Nick's Blog

Making the case

The laws of physics are the same anywhere in the universe we’re told. But when it comes to economics, human behaviours and the human willpower all mean that the stated “laws” are really empirical descriptions of what has happened before and not necessarily rules that drive a future outcome. For example, people confidently predicted that Quantitative Easing after the credit crunch would generate inflation, but they were wrong.

I was thinking about this as I read recently that for the first time since 2008, more people think public services should get more money even if taxes have to rise to pay for it. After the recent General Election Professor John Curtiss of Strathclyde University, a psephologist of some distinction, said words to the effect that the British people are very fickle, after a period of low public spending they want better services; when services have been given more money, they want taxes to reduce. In other words neither of the main political parties in the UK can win in the long term given their relatively fixed philosophical biases, but the time of each will return over the long term cycle.

This blog is always assiduous in not being party political and will maintain that stance.

Considering taxation vs public services over simplifies matters – something that is essential for politicians to do to get a simple point across. There are many perspectives, and few socio-economic things are clear cut, neither exactly right nor fully wrong. There is a continuum of views, of approaches and of activities. There is a probable outcome that emerges from this morass, but with sufficient will things can change, rules can be broken and remade. Economists told us that the Euro cannot work – because the economies of the participants are not aligned, but if there is sufficient political will it can survive – even at a vast cost to some taxpayers, thereby giving a big benefit to some currency speculators. Greece remains a part of the Euro despite the human cost, which is also being borne in other southern European countries, and the financial cost in northern economies such as Germany.

Any free society can choose what to do; any controlled society can be told what to do. There isn’t a limit, just a current norm – which changes over time. Global institutions will take a perspective on that choice, based on their experiences and their experts views. Such institutions generate noise, they are inherently risk averse, and inherently wish to maintain the status quo. We are in the midst of that time regarding commentary on Brexit and the possible course a future Jeremy Corbyn led Government could possibly take us given the chance. And there are many other uncertainties brought about by the recent political narrative in the UK. But we shouldn’t confuse this predictive noise with the reality of what will actually happen.

Tech giants exist to disrupt. So far those that have succeeded have generated a new set of empirical descriptions of how to do it. Uber is coming under pressure because it is said that the organisation doesn’t respect its staff, its drivers nor its customers – it has broken the rules. Stories emerge about sexism and a macho culture. The Chief Exec has stepped down. Now the commentators believe there is a right way to disrupt, to behave. Don’t believe it.

Look carefully at what your business believes. Is it testable in reality, or just a self-perpetuating myth, an empirical description of your success. Remember that there are no right and wrong approaches, just a range of possibilities closer to or further from the norm, which is not intrinsically right, just the point of aggregation of the usual way things are done. You don’t have the right to survive, or to work the way you are doing.

How else could your business’s outcomes to date be described? How could that be changed, disrupted. Think different, to coin a phrase. If you don’t look at your world differently, someone else might just have a very different answer – an answer you aren’t part of. You must always be making the case for your approach, both individually and collectively. Or you’ll be swept away, and there may not be a cyclical change to bring you back.

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