Our soft power resides in all we do that doesn’t directly concern research and fundraising. It has eight parts: voice, website, building, culture fit, Royal Institution, convening power, events & meetings, and organisational intelligence. We define it here and measure it each week.



The London institute has a strong global voice on how to organise, fund and communicate basic science research. Our voice includes the coverage we get in the press and the citations we receive in works of reference. ❧ Coverage in the press can be about our discoveries, the Institute itself, our thoughts on important topics, or any spinoff products we create. ❧ Works of reference are standard resources for the public, such as Wikipedia and the OEIS list of integer sequences. ❧ Our voice also includes the Wikipedia article about the London Institute.


Voice scoring

The score of a press piece depends on where it is published and its relevance to the Institute or its work. ❧ All else being equal, print beats online, open-access beats paywall, broadsheets beat magazines, external writers beat internal writers, and older publications beat younger ones. ❧ An article that merely mentions the Institute is one point, whereas a piece about a core belief in a national paper is on average 12. ❧ A reference to one of our papers in Wikipedia or the OEIS is a point, as is 140 characters of edits in the Institute’s Wikipedia page.


Voice examples

140-char edit of our Wiki page...1

A paper cited in Wikipedia...1

A paper cited in OEIS...1

Cordite in Nautilus...1

Nature solitons press release...4

AI letter in Nature...5

Brain drain in Bloomberg...7

Russians in Times Thunderer...8

Murmurations in Quanta...11

Blackboards in Nautilus (print)...12

Nature World View on AI maths...14

Science goes pro in Telegraph...16



Most people know us primarily through our website. It plays an essential role not only in attracting great talent, but also in persuading donors, scientists, politicians and business leaders to visit us. It is the face we present to the world. ❧ Counterintuitively, our website is also how we know ourselves. Self-knowledge is hard, for organisations as much as for individuals. Our comprehensive overview of what we have achieved helps us squarely see where we are. Contrast this with where we’d like to be, and the right next steps become clear.


Website scoring

We score our website soft power through changes to the structure of our website, rather than adding more content to established structures. Adding content is scored in the soft power section that the content relates to. For instance, adding entries to our rituals page is scored in §Culture fit. The exception is the Newsfeed, where each entry is a point. ❧ We award points for website improvements that can’t be seen, such as performance gains or increased modularity. We also score simplifications, such as removing sections or getting rid of exceptions.


Website examples

Adding an entry to Newsfeed...1

Adding dates to an archive page...2

Mocking up an updated archive...3

Creating an updated archive...5

Adding a script page...6

Adding paper distance...12

Update to the Payload backend...20



We occupy rooms in an historically important Grade I listed building in Mayfair. Because we work there five days a week, we try to make our rooms as beautiful and functional as possible. ❧ Improving our space, as with our website, is mainly a matter of continuous marginal improvements. Each day we hang a picture, rearrange a space, add a piece of secondhand furniture, or get rid of something useless or unattractive. ❧ Occasionally we make more significant changes, either by making structural adjustments to the building or by acquiring more space.


Building scoring

We increase the soft power of our building in several ways. ❧ One, we decorate our building by adding and arranging furniture, hanging pictures, building blackboards, optimising lighting and creating our balcony garden. ❧ Two, we work with the Royal Institution and our architects Donald Insall Associates to make structural improvements to some of our rooms. ❧ Three, we allocate office space to maximise individual productivity on the one hand, and group dynamics on the other. ❧ Four, we acquire new space in the building as it becomes available.


Building examples

Removing furniture...½ adding it

Adding a lamp...1

Removing hanging ceiling lights...1

Hanging a picture...1–2

Removing door closer...2

Adding an armchair...2

Adding six dining chairs...3

Adding a refectory table...4

Adding a fixed blackboard...5

Adding a ceiling projector...11

Acquiring 10 sq m of space...15

Acquiring a grand piano...16

Culture fit

Culture fit

Great organisations have strong cultures. However, there is more than one culture that can make a firm great. The key determinant is not so much which culture the firm has, but the extent to which it is shared by all its members. We call this culture fit. ❧ Culture fit reduces transaction costs within the organisation, enables everyone to pull in the same direction, and makes work feel more like play. ❧ In tech companies, culture fit is often thought to be as important as technical ability. We believe the same holds true for our research organisation.

Culture fit

Culture fit scoring

There are two aspects of cultivating culture fit that we score, which are analogous to nature versus nurture in development. ❧ The nature aspect is recruiting people who already share our culture. This involves assessing their values at the interview stage, and making sure they understand ours, so that they have a chance to bow out. ❧ The nurture aspect of culture fit is persuading people to adopt our culture. This involves expressing what our culture is—for instance, in our values, rituals and soft power pages—and constantly reiterating our expectations.

Culture fit

Culture fit examples

Edit/remove a §Values entry...1

Edit/remove a §Soft power entry...1

Add an entry to §Soft power...2

Add an entry to §Values...2

Add culture fit to §Soft power...10

Recruit Sherali on soft power...16

Royal Institution

Royal Institution

Occupying rooms in the Royal Institution, the world’s greatest scientific building, boosts our soft power in two ways. ❧ One, our young institute benefits from the backdrop of legacy and continuity associated with the RI’s unparalleled record of discovery. This enhances our convening power and our ability to host successful events and meetings. ❧ Two, the RI is a world-leader in science communication. This suggests a symbiotic relationship: we make scientific discoveries and the RI communicates them. It also inspires us to be better communicators.

Royal Institution

Royal Institution scoring

We score Royal Institution soft power by the measures we take to strengthen our relationship with the RI. ❧ One, we highlight the RI’s past and present successes in the press, which we score in a similar way to our own press coverage. ❧ Two, we put on joint events, either in the Lecture Theatre or in the first-floor public rooms. ❧ Three, we build ties with individual members of the RI staff, which strengthens trust and increases the speed of collaboration. ❧ For joint events, we count half the points in §Royal Institution and half in §Events & meetings.

Royal Institution

Royal Institution examples

Meeting a member of the RI staff...2

Friday Evening Discourse...10

Science, progress & cooperation...16

Convening power

Convening power

Convening power is the ability to quickly identify people who are talented and fit our culture and convince them to join us. ❧ Aspects of it include: reducing the lag time between identifying a new role and filling it; systematising our job descriptions so that they are easy to create and compelling; streamlining the process of sifting CVs and recruiting fewer false positives; conveying the prestige of our positions to potential applicants; and disrupting the academic custom of recruiting once a year, which thwarts our ability to seize new opportunities.

Convening power

Convening power scoring

We score convening power in several ways. ❧ One, we study and map out the relevant job platforms for the different types of people we employ. ❧ Two, when possible we use the press to announce our positions, which dramatically increases the number of applicants we receive. ❧ Three, we have standardised our job descriptions, making them modular so that we can quickly write new ones. ❧ Four, we streamline the recruitment process, writing an evolvable script that describes the processes.

Convening power

Convening power examples

Interviewing a candidate ...2

Adding a job description...4

Standardised jobs template...12

Events & meetings

Events & meetings

Events and meetings strengthen our relationships with people who could help the Institute. They range from a visit from a potential donor to a talk in the Lecture Theatre. ❧ Because education and entertainment are not part of our purpose, our events and meetings are not ends in themselves. Rather, they are a means to raise money, obtain advice, recruit people, gain recognition, or promote our discoveries. ❧ All of our events and meetings are in-person, and we shun hybrid ones. The only exception is when events in the Lecture Theatre are live-streamed.

Events & meetings

Events & meetings scoring

As a rough guide, a seminar is one point, a seminar and drinks is two points, a half-day conference is five, and an event in the Lecture Theatre is 10. The actual value of these scores depends on the number and significance of the guests. ❧ We don’t normally award points for giving external seminars or attending external conferences. However, we sometimes award points for attending high-profile non-academic events, such as a Ditchley conference. ❧ For events in the Lecture Theatre, half the score goes to §Events & meetings and half to §Royal Institution.

Events & meetings

Events & meetings scoring

Visit by Metro science editor...1

Attending Sanctuary dinner...1

Seminar by external speaker...1

Seminar by external + drinks...2

Visit from Princeton dept head...3

Attending a Ditchley conference...3

Half-day conference...5

Visit from a science minister...7

Science journalists drinks...9

Christmas party for 75...11

Friday Evening Discourse...12

Science & progress conference...18


Org intelligence

Organisational intelligence is the extent to which the London Institute is superadditive, or more than the sum of its parts. ❧ Aspects of our organisational intelligence include: an awareness of what other people are working on; the extent to which scientists and staff are integrated and support each other; the extent to which our customs and processes are codified and accessible; the absence of secret meetings and secret information; and the simplicity and modularity of our organisation, which enables us to see the adjacent possible and adapt.


Org intelligence scoring

We achieve organisational intelligence in several ways. ❧ One, we are diligent in showing up for work during business hours, which is a cornerstone of agility and superadditivity. ❧ Two, we measure what matters: we track our discoveries. soft power and fundraising each week on our main blackboard. This keeps us focused. ❧ Three, we create evolvable scripts—compact summaries of how we do things and what we believe in, and make them accessible on our website. ❧ Four, we build awareness and camaraderie through our Monday synopsis and Friday drinks.


Org intelligence examples

Add an element to a script ...1

Weekly synopsis and drinks...3

Simplifying holiday records...7

Rituals script...16