A message of hope, strategy and economics21st December 2012

Has it ended? … The World? … Would we even know if it happened? The fun over the Mayan Calendar, which actually just ran out of space rather than predicting the end of the world, shows how we love bad news.

Bad news sells, yet the progress of our species is down to the individual pursuit of progress and positivity. Even when times are bad most people are moving forward, as the competitive free market which best reflects our humanity enables us firstly to survive and then for our enterprise and ambition to flourish.

Fresh and wonderful inventions enhance our lives, make things easier, better or cheaper, and generally raise our standard of living and comfort. Constant competition between individuals drives us on to greater things, new markets, more choice, and a greater ability to show compassion, supporting those down on their luck.

Competition, rather than driving us apart, helps us to collaborate, working together in teams for mutual benefit and competitive advantage, driving specialism, knowledge transfer, investment, employment and fulfilment in our lives.

As competitive forces drive ever onwards, those stuck in their old ways face demise, but constant reinvention gives them the opportunity to thrive again.

To survive in business we need to surf the wave, taking risks along the way, to deliver what our customers seek. We need to take time off to give ourselves a good chance to ask a few serious strategic questions, such as “Why would customers prefer a world with us rather than without us?”

Amidst all this positivity, Chaos Theory (remember Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park?) assures us that the unexpected will happen, and that small differences in initial conditions will yield widely diverging outcomes. That does not mean that it is pointless to understand the competitive environment, far from it; we must ensure that we focus on getting those initial conditions as right as we can, and seek to understand our decision-making processes better to maximise the reliability of the outcomes we seek.

The free market, and a better appreciation of it, may eventually help those economists, politicians and bureaucrats who seek to predict, regulate and organise our lives, realise that “less is more”. Too many economists love their empirical formulae, too many politicians believe that they know better, and bureaucrats of course have a job to organise. But the future of top-down, one-size fits-all solutions was never going to be a good one. The sooner we recognise that the better.

Let us hope that 2013 will be a year in which we all, as free-thinking individuals, create the opportunity to shine.