With many countries struggling with tough economic times there has been much focus on the issue of taxes, who should be paying, and what is the right balance. In the UK last week it was the turn of three global companies to come under the interrogation of the UK’s Parliamentary Accounts Committee which I briefly touched on in a post last week (“Time to Wake Up and Smell the Coffee in Terms of Innovation?“). As a ‘hot topic’ it was carried forward by the press over the weekend with many column inches spent on how consumers can boycott companies that are not seen to pay their fair share of UK corporation tax and the political-economic views of the debate.
What struck me was that most, if not all, of the commentary was inward focused on a particular aspects of the issue and was usually fairly one-sided or partisan by the nature of the topic.
If I look at the challenges that organisations have with creating business models, then often I see similar traits to those above.
Driving this are a multitude of inbuilt, natural, human bias’ which come into play. This can be the disproportionate weighting given to past experience irrespective of whether it is directly relevant, the emotional attachment to elements of the business or debate, or the tendency of groups to align with their leaders. There are many more and they are built into each and every one of us to a greater or lesser extent. Often they manifest themselves individually or overlaid on each other and in a group debate you will see different bias’ appearing from different people or groups and interacting. What you’ll see is a complex picture.
The impact of this is that it makes it easy for us all to get drawn down into sub-set of the real discussion. We are likely to see this as positive as in our minds as it ‘simplifies’ the issue and makes logical sense in our personal construct of the world. In reality it is boxing us into a closed space and is unlikely to create a solution on its own in a complex situation.
Whilst we all have inbuilt bias’, some people are better, either through training or naturally, at dialing out their own bias’. This allows them to rise up and out in terms of their view of the issue at hand, at the same time as others are going down and inwards. By doing this they are better able to look at the issue in the round, and find the trade-offs that are inevitably required to create a coherent and balanced solution.
It is a skill that is required in many areas such as dispute resolution, complex negotiations, and consensus building. I would also argue that it is critical in creating business models as it requires a holistic, balanced solution including a lot of disparate business viewpoints.
Yet how often when we are discussing a bid that is due for submission or an opportunity do we spend most of the time debating the pro and cons of a particular issue such as risk, pricing, or market view and miss the real issue which is how does the whole package fit together and does it give the desired outcomes?
So what can we do to address this? One simple thing is to be clear and transparent about the desired outcomes at the beginning of the discussion, allowing them to be deployed as a mechanism for checking the value of a discussion when it goes down the inevitable ‘rabbit hole’.
Equally, we can each focus on dialing down our own bias’ to a level where we still feel comfortable but that allows us to rise up in the discussion.
Looking back to the debate around tax, what is really needed is to move the debate up a few levels to look at our national business model, ensuring that it functions in a way that makes the UK the natural choice for businesses to bring and/or create their higher value jobs here. Only when we achieve this will we get the right outcome for the nation which is that value sticks with all in the economic ecosystem. However, at this level of complexity it will require a lot of bias dial down.
- Time to wake up and smell the coffee in terms of innovation? (kommercialize.wordpress.com)