March 25, 2011 in Book reviews

A Portfolio of ideas?

After reviewing Seth Godin’s Poke The Box, I started thinking about how we can handle the multitude of ideas we have each day; Which ones should we act on? When should we drop an idea and move on? How many ideas should we have on the go at once? I know that investment banking isn’t exactly flavour of the month, but I think the discipline of portfolio management has something to offer us in terms of managing a portfolio of ideas. I’ve dug out a quirky book that I’ve had for years, The Zurich Axioms by Max Gunther, which claims to contain the investment approaches that have made the Swiss a rich nation!


Here are the axioms that I believe are relevant to managing ideas:
1 – Worry is not a sickness but a sign of health. If you are not worried, you are not risking enough. (I don’t know whether I’d go so far as saying you should be worried, but taking some risks is good)

2 – Always take your profit too soon. (i.e. don’t be too greedy)

3 – When the ship starts to sink, Jump. (if an idea isn’t a good one, just drop it and move on)

4 – Human behaviour cannot be predicted. Distrust anyone who claims to know the future, however dimly.

5 – Chaos is not dangerous until it begins to look orderly. (it can be easy to delude ourselves that we can make sense of everything and predict the future)

6 – A hunch can be trusted if it can be explained.

7 – Optimism means expecting the best, but confidence means knowing how you will handle the worst. Never make a move if you are merely optimistic.

8 – Disregard the majority opinion. It is probably wrong.

9 – If it doesn’t pay off the first time, forget it. (Don’t keep plugging away at a variation of a bad idea as if it owes you some success. Do, however shelve ideas if it just isn’t the right time for them)

10 – Long-range plans engender the dangerous belief that the future is under control. It is important never to take your own long-range plans, or other people’s, seriously.


This isn’t meant to be the definitive guide to idea management, just some thoughts that might help. In fact, it was an idea on which I just thought I would ‘Poke the Box’! Are you treating your ideas as a portfolio of investments?

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