Accountability vs Responsibility

There’s a difference.

I’m in London attending a conference in Greenwich, and the hotel I was booked into (a very pleasant one in the centre)had a flood, and moved me to the only feasible alternative, a budget chain hotel a few minutes away. A nuisance, but no problem; stuff happens.

The interesting lesson was the “agency problem”. having dealt with the mechanics, the problem was delegated to me – organising taxis, sorting bills, all the minutiae. The opportunity to turn a challenge into a positive experience went missing, as job descriptions, and the boundaries of accountability to line managers, kicked in.

At the conference (In the University of Greenwich – great location) the person looking after the conference could not have been more different. constantly there, not obtrusive, sensing what was going on, and providing things as the need appeared, but before requests were made. My guess is he’s on the same sort of contract as those in the hotel, but he took responsibility.

Accountability is to others. Responsibility is to ourselves.

It’s a big difference.


black swan

Black Friday strikes me as a strange confection – a celebration of nothing more than an urge to spend, with no purpose in sight other than to get retailers beyond their breakeven point (The term derives from the point they have covered costs for the year, and here on in is profit)

As never before we are defined by asymmetry. We are moving from the traditional Pareto of 80/20 to many areas of 99/1. From sports stars to wealth. Those who have receive, only moreso.,

Whilst on the face of it this seems grossly unfair, I don’t think that’s where the unfairness lies. If we were all able to use our talents to the full, we would all be in the 1% within  our own field. For some, that may be money, for others, skills, and for many, happiness.

Instead, events like black Friday encourage us to play by other’s rules. Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about “anti fragility” – a state where we can grow stronger when unexpected events occur.

Playing to other’s rules – playing to the tunes of marketers, retailers and credit card companies – makes us fragile. Buyer’s remorse is a powerful concept – the debt obligation outlasts the satisfaction of purchase and initial pleasure – on an asymmetric basis.

So, on this Black Friday, maybe we should consider where our 1% lies, and ask ourselves whether what we are spending today – from money to attention to energy – takes us toward that 1%.

Whether tomorrow, Hangover Saturday, will find us more. or less, Fragile.