Thursday, April 12, 2007/
The latest staff roadshow had me drifting off again, this time to thoughts of intelligent design and our omnipotent deity, the chief executive.
Banking and intelligent design
In common with many other large corporates, my employer conducts a series of staff “roadshows” – in-house versions of our quarterly presentation to analysts.
Unfortunately, the clear-of-vision and swift-in-execution business model that so impresses the analysts is quite disorienting for those of us who work in the reality and so I often find my concentration drifting to unrelated issues.
At the last roadshow, it was the issue of “intelligent design” that piqued my interest.
As I understand the debate, those propounding intelligent design suggest that it can be no coincidence that the amount of skin around the human body so neatly matches the amount of skin required.
Similarly, they argue, it is not sheer fluke that the leaf of a tree begins precisely where the stalk finishes. No, such neat fits are compelling evidence of a wise and intelligent design, they say.
Of course, just as one finds oneself nodding in agreement, the atheists pipe up: if every aspect of our planet has been designed by a wise and compassionate god, how does one explain Starbucks coffee, they demand, rhetorically.
As I reached this theological impasse, the parallels with the modern corporate structure struck me.
If we begin with the hypothesis that the CEO is the guiding hand of the organisation, how can we explain, for example, the striking contrast between our CEO’s condemnation of over-leveraged private equity funds and the gleeful abandon with which the bank hurls cash at any private equity fund showing the slightest inclination to buy something?
However, if our hypothesis is that the CEO is a meaningless cipher and there is no strategy, then simple probability theory would suggest that about half of the decisions we make should be sensible, which clearly is not the case.
Hence, we arrive at a similar impasse to the theological impasse, as neither theory answers these questions. More analysis is required. Thankfully, we have another roadshow scheduled soon, so I shall have plenty of time for further contemplation.
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