John Kay is a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and a fellow of St John’s College, Oxford. On the Today programme this week he was talking about his new book, Obliquity.
"If you want to go in one direction, the best route may involve going in another. This is the concept of ‘obliquity': paradoxical as it sounds, goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. Whether overcoming geographical obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting sales targets, history shows that oblique approaches are the most successful, especially in difficult terrain. Pre-eminent economist John Kay applies his provocative, universal theory to everything from international business to town planning and from football to managing forest fires. He shows why the most profitable companies are not always the most profit-oriented; why the richest men and women are not the most materialistic; and why the happiest people are not necessarily those who focus on happiness.
'A very timely and clever book' --Anthony Seldon
'Kay is persuasive, rigorous, creative and wise. Brilliant.'
--Tim Harford, author of "The Undercover Economist" and "The Logic of Life"
`John Kay builds on a great philosophical tradition - stretching back through Charles Darwin and Adam Smith. A great book.'
--Matt Ridley, author Genome and Nature Via Nurture
'An elegant new book...Kay applies his insight to art, politics, sport and family life' --Heather Stewart, Observer
Speaking on the Radio Prof Kay said we need to re-think the way we engage in decision-making, and our capacity to make good judgements.
He reckons we can't rely on 'logic', and neither should we just use intuition.
He also spoke about the most successful companies being the ones that set out to make great products, provide great service, etc. Those that ruthlessly pursue maximum profit as their primary goal tend to come a cropper - Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, etc.
Talk about stating the bleeding obvious. The reason we're equipped with multiple intelligences is because they've been shown over millions of years of evolution to be essential to human wellbeing - taken all together, and used in combination, they enable us to thrive and survive.
Physical intelligence consists of using all our senses and maintaining bodies that are strong and healthy.
Instinctual intelligence enables us to react with lightning speed to situations in which stopping or pausing to think before acting could get us killed or injured - fight, flight and freeze.
Emotional intelligence enables us to keep our instincts under control, and to stop and think instead of panicking in every situation.
Social intelligence enables us to empathise, to collaborate, to cooperate and to create - and to survive through making bonds with others.
Spiritual intelligence offers us the incredible ability to be intuitive - to understand things and find answers to problems through silent contemplation and listening to our 'inner voices'.
Prof Kay is saying don't just rely on logic or intuition. Oxzen's been saying for years we need to develop and use ALL of our intelligences all of the time in order to live well and become the best people we can be.
It's not a question of going at things obliquely. It's a question of approaching things from every angle using each and every one of our intelligences.
As for the happiest people being those who don't actually pursue happiness - Buddhism's been saying for 3,000 years the happiest people are those who pursue the happiness of others and stop worrying about their own wellbeing. We can't just choose happiness. Happiness, like love, chooses us, if it finds us worthy.
Talking of religion . . .
The Pope's continuing to take a battering this week. Quite right too. There's no denying that in his previous job he was responsible for dealing with, and covering up, cases of child abuse carried out by members of the clergy.
A theist is someone who believes in God. Buddhists don't believe in God. Therefore Buddhists are atheists. I'm glad we're getting this sorted out.
Buddhists are philosophers. Philosophers examine questions of meaning and purpose. They seek the spiritual and the spiritually intelligent. They seek to become spiritually intelligent, unemcumbered by pointless talk about God or gods. They understand that the divine and the awesome and the wonderful are within each of us. It's our job to find these things and to use them in the best ways possible. We also have a responsibility to enable children to find and to walk their pathway towards enlightenment. Whereas politicians want us to raise test and exam scores.