January 7, 2019

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Some Musings for 2019

January 7, 2019

 

Interesting word, "musings."  It's a word we don't see very much these days.  Is that because its on old English word, derived from Old French "muser" (meditate, waste time), or possibly medieval Latin "musum" (muzzle).  I looked it up in my "Little Oxford Dictionary of Current English, Fourth Edition 1969", and it does not feature!  Anyway, I digress.  Lets just be confident in the fact that the "Apple" Dictionary tells me that it means to contemplate, think, meditate and reflect.  But, just to digress one last time, if the early meaning of the word is to waste time or to muzzle, is it not surprising that we don't do enough of it?  We don't contemplate enough.  We don't reflect enough.  We don't think enough.  And why?  Because we say we are too busy getting stuff done.  We don't have enough time to contemplate our navel, reflect on the past, daydream, think.  And when we say that, we are 100%, absolutely, totally WRONG!  Because if we don't think and reflect about what we have done and are doing, how do we know that we are doing the right thing?  In the right way?  For the right reasons?  With the right people?  So, my first blog for 2019 will be some musings, so I have a degree of clarity around the stuff I want to do in 2019; I know how to do them as correctly as I think possible; I understand the reasons I want to do them; and I end up doing them with the right people; in the hope that you, my wonderful readers, will be able to change one little thing that you do in 2019:

  1. I don't do New Year Resolutions.  They never work for me.  Too often they are empty promises from our conscience to stop doing something we really enjoy or to start doing something that we know we will not enjoy.  My gym owner tells me that he can't bank on the big surge in membership he invariable gets over the first two weeks of January as within two months 80% of them have cancelled!  But if I was forced to give a resolution it would be this.  In 2019 I want to put into place my insights from 2018.  Not all of them, but those that, following significant thought and reflection, I deem to be the most important.  Clients beware!  I will be asking this question in January

  2. We live in interesting times.  If an alien came to land on Earth and viewed the News in the first week of January 2019, he (or she, or it) would be puzzled.  Why do these earthlings always see the worst in everything?  Or is that all there is?  Trump.  U.S. shutdown.  Brexit.  China economy and aggression.  Russia.  Paris.  Economic Global meltdown.  Road toll.  House Prices.  Storms.  Earthquakes.  Tsunamis.  Climate change.  Pollution.  I could go on, but let me provide some balance.  The weather.  Christmas Day.  Friends and family.  The beach.  The Black Caps.  NZ Wine.  Aussie Wine.  NZ Craft Beer.  The weather.....  OK, It was a lot more difficult formulating the second list.  But why is that? Blame the media.  Blame politicians.  Blame everyone.  But lets make a little difference ourselves.  Lets think about those things we can do that will improve our lives, the lives of those we love, the lives of those that rely on us.  Don't try to fix the world.  We can't.  What we can fix is our attitude to it.  In our personal lives and in business

  3. I was listening to a podcast this morning (yes, very 2019 of me) that grabbed my attention in the best possible way.  It's linked to number 2.  We are experiencing a "Global Loneliness Epidemic."  Our attention is being hijacked.  Blame technology, especially Google.  Once our attention is hijacked it is being forced to respond.  Think about what happens when we Google something.  We might be asking a question or wanting to learn something new.  We mustn't forget that google reflects our view of the world.   It reflects our previous searches and "clicks."  Its not providing a neutral position, its presenting a biased position.  This is the modern "confirmation bias" - we search for and read only that information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs.  As a result, we become more set in our views and less able to access, let alone learn, any other view or conflicting opinion.  Look at just a day of "Trump tweets" and you will see this in action (no don't, just believe me!  You have lots of more important things to do).  Its an interesting concept.  Reflect on it and decide on some actions for 2019.  For me, strive to be more curious.  We can only truly understand something if we have canvassed all views and opinions

  4. The power of Conventional Wisdom.  This is dangerous.  If we are not curious then we run the risk of believing everything that is thrown at us.  If we always accept conventional wisdom we will never be able to improve.  Improvement comes from challenging, not following.  Some examples that were stark for me from 2018:

  • If you can't measure it, you can't manage it - from Peter Ducker's list of insights.  Not for me to question Ducker, far from it as to me he is one of the greats, but this conventional wisdom is plainly wrong.  If you can't measure it you had better make sure you manage it!  I have often said things like "it doesn't matter what it is, you can measure it."  Well, sorry, my mistake.  There are things in business that you can't measure.  For example, the strength and depth of your relationship with your staff, your team, your clients, your suppliers.  How do you measure that?  What about measuring the market for a new product?  You can sample and make Statistical conclusions.  But you won't truly know until the product hits the market

  • A multitude of "reports," "studies," "research findings," "surveys," you know the sorts of things I mean.  The media have a love affair with anything that confirms the conventional view (its called confirmation bias of course!)  By re-reading Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow"  (a great book by the way - your understanding of how you think will be forever changed on reading this book - but there are other views so we must read those as well!)  most of us tend not to be able to think fast and intuitively about statistics.  Its a human failing that relates back to the evolutionary process where those that were interested in calculating the statistical significance of the likelihood that a Sabre-tooth Tiger was in the vicinity usually didn't last long!  My intention for 2019 is, show me the statistics.  What was the sample size, what was the experimental design, what were the questions, who designed them, did the researcher have a bias or interest in the result, what level of significance was calculated as a result of the design, are the conclusions drawn rational and indicative of the results, and therefore is this something of interest, or is it another insignificant piece of garbage spoon fed by a self-interested media that is designed to shock and awe us?  For a very recent example of this I just need to go back to the Herald Headline of 2nd January: "Freshwater Pollution top of mind for Kiwis, according to Fish and Game survey."  More important than the cost of living!  Give me breath!!  Sure, freshwater pollution is an important issue, but lets have a neutral, statistically significant survey before we all throw ourselves under a bus.  And lets also balance that with a review of the current levels of investment and future plans to deal with the issue. 

 I could go on, but you get my drift.  I trust you have all enjoyed a wonderful festive season.  Its now time, for most of you, to start 2019.  Lets put time aside to think.  it is not something to do when you have finished everything else, otherwise it will never get done.  Its something to do before you do anything.  So start 2019 in the same way I have, and make some changes for 2019.

Be well, stay focused and think
Cheers

Phil Pickford

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