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Season’s Greetings: The Three Wise Words - Curiosity, productivity and belief

This Business Briefing comes with festive greetings. The whole idenk team wishes you all the best for a relaxing and refreshing break.

Word of the year?

What words and phrases have you heard used for the first time (or a new way) in a business context this year? Let us know and we will publish the list! One word we have noticed used in a fresh way during 2011 is ‘curation’ or ‘curator’ in roles to do with the organisation of very large conferences or design initiatives and projects – uses beyond what we might usually associate with the role. The word comes from the same Latin root as curiosity (which is a favorite idea and discipline in our work) – both come from the word ‘to care’.

An Xmas Gift: the idenk productivity webinar, 2pm, 10th January

What will you choose to care about in your work this coming year? Where will you put your attention? And, linking to resolutions, what will you try to improve in 2012?

During 2011, our Personal Productivity webinar has been hugely popular with a range of clients in the UK and abroad. So at 1400 GMT on Tuesday 10th January we will run a complimentary 45 minute online course.

You might want to come yourself to explore some of the ideas we teach and create some personal goals, building on our June Business Briefing.

Or you might attend to get a feel for a way to promote virtual learning and working, which has been a top topic for many of our clients this year, as a way of managing costs and boosting efficient co-ordination and action.

And you might want to join in on your own, or with others you work with. On one of our recent webinars, one attendee brought a team of 30 along through one webcam alone! Please feel free to pass on this invite to others.

To register for the session? Please spend a few minutes completing this short pre survey including your email at q14 so we can send you the webex link. Or you can email directly.

And now, a (sort of) Christmas Tale…

Picture the scene.

It's getting late. Outside it’s dark and snow is gently falling against the window. Jack looks across at the Christmas tree in the corner of the room and thinks about the presents he’ll be buying for his children the next day. Then he is drawn back to the discussion by the Chair of the Board. "OK, we’re all agreed that we should launch the new product next spring. This is going to be the big breakthrough for us. Thank you all, and have a great break."

Fast forward nine months. Jack is on holiday reclining on his sun lounger by the pool. But Jack is distracted. He is thinking about the new product. What a disaster! He'd really believed that this was going to be a winner for the company. But now he was left questioning things.

He’d believed that the product idea was great. He’d believed the designers would get it right. He’d believed that the suppliers would be reliable. He’d believed the price point would be attractive. He’d believed customers liked everything the company produced. He’d believed there was still a market for this sort of thing. He believed that the state of the economy wouldn’t affect the launch. He’d believed the company had a long-term future and his share options would soon leave him in comfortable semi-retirement. He believed that capitalist system would reward you in taking risks.

But in the light of events, now he was forced to re-examine these beliefs. And lying back under the parasol he wondered, “Do I still believe all these things?” Which of his beliefs will Jack have to alter a bit and which will he have to let go of completely?

As Jonathan Glover describes so succinctly, Jack’s predicament is one that we all face. We expect things to happen in line with our beliefs. And that breaks down when events don’t go as expected. The twist though, is that we don’t hold a single belief in isolation. Rather, every belief we have is tied up with many others; often in a complex web. Some beliefs are ‘nested’ within others. For example, my belief in the efficacy of a particular medicine is in part based on a bigger belief in the skills of the doctor to prescribe the right thing for me. So when events and facts go against a specific strongly held belief of ours, we can choose either to alter that directly OR we can look elsewhere in our system of beliefs for an explanation. So the prescription didn’t work, well, maybe it’s the doctor – but I really like him and I’m sure he’s reliable – so it could be that the pharmacist didn’t give me the right dose. Or, maybe I shouldn’t be relying on modern drugs – perhaps I’d be better trying alternative remedies? Or, maybe I don’t have that disease after all, even though the symptoms did sound like it. And so on.

But back to that December boardroom for a moment. Across the table from Jack sits Gill. Gill also hears the Chair close the meeting and she, with the others, all talk about their role in the launch. But Gill doesn’t really believe this product is the right thing to be investing in. She has other things she believes are more valuable to be spending her time on. So it’s onto these other things that her real energies and attention go.

For Frank Ramsey, a Cambridge genius and the creator of modern decision-theory, this is an example of how our beliefs are most clearly revealed: in our actions, in what we actually do.

So, our beliefs are: held interwoven together; defended or sacrificed in response to events; most clearly revealed in our actions. Three powerful concepts.

When better than now in the yearly calendar to think about beliefs? What beliefs do you have? Most of us never, ever write these down. It’s a scary thing to commit them to paper! But certainly worth doing – to help us be clear on what we really believe.

Then to think about, where did these beliefs come from? From ourselves, after proper investigation and reflection? Or borrowed from parents, friends, colleagues, media, teachers, community, country, Internet?

Finally, of these beliefs, which do you hold on to ferociously? When events have challenged them, which other beliefs have you given up instead? Perhaps too easily?

And what better way of entering the new year than with the conviction that we are people who think hard about our beliefs and who’s actions are all the better for that.

And finally…

Our festive graphic this year picks up some of our ideas around note taking
This blog post, the last in a series of four, pointed to the now (almost) ubiquitous Moleskine…the resurgence of which is fascinating in a digital age. A few years back the image might have been a PDA and before that a Filofax!

With best wishes,

Phil and Ross – and the wider idenk team