Irrational Business

We have been trading and investing since mid 2006. We love the work we do supporting Thinking Business. As we read, talk, travel and meet many interesting people, various things strike us or come up in conversation. We have decided to share more of these.

What does a rounded business education encompass these days? A new member of the team in one of our clients was telling us about the MBA she has been doing. As she outlined the curriculum, we were shocked but not surprised by the imbalance of what got dealt with. There was a lot on logic, models, numbers and segments. All critical parts of business life in any sector commercial or public we could argue. But hardly any attention seemed to be paid to people – the working together bit.

Fundamental risks in business include talking past each other, failing to harness the ideas people have, going round in circles, not learning from mistakes, not fully exploiting successes, gaming and other often more damaging pathological behaviours. These issues cannot be left to chance. In the best teams (with the best results, be that profit or public value) investment is needed in learning the right habits and behaviours. These don’t happen by accident. They need understanding and practice.

People who draw the best from colleagues and are most influential with customers know that a logical argument alone won’t work. You need to be sensitive to how others respond instinctively and emotionally. So it was encouraging to find the chairman of a bank we’ve been working with making enthusiastic use of DeBono’s six thinking hats to organise the thinking at Board meetings and then being the first to participate in work with far junior colleagues in a way that fully embraced and appreciated the ideas and opinions from all those in the group.

If you still need persuasion that life (working and personal) is not as rational as MBA courses would have us believe, then ask for Stuart Sutherland’s excellent book ‘Irrationality’ in your Christmas stocking ( He may not change your mind with the evidence but it will make you smile!

What We Say Matters

Remember Gerald Ratner? It wasn’t that long ago that this hugely successful jewellery retailer blew his whole business with some unwise words to a meeting of the Institute of Directors (

This episode underlines something senior leaders often forget – what you say and do really matters. This is particularly true when it comes to being positive: not just about your products but also about your customers and your staff. If your language is negative, don’t be surprised when others feel the same way.

It’s taken 10 years for Gerald Ratner to rebuild his business to the success it is today. But he’s done it (

A positive lesson for us all?

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