One of the highlights at the end of the year is the BBC Reith Lecture. They are always worth listening to, and this year, the topic is “Why doctors fail”, with Dr. Atul Gawande. One of the key messages is that we could save and improve more lives by using what we know more effectively, rather than searching for new knowledge. Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes a similar point in his concept of anti fragility ( it’s a challenging concept, and a brilliant book. Here’s a five minute introduction)
In his book, Taleb makes much of Iatrogenics – the term used to define the unintentional damage done by Doctors. I think the same is true of many businesses.
We now have more tools, and more data that at any time in our history, but we often either fail to use it, or misuse it, in a search for the next big thing and in doing so create the potential for significant damage without realising it.
Business is simple. Creating something that adds value to people’s lives that they will pay more for than it costs to create. In our search for shortcuts, we have created unnecessarily complicated products (including financial devices that nobody really understood).
BCG calculated that business complexity has increased by a factor of six since 1955, but that business complicatedness has increased by a factor of thirty five – almost a power law. Here’s a 12 min video of Yves Morieux explaining:
As complexity increases further, the implications of this power law are frightening.
We have all we need to create and run great businesses. We do not need magic potions.
We do need clarity and purpose. With these in place, everything else follows. Investment in generating clarity pays.