it shouldn't be a British entrepreneur rather than an American."