12 April 2010

Obliquity in complex systems

John Kay writes on the risks of over-focused strategies across contexts including business, forestry, exploration, architecture, and even the pursuit of happiness and longevity. He advises that broader, more 'oblique' approaches underlie outstanding success. It's an attractive philosophy. The difficulty might lie, though, in distinguishing between obliquity and distraction.

Kay quotes Jim Collins' and Jerry Porras' comparison of Merck and Pfizer in Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies which compared outstanding companies with their successful, but less outstanding, competitors:
- Merck philosophy, as expressed by George Merck, 'We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits... The better we have remembered that, the larger [profits] have been'
- Pfizer philosophy, as expressed by one time president, John McKeen, 'So far as humanly possible, we aim to get profit out of everything we do.'

A nice quote for the enterprise of user experience.

Obliquity article via Alex Pang

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