Principles first, methods second

Part of the New Guinea Commerce Winners Don’t Cheat Series.

By Sean Jacobs

What I’ve found over the years, from a career bouncing across sectors and countries, is the importance of core principles. What do I mean by principles? I simply mean a set of beliefs, values and, in a good old fashioned way, actually standing up for something.

I feel that young people today have the idea that principles are only for the rigid self-righteous types or aren’t useful for an innovating, modern world. But, looking at things more closely, principles are actually essential in two areas – navigating complexity and responding to change.

After a few years of working across a number of policy areas I soon discovered the importance of teasing out my own set of instinctive beliefs. In government, in particular, I found myself bombarded with complexity – facts, figures, tables, opinions and other information was placed at my feet, which was all designed to help me arrive at the best decision on what path to take. I found that, on any complex issue, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

But principles can help. It was said of former Prime Minister John Howard, for example, that he broadly approached new policy ideas with the following three principles: does it strengthen the family, expand the scope for private enterprise and encourage individual choice?

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