Obliquity

The return flight to Zürich allowed me to power through John Kay’s excellent book ‘Obliquity’. Short, sharp and smart this is a powerful read. You would be well advised to buy it for your next Transcontinental, Transatlantic or Transpacific flight.

John Kay writes for the Financial Times and the book has all the solid referencing you would expect (The bibliography serves as a great ‘what I should read’ list).

Essentially his argument is that major goals are best reached indirectly: “Happiness is where you find it, not where you go in search of it……The discovery of happiness, like the discovery of new territory, is usually oblique.”

This is another good quote: “Most people work, not only for material rewards, but for the satisfaction of the job and the respect of friends and colleagues.” I found this comment profound because in my experience of the workplace those who delivered maximum profit to the business actually exhibited this trait whilst those that lead in blatant disregard to the morale of their teams failed on every measure.

Towards the end he sums it up: “Obliquity is the best approach whenever complex systems evolve in an uncertain environment and whenever the effect of our actions depends on the ways in which others respond to them……Directness is appropriate when the environment is stable, and objectives are one-dimensional and transparent, and it is then possible to determine when and whether goals have been achieved. And only then.”

Go buy it – directly !

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