Authors' Questions for the Price of Fish

What is the book about?
The Price of Fish takes a broad view of real commerce, blending four streams: choice, economics, systems and evolution. This book makes sense of the world as it actually is – complex, circular, aggressive and long-term - helping communities large and small make better decisions.

Why have you written this book?
We have never found a book that tries to explain the knotty world of real commerce with a good read. We thought we’d give it a try.

Where did you get your ideas for this book?
From other people – same place everyone else gets ideas. We think we help to structure ideas in original ways but don’t claim to be idea generators. In our working lives, we work with organisations that need to make tough choices in complex circumstances; that experience uncovers plenty of good material and ideas for this book.

Why did you decide you wanted to be writers?
They say that politics is show business for ugly people. We realised that authorship is show business for ugly people who don’t want to be politicians.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
Once we had a deadline.

Who would you most like to read this book?
Business people who think they can learn nothing from books and academics who think that commercial folk can’t think. Most of all, we’d like all the students and the general public to read it.

When somebody reads this book, what’s the first thing you’d like them to go out and do?
We hope that people will understand the real commercial world better after reading this book. We then hope the reader will do something – some important thing - differently, because reading the book has helped them reach a different, better decision.

Briefly summarise the central argument put forward in The Price of Fish.
We believe that combining the four streams - choice, economics, systems and evolution – is key to making better decisions and in turn, potentially finding answers to the world’s most pernicious problems.

Why those particular four streams?
However you try to tackle big subjects, lots of good material will get left out. The trick for us is to try and find the right tools to help make better, real commercial decisions. We believe that blending these four streams allows us to introduce the most appropriate tools for real commercial decision-making.

Give an example of blending the four disciplines.
The problem of diminishing fish stocks is a good example of a wicked problem. The price of fish cannot be right if it leads to over-fishing, permanently depleted stocks and hunger. We worked with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in its formative years. It works to create real economic incentives for the improved management of fish resources through standards and resultant food labelling. This a good example of blending the four disciplines. MSC food labelling harnesses the power of consumer choice for positive change. Economics, both practical and theoretical, helps with decisions on costing, pricing, and calculating the value of fish and fishing standards. The fishing system is improved through adherence to good practice standards for fishing. Finally, the standards system itself is designed to evolve, using competition to improve specifications and certification firms, as well as fishermen keeping each other in check. There are certainly other wicked natural resource problems, e.g. forestry, water, biodiversity, but, before this book sounds as if it's just about the natural environment, wicked economic problems also include intellectual property, financial reporting, the money supply and government expenditure. Mankind is not short of wicked targets, many of our own making.

Why is this an important book? And what do you expect to achieve by bringing these issues to the fore?
The Price of Fish looks at wicked economics; some of the world’s most abiding and problems, such as sustainability, global warming, over-fishing, overpopulation and the pensions crisis, which are all characterized by a set of messy, circular, aggressive and peculiarly long-term problems. Combining the four streams - choice, economics, systems and evolution – is key to making better decisions and finding new approaches to tackle these intractable issues.

What separates your ideas on commerce and economics from those that have gone before?
Economics alone is insufficient to explain real commerce and address wicked problems. We’re not claiming to have earth-shattering ideas, but the blending of choice, economics, systems and evolution puts a novel perspective on intractable issues which can inspire better decisions.

What was the hardest part to write?
The final chapter. We would like the reader to end up feeling reasonably optimistic that, through the ideas in this book, humanity has the tools to address its most serious problems. However, we don’t want to downplay the complexity and severity of the wicked problems we discuss towards the end of the book. We found balancing those sentiments for the final chapter difficult, but hope we have achieved a suitably thought-provoking and inspiring ending.

Why do you think you can succeed in addressing problems like over-fishing where scientists and industry professionals have failed? What do you bring to the table?
Lots of dedicated people do fine work within their disciplines, but they are often coming from too narrow a perspective. It can be difficult for specialists to ask questions or think in ways that are alien to their fields. Yet often the more impertinent questions and pertinent answers to wicked problems can only be found by combining several disciplines. We believe that our blend of four disciplines - choice, economics, systems and evolution – brings a new approach with a new insight on these wicked problems.

Additional AQs For The Cognoscenti

What is the film pitch?
In a Galactic Monetary System - far, far away – rebel leaders struggle to hold together their scattered schools of economics, beset by wicked problems. The rebels fight the dark forces of quantitative easing, constipated in a narrow stream. Their young hero, Fluke Skatewater, leads a brave shoal of submariners on a mission to save the universe. But they flounder against the waves of Darth Wader’s legions. Fluke is faced with a terrible decision that will determine the fate of time and space itself. Can mankind only be saved by plunging into the dark pools of liquidity?

What is the bumper sticker?
You’ve read the book, you’ve seen the film, you’ve worn the tee-shirt, now price the fish.

Who would you most like to use this book as toilet paper?
Alan Greenspan.

What does real commerce teach us about love?
If you can’t price it, you can’t buy it.