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Trump, SJP and why your bubble might stop you learning from them…

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how as individuals we perceive the world we live in…

It’s strange.

In a world where connection is far easier than it once was, where knowledge is available at the touch of a button and where if you want to get alternative opinions (or even facts) about any particular subject or topic…

…many people don’t.

What many of us (including me) do is validate our opinions by surrounding ourselves with ‘like minded people’ or allow social media to filter ‘news’ to suit our tastes.

Let’s be frank with each other. Humans are tribal. It’s natural to feel more comfortable surrounding ourselves with groups of people we share certain attributes and attitudes with. Regardless of whether the defining factor is attitude, political opinion, interests or a range of other factors which might make a difference…

We like and like to be with people who are like us.

This is being intensified with the impact of the internet and social media which filters what we see so the majority of what we see reflects our own views and interests (We seem to live in a world where using the term ‘black mirror’ to describe our computer and phone screens has never seemed more appropriate!)

Of course you can have a ‘debate’ with someone you disagree with on Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin…however the reality is that often the way we communicate using these platforms mean that it ends up with two individuals who may have opposing views tend to come out not with a greater understanding of someone elses perspective but more determined to defend your point of view.

Don’t get me wrong…I love the power of the internet and the way social media platforms can connect us.

However It’s rare I’ll check twitter and see interaction which contains even an element of Nuance (Nuance is difficult in 140 characters) or when a ‘Facebook debate’ ends with someone saying ‘I know you’re right about this…but you made an interesting point…I should learn from that!”

Nup, in a world which is personalised to us we’re not exposed to diverse and opposing views often enough and too often not prepared to seek those opposing views out.

Now listening to and considering alternative views from ours is quite a difficult thing to do (for more about the reasons why it’s worth understanding the principal of Cognitive Dissonance) but I’d suggest that it’s worth considering the implications of NOT listening.

Politics, most obviously in the UK and the US, is as polarised as it’s ever been. It also looks like many other countries including France is becoming increasingly divided.

In our profession there seems to be a bunch of businesses who are forward thinking and progressive in nature but often have a relatively narrow focus when it comes to how a financial planning business should be run.

This obviously has certain advantages to this narrow approach but I believe that listening, learning and understanding what other financial services businesses do, even if we don’t agree with all of their practices, allow us to develop more robust businesses.

If you wanted to annoy many a financial planner or adviser often you just need to say three letters.


I understand the reasons why.

However often whilst we might not agree with the specific model there is no denying that SJP is still a powerhouse of financial services business which does some things much better than many of the firms out there (Their marketing infrastructure is awesome and can be learned from. They also have a decent recruitment machine).

Looking outside of financial planning there are industries and professions which we can learn loads from…

Can we take and implement ideas from industries and professions as diverse as gaming, manufacturing, architecture, design, advertising, law, medicine and childcare? The list could go on and on…

Could we even learn something from President Elect Donald Trump?

If you disagree most of what he says (and I do) there’s no denying that the simplicity of his communication, the fact that he reached out to an often ignored part of the American population, his profile and the fact that he was so different played a part in him winning the American Election.

All I’m saying is could we be better, both personally and in our businesses, if we every now and again took a step out of our cognitive dissonance bubbles and tried to understand what we can learn from those we don’t agree with.

However I might be wrong. You might not struggle as much as I do to do this. I’m interested in your thoughts…

What have you learned from people you disagree with? How do you fight ‘cognitive dissonance’ if at all? or Do you think having a narrow focus is actually a beneficial thing to do in running a modern financial services business?

I look forward to hearing what you think…

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