Pesky Humans and Kilkenomics

In workshops, leadership offsites, retreats etc , a few themes typically emerge when wrestling with the toughest of issues. One of those is around people. I often lighten the tone when leading these by saying something like :

“wouldn’t your business be simple if it weren’t for all those pesky humans ?”

Always gets a laugh. Seriously, though, most accomplished businesses and their leaders are great with numbers, process, logic. What keeps leaders up at night are almost always issues linked to understanding people.

Why, then, is our education at all levels so skewed towards understanding numbers, logic, rationale etc rather than behaviours and what drive them ?

I’m saying this as a Chartered Accountant trained in numbers. Again I often will say this in introducing myself by saying “I’m a Chartered Accountant, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem”. Again, seems to get a laugh !

Recently I spoke with the Economics faculty at one of the world’s top Universities. I asked them “do you include Behavioural Economics in your undergraduate curriculum ?”. The answer was “we are looking at that”. I was speechless and politely moved on.

In October 2017, Richard Thaler was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. Finally, a Behavioural Economist…. cue….

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It is said that if you ask 50 Economists the same question you will get 50 different answers. Why ? The influence of “pesky humans” and their behaviour.

So, what can we do to understand Economics better ? to forecast and lead our business more effectively ? Perhaps more focus on people rather than numbers ?

As part of my quest to understand pesky humans, I’m going to Kilkenomics , the brainchild of David McWilliams who seeks to combine Economics and Comedy in a weekend festival. From Nov 9-12, an unusual crew will descend on the lovely town of Kilkenny and look to meet at the confluence of Economics, Comedy… and Guinness, all with the intention of understanding better how the world works.

As to David, I love his style. He is a man of strong opinions and shares them freely, often delivering them with humour (and of course backed up with the credibility of his deep knowledge and experience around numbers “and stuff”). He has landed on a style of delivery that lands for people, and it is that combination of economic opinion and reaching people with humour that I find is drawing me to Ireland. That and the Guinness, of course.

I’m very much looking forward to spending time with that group of pesky humans, and to being inspired from that to write a bunch more posts !

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