I recently had the fortune of staying with a good friend and his wife, who is a successful author and entrepreneur living in the Portland area of Oregon, in the United States.
During my trip we decided to take a car trip to have lunch in a beautiful coastal town on the West Coast called Florence – Oregon. Florence is a city in Lane County, Oregon in the United States, with a beach resort, restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and has a very affluent local community.
Mark has a strong passion for thought leadership, business and fast cars, so we took his Porsche convertible on a very scenic drive to the city of Florence. Admiring the incredible views, we could not help but discuss strategy today. I have always made statement to the fact that ‘strategy has not really changed since the Roman days, but it does seem to get more complex.’ This prompted much discussion around the subject and included some very interesting insights from one of Mark’s favourite authors Jack Whyte.
You may recall two of Jack Whyte’s more famous quotes; “My admiration for Britannicus grew as I watched the uncomplaining manner in which he accepted the injustice and the inefficiency and inconvenience being heaped upon him by incompetent superiors” and “ What is honor – I suspect that if, after reading this book, you were to go and ask the question of your friends and acquaintances, you might experience some difficulty finding someone who could give you, off the cuff, an accurate and adequate definition of honor.”
Mark then introduced one of Jack Whyte’s books to me ‘The Singing Sword’ which is book two of The Camulod Chronicles. I could not help but think of the days King Arthur was in power and of Julius Caesar. How were the words honor, integrity, probity, morality and self-sufficiency used then and exactly what can we learn from this era about ethical or moral conduct of a business or operation today.
Do we lack determination, imagination, courage, and passion in today’s business world?
Are we lost in the big data phenomenon and blame/accountability of others?
Do we actually take responsibility of our actions with others?
How is this effecting the way we behave , our conduct, and more importantly the outcomes?
So as you can imagine this discussion did provoke lateral thinking around our experiences and learnings from assignments, when finally we came to historical information vs. historical thought.
Mark stated that there is a great deal of historical knowledge around today. We are awash with books on history, massive biographies, and philosophy on historical figures. Information on history is much broader than ever before, but there is very little historical thought across both spectrums in the business world.
As a famous lord, Lord Acton, once said ‘historical thought is far more important than historical knowledge’. Historical thought is using the lessons of history to understand the present and to make decisions for the future.
Can or should we be using history as an analytical tool and making use of the lessons of history?
If we were to draw lessons from the Roman Empire and experience it in our everyday existence, as human nature never changes, similar circumstances will always produce similar events. Churchill did change history and this should act as a guide and impediment to understanding the present, so that we can change the future.
The questions we should ask ourselves:
- Do we have the reserves of moral courage that the Romans did to undertake that burden of empire or in business?
- If we make change, what will be our legacy to the next generation?
- Are we generous in spirit, determined to leave the world a better place, or are we hoping that an algorithm or technology is the answer?
- Should we constantly refer to the Roman era or can we instill the disciplines, teachings, values and techniques that are far more enduring and far better than that of the Roman era?
What do you think?