Brexit vote – lessons learned for decision making {0201}

OK, I admit it. I’ve turned into a real Brexit bore.

Happy to engage in seemingly endless conversations on the implications of Brexit. Conversations that always conclude rather unsatisfactorily with “Who knows?, Let’s wait and see?”, as Brexit fatigue finally sets in.

I make no apologies for being a “Remain” supporter, and I have a list of reasons why I believe we should have stayed in Europe. My European and American friends are as shocked as me that we voted to leave.

Yesterday, in the spirit of acceptance and “moving on”, I decided to really explore the issue from a Brexiter’s point of view. To understand why so many of my fellow citizen’s voted “Out”.

All decisions have consequences, some unintended.

Given the historic nature of the decision for our country it would be nice to believe that “Leave” supporters used a rational process when deciding.

At the very least weighing the “Pros” versus the “Cons”, using the information at hand {albeit some of a highly dubious nature}.

The 4 “Cartesian Questions” add a slightly different dimension to decision making.

Helping to dig a little deeper and be more explicit about the possible outcomes.

Evaluating expectations using the Cartesian Questions goes something like this {for example only, accepting that much comes down to personal opinion and who to believe}……

  1. “What would I expect to happen if I vote to Leave?” > less EU immigration, restored UK sovereignty, new trade deals e.g. China, stricter conditions for accessing the EU market, devaluation of sterling, a stock market correction, an economic downturn etc.
  2. “What wouldn’t I expect to happen if I vote to Leave?” > to lose my job, to continue to sacrifice  income to fund immigration costs, the EU to play “hard ball” in a Brexit deal {due to long established mutuality as friends and neighbours}, the break up of the United Kingdom, the birds not to sing tomorrow morning! etc.

Then there’s the “Do nothing”, status quo option {always important when assessing a business case for change}, namely….

  1. “What would happen if I vote to Remain?” >”The Establishment” {the EU, MPs etc.} carries on as before, with individuals and families financially better off in the short term {but then what?}, immigrants coming into the country in greater numbers, globalisation marches on untroubled, the financial sector and corporations continue to grow richer at other’s expense etc.
  2. “What wouldn’t happen if I vote to Remain?” > having a second chance to vote to leave the EU, significant EU reforms to reflect citizens’ democratic needs, a recession, reduction in overseas investment to the UK etc.

So there you have it. Balancing all these issues, a democratic decision was reached that we all now have to live with, however we voted.

The wider learning point here is the use of proven techniques to improve decision making.

When your business is faced with a key business decision, why not start by exploring the “Cartesian Questions”? It’s bound to lead to further questions and avenues of enquiry.

Yes, in the end the buck for any key business decision still stops with you, but at least you can be confident of having explored all the obvious angles and consequences before deciding.

And as for Brexit………I’ve had more than enough of that for today…….so I’m going to bed!

Sleep well.

Stephen C.


Why doing jigsaw puzzles can be good for business

Why doing jigsaw puzzles can be good for business


There are all sorts of techniques for maintaining a disciplined business focus.

One of the better analogies in the business language lexicon is the “helicopter view”.

Put simply, this means balancing big picture information with the detail on the ground in order to make informed decisions and plan a route to success, which can then be clearly communicated to others.

Doing a jigsaw puzzle can help you better appreciate your business from a helicopter’s altitude because:

  • There is a goal, which is to complete the jigsaw, in other words a plan well executed
  • This can’t be achieved without sight of the “big picture” shown on the box, or in business terms, that important overall environmental assessment that gives your plan a context
  • …..but you also need to pay close attention to the individual pieces without which you can’t complete the jigsaw at all – that’s the detail in your implementation plan making the changes work in practice
  • The jigsaw process starts with you finding the outside pieces that set the picture’s boundary, or in business terms, the overall approach or strategy to be taken
  • Then you look for the “pictures within the picture”, putting pieces together as sub-assemblies, analogous to the role different functions play when making business changes happen
  • As you get into the task you begin to recognise patterns, the colours and shapes of individual loose pieces that fill the gaps in your puzzle – in business terms, these are the new insights and gems of information that allow adjustment to your planned actions to make them more effective

The whole jigsaw puzzle process starts slowly then gradually gathers pace, even accelerating towards the end. When finished everything is perfectly integrated.

Concentrating on the puzzle for long periods can become counter-productive as you become tired and frustrated, struggling to find any pieces that fit.

However when you take regular breaks how often to you come back and immediately find a piece you have been looking for?

Does any of this ring true for you and your business?

Maybe doing jigsaw puzzles can be good for your business after all!