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Columbus’s Egg

Columbus’s Egg

The pursuit of happiness frequently blinds us to our new reality, so that we often miss the facts. Ever since the meltdown of 2008, most of us have been battling a changing economic model in the hope of restoring life to what it used to be before. This is understandable considering that it is reflexive behavior in an attempt to restore a state of health as we understand it, and as we have been accustomed to it, at the first sign that what we have for so long taken for granted is at risk of being taken away from us. We do it while wearing one or more hats: as an individual, the head of a family, as an employee, the head of an organisation, a member of government or as an entrepreneur. We get so engrossed in playing catch-up that we lose sight of the fact that the landscape has changed and a new set of principles has taken hold of our existence.

To continue down this path is to refuse to accept that unless at least some of our behavior changes, we are headed down a dangerous crevasse from which we are unlikely to emerge unscathed – if we emerge at all. It sounds rather dramatic, but what is at play all around us is no less so. The trouble is that we are so engrossed in halting the slide, in catching up, or steadying whatever is so quickly spinning out of control that we seem not to consider, let alone accept, that some of the changes are our new realities, and that if they are not here to stay, they need to at least run their respective courses before further change – more positive change, one would hope – is brought about.

Baruch Spinoza, one of the 17th century’s great rationalist philosophers, said “Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.” Applying this lesson has recently made me ease off, very reluctantly I hasten to add, on expressing my displeasure with the rapid ascent of greed, the entrenchment of blind procurement practices, and the global arrival of the age of the squeeze, where everyone and everything gets squeezed by those above and those in a position to squeeze.

Recognizing the new reality leads us to appreciate that at a time of little, or no, growth it is understandable that investors and shareholders, often this means the average Joe who has invested money in the financial markets, are squeezing corporations for higher returns. This beautiful application of trickle-down economics makes its way from the very top of the ladder, passing through my CEO, and his CEO, all the way to people like me, and you. Along the way, procurement – representing businesses –
does its job and applies the pressure to extract more value and efficiency.

No doubt this reality has its pros and cons, but I am letting this one lie for there is no point pushing water uphill; after all, none of the above is likely to disappear any time soon, and the sooner we accept these new dynamics, the sooner we will be able to deploy valuable energy to bring about a new age of happiness and prosperity.

Could there be another way around this new reality? Is it logical for most, if not all, of our energy to be locked in cost-cutting and saving rather than building value and regenerating growth? Is it reasonable to expect that, in the absence of a magical wand to wave, the answer need not necessarily lie in technology or a new invention? Could a minor change in behavior potentially liberate people’s time and energy so that it could be used productively elsewhere? So that it could be used more creatively to solve problems, to create markets, and to unleash growth.

My contention is that there indeed is, at least, one way. I say that as we squeeze more and more efficiency out of every working moment, we can bring about more transparency in equal measure. Doing so would help people make more informed decisions, spend their time where they know there is better reward and hit more home runs that they currently are. Furthermore, added transparency would increase selectivity in what people, and organisations, take on, thereby saving energy and improving casting which would not only liberate valuable productive time, but it would also help match skills, scale and resource cultural fit.

Take the entire tendering process, particularly in the services industry where the main currency is people’s time. As a specific example, let’s take a look at tendering in the communication industry. How many times have pitching organisations asked for an indication of budget as they were working on a proposal? Countless. How many times have they had an answer they could work with? Rarely ever. The standard response is: “We have an open budget. Let us have your proposal and then we will decide.” An entire industry marches on a road of ludicrous inefficiency with every sunrise only to be surprised, time and time again, that the wonderful proposal is really impressive, but way out of the prospect’s budget.

Now imagine the same situation with a transparent indication of money clearly communicated upfront. What is the resulting outcome? Everyone will make an informed decision. There will be participants for sure, but there will also be some who will decline because it simply doesn’t make sense. The wonderful thing is that those who declined will have done so with clarity and zero investment in time – time that can easily be invested elsewhere.

Someone once said, “The obscure we ultimately understand; it is the completely obvious that takes a little bit longer.” Christopher Columbus was trying to prove a point over dinner, that once a feat is done, anyone will know how to do it; to do that he resorted to the obvious that has eluded so many for so long. The point remains that by changing perspective, he was able to solve the problem of standing an egg on its tip. Can the introduction of transparency allow us to shift tracks and return us to prosperity?

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