Jones’ Octagon of Success is a formula for life first put forward by the Englishman Mark Thomas Jones (born 1964) in his key note address entitled: Developing the Ministerial Mindset: A Global View delivered at an International Academic Conference, Dubai, UAE, 14th – 15th January 2013. In May 2013 Jones expanded on this formula in relation to the role and function of government ministers in a book that took the same title. From the outset Jones has made clear that this formula is equally applicable to individuals as organisations and that it is aimed to portray the key elements that help foster an appreciation of those elements that influence successful outcomes or the way in which success is perceived. Jones chooses to highlight eight areas of focus: 1) Time 2) Tools & Equipment 3) Mental & Physical State 4) Judgement & Experience 5) Sensory Alertness 6) Predecessors, Contemporaries, 7) External Factors 8) Motivation as areas which when effectively combined are more likely to improve the chances of success outcomes.
Jones being a specialist consultant and trainer of Executives and Legislative Leaders posits that those in such roles often resembled funambulists (tight-rope walkers) and consequently need to be aware of the factors that influence the chances of success. In regards, to those in Government he has been an advocate of changing the lexicon and iconography of leadership, often speaking of those who “walk the corridors of accountability”.
Elements of the Octagon
The eight segments that make up Jones’ Octagon of Success are giving equal weighting, although when elaborating on the ideas behind the formula Jones has always made clear that ‘Time’ was deliberately placed at the apex as it is there to act as reminder of the limits that it places on human activities. When referring to ‘Predecessors, Contemporaries & Successes’ when speaking in connection to institutions Jones often speaks of ‘Past, Present & Future’. Jones sees the octagon as a means of concentrating minds and enabling individuals and organisations to appreciate, balance and focus on the task/tasks in hand. Each segment has a role to play and thus deserves thought, time and an appreciation of their importance.
In coloured representations of Jones’ Octagon of Success (JOOS) the ‘Time’ segment is deliberately coloured red as there is a general acceptance that red is seen as a colour that connotes a warning or danger. Jones’ is clear that we all benefit from being reminded of the limited and precious nature of time whether in our personal or professional lives.
Tools & Equipment
Jones has written of ensuring people have the physical tools and equipment to do a given task, but this segment also encompasses the skills and competencies that are integral to capacity building.
Mental & Physical state
According to Jones it is not only sentient beings that manifest signs of mental or physical toughness or fragility, Administrations too reflect that virility and state of mind of leading members and as such undergo states of transition and change which he compares to that witnessed in the seasons of nature. This segment has an added relevance in an age when there is a growing appreciation of the importance of mindfulness and well-being.
Judgement & Experience
The discernment that shapes judgement is not easily acquired, and even then, can be prone to blind spots that can themselves be shaped by education, upbringing and the accretions of culture. Jones acknowledges the importance of heuristic learning, whilst accepting that in certain roles in life preparation is not only limited, but near impossible.
Jones claims that success is heavily dependent upon being attuned to one’s immediate environment, as well as having the ability to anticipate change and react to it. In the case of the body political he states that the greatest dangers lie not with opposing parties but within the dynamic of the political structure or ideology to which a person or persons subscribes. Organisations and institutions that engage with diverse stakeholders are often better placed to detect matters of concern much earlier than those who have allowed themselves to become hermetically sealed from the world beyond.
Predecessors, Contemporaries & Successors
Benchmarking is something that humans appear to do naturally. When exploring success in any given field of human endeavour there is a need to measure success and this can be done through comparisons. What applies to individuals can equally apply to the corporate world, to cities and entire civilizations and in this respect, Jones sometimes applies the words ‘Past, Present & Future’ to the same effect.
Very rarely can human activity be isolated and hermetically sealed. Even the most thorough and professional of people and enterprises can be adversely affected by external factors ranging from climatic disruption and geo-political crisis to power failures and volcanic ash clouds. Jones argues that we are conditioned to accept the vicissitudes of life, whilst those people and organisation best prepared to cope are those who have a contingency planning mindset that generally enables a swifter and more effective response. JOOS has a role to play in enabling people and organisations to consider, reflect and engage in foresight planning.
Degrees of motivation play a key part in the likelihood of success being achieved. What drives such motivation is often complex, sometimes hidden and varies from person to person. Companies may talk of footfall, market share, disposable income brackets and the scope for and size of dividends. An absence of motivation significantly undermines the chances of any form of success. As for personal motivation, this rarely remains constant, what might motivate a person at 21 may well not motivate them at 44 or 67.
Essentially Jones’ Octagon of Success (JOOS) lends equal weight to each of the segments and the ideas explored therein, with Jones stating that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and as a result this is what makes it both relevant and practical. The utilitarian nature of JOOS ensures that it lends itself to a remarkable range of personal and professional planning exercises, as well as helping to stimulate discussion and debate. JOOS does not guarantee success but provides a means to enable individuals and organisations to better appreciate the key elements that will shape the likelihood of a successful outcome.