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
19 November 2014, Financial Times
The Independent Airport Commission must choose between the scale advantages of monopoly and the innovative benefits of competition. Airline history favours the former, experience of other industries supports the latter.
12 November 2014, Financial Times
The close independence vote, together with the hasty promises that preceded it, have rendered unsustainable the quiet compromises that had defused the Scottish issue in British politics.
05 November 2014, Financial Times
The rout of the Brazilians by the Germans at this year’s football World Cup and British success in cycling seems to reinforce the thesis that hard work trumps talent. Yet it is not just modesty that leads me to suspect that even after 10,000 hours I would not be ready to perform at Wembley Stadium.
05 November 2014, Financial Times
The National Trust announced that a painting of a raffish Dutch gentleman wearing a white feathered hat, on display at Buckland Abbey in Devon, is in fact a self-portrait by Rembrandt, worth £30m. But who created that £30m value, and when?