C4 Dispatches:: insurance industry – profit before people


The insurance industry, consistently, dispels the myth of “honour amongst thieves”. In this programme we see it through the lens of motor insurance BUT bad practice doesn’t stop there.

If you didn’t watch the programme…you should! Follow the link embedded in this picture (may only work in UK – sorry!).

motor ins ripoff

For the sake of clarity, you may, also, wish to consider the definition of the word that the Office of Fair Trading used to describe the motor insurance industry: DYSFUNCTIONAL Read more of this post

Tim Harford:: Trial, error and the God complex I TED Talks


We don’t know what we don’t know and, even though we know that we don’t know, we STILL don’t want to know!!!

A standout lecture from Tim Harford that would benefit little from some dull introduction by me! I couldn’t help but note some words and phrases that sprang to mind as I enjoyed this video…it isn’t a complete Iist nor is it in a precise order just what I could remember! So feel free to contribute

THE BEGINNING: information – simplicity – system – interdependence –complexity – biology – survival – adaptability – empathy – iteration – fractal – scale – physics – risk – evolution – fallibility – innovation – politics – learning – statistics – correlation – transparency – assumption – uncertainty – psychological denial – mathematics – critical complexity – release* – simplification: THE END or another BEGINNING…   Read more of this post

Video: Business lessons from quantum theory!!!


At School I dropped science subjects in favour of the language of a fallen Empire (Rome) and Economics, so I didn’t have too much cause to think “things scientific” let alone Quantum Theory!

But, my journey into Complexity theory led me to broaden my reading (some may even call it research!) into System, Information and Chaos Theories. As well as a bit of Biology, Physics and Maths. I WOULD NEVE HAVE BELIEVED THAT IN A THOUSAND YEARS!!! Especially as the intention, when establishing Ontonix UK, was to identify how best our Quantitative Complexity Management solutions could be deployed to reduce risk, primarily, in insurance and the wider Financial sector!

The more closely I looked at subjects, that were relatively unknown to me, the greater my appreciation of those matters AND, through that, the more I understood (and questioned)  things that were already known to me.

However, apart from my new found appetite for science, what startled me most was the realisation that, much of what has become “accepted practice” in the business environment is based upon (wrong) assumptions and the attitude that “there is little that we need to learn about business and risk management”…especially from science!

Such is the culture of an industry with little doubt about its own infallibility!!!!

Read more of this post

Establishing “cause and effect”: don’t be misled


Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse reassures us all that establishing causality in complex systems is far from straightforward. As he points out and is readily understood, there is no doubting that biology and weather present “obvious” challenges in this regard but this isn’t only the case in nature!

BBC Horizon: Extract from an excellent series–causality PLAY FROM 7:50 ONWARD

It isn’t much more straightforward when it comes to complex business or financial systems…no matter what the “experts” (who inevitably have a vested interest) would have us believe.

“High complexity is incompatible with high precision” – this is known as L. Zadeh’s Principle of Incompatibility.

Few would argue that our globalised economy, markets, supply chains, global banking, web & IT infrastructures are highly complex. Although, undoubtedly, the  scale is different but it is also the case that relatively “small” businesses are also reliant upon the successful interaction of multiple (internal and internal – external) functions, ALL interacting within turbulent and unpredictable environments. As a result (and in accordance with Zadeh’s Principle – above)  the ability to reliably forecast, to predict future outcomes and returns is lost…as is the ability to track causality.

However, all is not lost! BUT opportunity does require a preparedness to challenge belief systems built over many years, embrace some new technology, some scientific facts and a manner of thinking that is as old as the planet: there are lessons for business leaders to learn by viewing businesses as systems and interrogating the data in ways that reveal new and invaluable information.

Complexity: The Secret Life of Chaos


An absolutely stunning, fascinating, beautiful BBC documentary that is required viewing for every thinking person on the planet. From the earliest thoughts of Alan Turing (father of computers) in Part 1, through Mandelbrot’s fractals, to computerised brains in Part 7 this is riveting. An absolute joy!!!

From chaos to complexity, simplicity and back again!

When people ask me about what I do, or what Ontonix does, the explanation can be as complex or simple as the subject itself. So much of it depends upon the enquirers’ understanding of the planet, their environment or  themselves. But it can also be about how “open” someone is to thinking (often) “beyond” what they have grown familiar with.

An understanding of complex systems and an appreciation of our inability to predict outcomes should serve us well. With non-linear systems, IF we must make assumptions: assume and cater for the worst foreseeable outcome. Do NOT be fooled by past results for, it is not the “known knowns” of risk but the “unknowns” of uncertainty that we have to deal with. The “price” of, apparently minor miscalculations deviations or events  can have major impacts as “feedback” loops across the system and connected systems.