Published on May 6, 2015


Some words are rarely used in the plural since to do so denies their meaning. Focus is one: how can you have two focuses?Nevertheless I had 3 things to focus on last week and the lesson from each of them was that focus pays off.

At Madrinha, over the last 3 years we have helped 50 students in 15 countries with varying degrees of success. This was phase one of our development: try it and see what works. We now understand the need for electronic communication, the minimum age of mentees and the need to work with charities that “get” our aims and can identify the best students. But how to get the best return for, what are always, limited resources? We noted the difficulty of understanding the education and culture in so many countries and agreed to limit the number of countries in which we work to 9. A difficult decision but one which we believe is a good one: by focussing on a smaller area we will become good at guiding students to university, into their first jobs and maybe beyond that, so that they are role models for their communities who inspire others. By being present in a few countries we are more able to demonstrate the successes we have since the concentration of people allows us to, er, focus.

I met with our partner Smart Currency to explore ways of spreading our messages and we also agreed on more focus. For while FD Solutions has been successful in improving cashflow for businesses, the primary focus of an FD; and Smart Currency has been successful in making cost-effective, safe and easy foreign currency transactions for companies, not all business sectors are the same. So we agreed to demonstrate our depth of expertise by sharing our sector specific insights with the relevant clients, culminating in an event for them to learn even more.

In a different context I saw the benefit of joint focus on one aim when my choir, Some Voices, performed on Friday evening. At some stages I was so focussed on the conductor that I lost the ability to dance clap and generally shimmy as required, but the effect of listening to each other and singing in concert was spine-tingling. The audience (who may have been friends and relatives of the 250 aforementioned choristers) seemed to agree.

Almost always, focus attracts more support rather than reducing it.

So why don’t the political parties act this way? The most damning moment last week was seeing most of the audience of the Last Leg stick their hands up when Adam Hills asked “who isn’t impressed by the messages of any party?”. It seems that we are meant to deduce their messages. My deductions show a split between “enable wealth creation, optimise tax, and provide welfare to the deserving” and “control wealth, maximise taxes and look after everyone’s need”. Even though these statements are rather general, there are plenty of focussed messages that can hang off them. But I suspect that there’s evidence for the opposite view in each manifesto. It’s got to the stage where we need guides such as this tool to help us find out.

I leave it to you to deduce who I shall vote for. But be careful, not all deductions are true. A relative of mine when young, was anxious that we care for her “bru”; only the one you’ll note because if there were two that would be “two bruise”