John Kay is one of Britain’s leading economists. His interests focus on the relationships between economics and business. His career has spanned academic work and think tanks, business schools, company directorships, consultancies and investment companies. For more details of John’s biography, see the About section.
John Kay chaired the Review of UK Equity Markets and Long-Term Decision-Making which reported to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on the 23rd July 2012. He is a visiting Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, a Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is a director of several public companies and contributes a weekly column to the Financial Times. He is the author of many books, including The Truth about Markets (2003) and The Long and the Short of It: finance and investment for normally intelligent people who are not in the industry (2009) and his latest book, Obliquity was published by Profile Books in March 2010. Some of his most influential, recent work has been on banking regulation, and you can read about his vision for the sector in his 2009 essay, Narrow Banking.
Obliquity – Why our goals are best achieved indirectly
Now available as paperback!
Order your copy in John’s Bookshop.
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, many 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.
Obliquity is necessary because we live in an world of uncertainty and complexity; the problems we encounter aren’t always clear – and we often can’t pinpoint what our goals are anyway; circumstances change; people change – and are infuriatingly hard to predict; and direct approaches are often arrogant and unimaginative.
Obliquity was published by Profile Books as hardback in March 2010 and paperback in February 2011. For dates of John’s book signings and talks check the NEWS section.
“John Kay is an admirable debunker of myths and false beliefs –he can see substantial things others don’t. Read this book.”
Nassim N Taleb, Author of The Black Swan
“Read this book for pleasure, and indirectly – obliquely – you will gain invaluable insights into how successful decisions are made.”
Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England
29 October 2014, Financial Times
Citizens express dissatisfaction with the current state of politics and the economy in time-honoured fashion, by hostility to anonymous others and complaint that too much power is exercised by people who are out of touch with their needs.
22 October 2014, Financial Times
There are good reasons for state action in areas of business misconduct. But announcing ad hoc measures against companies in the news is the wrong way.
15 October 2014, Financial Times
Life-saving advances are the greatest benefit of technological change. And yet when pundits discuss the future, the excitement around driverless cars and nanotechnology gives way to long faces when the topic moves to human longevity. It may be nice to live longer, but what about the effect on the economy?
08 October 2014, Financial Times
Payday lending changed its character because technological changes made it possible to target a new demographic profile. A genie has escaped the bottle, and it has to be coaxed back gently; attacked directly, it is likely to prove slippery and evasive.