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Five Questions:

Authored by: Prof B.

Reflection is often the most underutilized tool absent in the habits of individuals and goes well beyond the sensible application to business practices. A focus I have maintained throughout my years of instruction has been to stress to pupils the importance of self-reflection when evaluating failure in an attempt to understand the challenges you will encounter in the future. History can be an unforgiving tool especially when viewed in retrospect. An individual must first look back on a situation and realize that although no situation is ever entirely the same, through tedious application there is the potential to learn how a specific hardship can serve as a lesson and offer insight into correcting behaviours for the future. The key term I present in this paragraph is learn.

John Welch shares a unique gift that is often overlooked by corporate leaders today when they reflect on his contributions to business and strategic management. What made Welch so proficient at his job for so many years, at the helm of goliath General Electric, was not an ability to foresee the changing dynamics that would challenge his business, but in the ability to learn and adapt through reflection in a timely fashion,

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – John Welch

In a recent trip to Boston I had the pleasure to meet up for lunch with an old colleague of mine who spoke of a recent conversation she had with Gregory Mankiw; a fellow professor of hers and known in academic circles as a very gifted mind on the subject of economics. Our discussion focused on a discussion paper she had in her possession from early 2006 that was addressed to then incoming Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke from Mankiw congratulating him on his appointment and issuing five questions that today appear to hold more significance than the author previously might have anticipated.

In my past submission I outlined the significance of Bernanke’s appointment to Fed Chairman and how relevant his past academic focus on the monetary system would be to the management of the current credit crisis. In his letter to Bernanke, Mankiw addresses five specific questions that monetary economists, economic historians and future Fed chairmen may wish to consider when they reflect on what lessons are to be learnt from the era of Alan Greenspan and the turmoil of the current credit environment.

The discussion by Mankiw is short and I will spare readers my individual impressions of the questions posed to Bernanke or their current significance. My intention is simply to provide the source in an effort for students and fellow academics to reflect upon the appropriate timing of topics discussed throughout the letter and consider the impact of recent oversight and responsibility undertaken by the US Federal Reserve and its officers.

The Five Questions:

  1. How important are monetary rules?
  2. Should the Fed adopt inflation targeting?
  3. Should you be free with your opinions?
  4. Should you be a high-profile public figure?
  5. Is it more important to be good or lucky?
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