Relative Philosophy

I will be trying to develop a "philosophy" that can be applied in personal and professional life - to individuals and to organisations. It's about the journey - a work in progress which I will develop bit by bit as a set of statements from which approaches can be constructed. This philospohy will develop according to time and context (space) and that's the point - it's a relative philososphy (though not relativist).

Pick and mix from the statements below according to need - the only order they are in is the order in which I wrote them.

Everyone is unique

Every organisation and person is unique. I think we need to develop our own "philosophies" rather than adopt existing ones as a product. DIY your philosophy - have your own ideas and combine them with anything good you hear about. This way your philosophy will be more meaningful and motivating for you and for organisations they will be embedded - it's got to come from within.

The Whole is more than the sum of its parts

It's a wonderful thing when we perform beyond our expectations. The magic ingredient is motivation - it's in the mind rather than the body or the system. We need to pay attention to what motivates us and our people and to use this in a constructive way - it is surprising what you can acheive when you are motivated (emergent behaviour of systems is a interesting field of study).

Perception is reality

We can only experience the world through the senses and experiences we have and even then we have to interpret and construct what we perceive. "Beauty is in the mind of the beholder" - people construct their own reality and we have to consider people as well as reality. Empathy is important here - consider the person you are dealing with - describe and explain in terms that they can understand. Know your client - is it any use trying to sell a boat to soemone living in the desert? 

Treat the patient as well as the disease

It is the person who seeks treatment and not the disease. If two doctors apply the same treatment it is the doctor with the better "bedside manner" who is usually regarded as the best. "Bedside manner" alone can have a significant positive effect in recovery rates and placebo effects demonstrate the importance of the mind. Don't deal with a problem in isolation - start with the people involved and deal with the problem in its full context.

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid – use Occam’s razor

People and organisations in particular have a tendency to add complexity to what they do – behaviour and systems can become self-fulfilling and eventually out of connection with the reason they came into existence in the first place. The key principle is to consider what happens when something in the system needs fixing – the simpler it is then the simpler it is to fix.  Also, the simpler it is the the easier it is to change and develop - all those wonderful gadgets and features may be good for now but what happens when you need to change or upgrade - you may find yourelf locked into the speed of development of the gadget you have come to rely on - KISS.   

 Life, the Universe and Entropy

The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy increases over time. One definition of entropy is as a measure of the amount of disorder in a system and another is as a measure of the amount of useful energy available.  This is a goldmine for ideas about life and organisations and I will develop this area over time (no doubt increasing entropy as I do so).

 Over time the amount of useful energy in an organisation decreases and the amount of disorder increases.  As organisations develop they spend energy in less productive ways and become more disorganised. For people and organisations this leads to bureaucracy, lethargy, loss of focus and purpose. The only way to counter this is to spend energy and effort to create order and increase the amount of useful energy available. Continually reflect on what you are doing,  make decisions and commit to making it happen – have a direction, purpose and vision.

Don't Panic - "Divide and Conquer"

When faced with large, complex and multiple tasks and deadlines it’s natural to feel overwhelmed, not know where to begin and to get nowhere. The key is not to be overwhelmed and to make a start. Break the big thing down into more manageable things and order the things – some may need to be in sequence but others could be tackled independently. Make a start – start with whatever you can to get yourself going.  If something seems to difficult see if you can break it down further try to keep moving.

Using this approach will produce a better more manageable solution anyway – there can be big complex systems but they should be made from smaller more simple components which are easier to maintain and to manage.

The End is the Beginning

You have something to do or somewhere to go - start at the end and work backwards. The beginning of a "journey" can be daunting - starting at the end will keep you focused the reason for the "journey" and the things you will need by the time you get to the end.


It has been said that it takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 muscles to smile – you might as well take the easy option. Whether this is true or not being pleasant and positive is more likely to produce pleasant and positive reactions – being negative and unpleasant is more likely to produce negative and unpleasant reactions.  

Always look on the bright side of life”

“There’s a silver lining to every cloud”, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. If you are able to learn from experience then every problem can be an opportunity.  Here is a trivial example – when road works blocked my usual route by car I experimented with a few alternatives and found a much better route.

Opportunity Knocks

“You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. It’s the free will thing – if someone does something of their own choosing then it has come from within and has meaning and this leads to learning, understanding and motivation. The crucial thing is to look for and create opportunity.