Obliquity – How we can reach where we want by, paradoxically, not trying too hard to do so

Let me tell you a secret. I have a bit of a thing for books. In fact, we all do in the Gregson household. They are dotted all over the place.

Many of them are peppered with official leather bookmarks, scraps of paper and, increasingly, used (and dry) coffee and tea stirrers. All these things acting as some kind of high watermark of interest.

This can have a few consequences (not much shelf space, a depleted bank balance and being incredibly easy to buy presents for at Christmas and Birthdays to name a few) but one of the most delightful is stumbling across one book that I forgot I had but I had also forgot that I had read it. We can become intimately acquainted all over again. There is probably some many syllabled compound noun in German to describe the excitement, recognition and delight that characterises this.

The reason I am telling you this is that I have had precisely this experience recently. I came across ‘Obliquity’ by the economist John Kay.

To any of you with even the slightest interest in positive psychology or the philosophical conception of ‘the good life’ its central premise will come as no surprise. But what is shocking is just how strongly it resonates with the work which I have been carrying out with several clients recently.

Well, what is that premise, I hear you ask.

It is very simple to grasp – although sometimes less so to apply. And it is this – that in many respects if not all, we best serve the achievement of our goals and objectives by achieving them obliquely.

Human happiness is, without question, the most important of these goals for every one of us. But in the world of business this turns out to be sage advice also.

Kay takes us through several high-profile businesses who veered away from their original purpose (Telos is a wonderful Greek word for “meaning” which we could use) and became distracted by placing ‘growth’ and ‘maximising shareholder value’ as their primary purpose – and, in some cases, self-destructed as a result.

Why does it resonate with us? Because this message is the very essence of our Growth+ strategic support service. We have been quietly working with several our clients over the last 2 years or so on precisely these things.

Helping them understand what the really key issues are in their business, what the priority is of these, where they want to be in 3 years’ time in relation to them and, fundamentally, what they need to do the moment they leave our boardroom to start making progress.

I will confess that often clients come to us concerned that their financial performance is not what they would wish it to be.

But using our questioning and tools we have enabled clients to drill down. To get beyond the world of consequences (ie poor financial performance).

You see, in every session with every client the problems which needed to be addressed were not poor financial performance – that was simply the consequence of the real problems.

If you would like to know more about how Growth+ could help you, please take a look at our videos following the link here. Alternatively, contact me or my colleague, Damian Walmsley to see how we could help you.

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