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What Do Smart Business People Ignore?


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As a small business owner, you need to be able to process large amounts of information quickly, right?

And as a financial adviser, you need to do the same, surely?

Could these be two of the markers of intellectual capability separating smart business people from the rest? It kind of makes sense.

Turns out not. According to a 2013 study by the University of Rochester, being smart might just in fact be about the information you’re able to ignore, rather than how much you can process.

In which case, could you running an even better business actually be about thinking less, instead of more?

To cut the chase of the findings, the Rochester studies revealed a strong correlation between IQ and smart people’s ability to detect motion in large and small objects. Basically, the more test subjects struggled with detecting motion in large objects and the better they were at the small ones, the higher their IQ.

The survival theory behind this is it’s not background movement that’s important, it’s the stuff nearby. Realising there is predator stalking you in the grass directly ahead is a damn sight more important than trees moving in the distance. Your ability to spot this means you live to fight another day, simply because you’re focusing on what’s most relevant and important.

Essentially, an efficient brain ignores the nonessential.

There’s two aspects of this study that struck me as relevant to advice businesses right now.

Firstly, we’re living through (yet another) period of significant legislative and technological industry change. There is so much that you could be focusing on, but only so much of that really matters.

Perhaps advice business owners shouldn’t be focussing on the shifting industry landscape so much. Instead, perhaps the key is identifying the 3-4 most threatening “predators” – or, if you’re in growth mode, the opportunities you’re “hunting” – you should pay closest attention to.

For example:

  • Do you need to get on top of your service offer and marketing message, to make sure your clients understand what you’re offering and why it’s important come FDS time?
  • Is your real threat the risk of losing staff to institutions that are once again aggressively recruiting?
  • Perhaps what you really need to be watching out for is the lack of efficiency caused by not having your most important processes documented in an Online Operations Manual?
  • Do you need to get your business up to speed in the technology space, before it begins to impact your long-term business valuation and proves too costly to catch-up?
  • Or maybe it’s about the fact that as a tech-savvy business owner, there has never been a better time to have a go at launching your own app, online offerings or whatever innovation you feel could put a dent in the world?

If you’re in doubt which might be relevant, Audere’s own free SHIP Analysis Business Diagnostic tool can provide insight that might go some way to helping you figure it out in about 15 mins.

The second aspect of this study that struck me is about focus.

If it turns out that the ability to focus is one of the hallmarks of intelligence, then it also stands to reason that creating an environment that encourages you to do so would be an enabler of smarter decision making.

In the next three weeks I’ll be doing what I try to do each quarter; taking some time out for two days away from everything. From the phone, from technology, from the day to day and from working in my business. I’ll devote those days to walking, thinking, writing and (I hope) focusing on what Audere needs to do to add greater value to our clients’ businesses.

With the start of the financial year fast approaching, and the pace of change showing few signs of abating, it’s worth asking whether one of these “Focus Breaks” might just be useful process for you too.

Combine it with an offsite planning session with your team, and create a plan for the coming year. It might well be the smartest way to find the focus you need to make 2015-16 memorable for all the right reasons.

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