The Importance of Context

2019-07-03T10:18:48-07:00 October 14th, 2016|Tags: , , |

Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

Have you ever considered the importance of context in the decision making process? According to the Oxford Dictionary, context may be defined as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.” By this definition, assessment of an idea’s setting is critical to understanding the idea itself.

As marketplace leaders, we must pay careful attention to the context in which we operate. In the investment business, context assessment is a critical factor to making wise investment decisions. Contextual items would include but not be limited to management credibility and track record, historical sales (if any), the size and growth potential of the target market and the competition.

During my venture capital days, an entrepreneur presented me with his business plan concerning the rollout of a new, improved fluid pump. His “killer argument”: If he only captured 0.01% of the global market, he would generate sufficient earnings to justify a valuation ten times the current valuation. In this case, his use of context backfired, since we concluded that he did not really understand his target market given such a broad definition! We did not invest.

Decisions are made based on the lens through which we view our world.

As followers of Jesus, we look at both our professional and personal lives through a unique grid or worldview, which becomes our context for decision making. This worldview includes the following beliefs supported by reference to the Bible:

  • God created each one of us for a unique purpose.
  • The primary purpose for which He created us is to be in a loving relationship with Him which involves both knowing Him and sharing Him with others.
  • It is through the light of that relationship that we filter life’s events, comprehend reality and make decisions.
  • The secondary purpose for which He created each one of us is to use our unique talents and experiences in our professional and personal lives to fulfil His plans.

Thus, our context for business and personal decision making should always be framed by the question: “What would Jesus do in this situation?” This would include my dealings with employees, customers and vendors, the quality of the work I do, my relationship with my wife and children, etc. Confession: I do not always ask this question but I am getting more consistent doing so!

C.S. Lewis is a prolific author and former atheist who became a Christian. He has written many bestsellers including “Mere Christianity”. Lewis made the following observation which nicely captures the concept of context from a Christian perspective:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

What lens do you use for context?

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.