Should you worry about Paraskevidekatriaphobia?

Obviously you’d expect nothing less from footballers. Last one out of the dressing room. Don’t put my shirt on until I’m in the tunnel. Kiss Wazza on the head before kick-off…

And cricketers are pretty much the same. Left pad first when I’m going out to bat. Two black wristbands – and if you’re the Indian seamer Zaheer Khan, never, ever take the field without your lucky yellow handkerchief.

Sportsmen are a pathetically superstitious bunch. Showbiz is riddled with superstition as well. Find a piece of cotton on another actor and wind it round your finger. Perform Cinderella. But don’t ever quote from the Scottish play and don’t even think about having Friday as the opening night…

But what about business? What about the hard-headed, logical world of business? Surely superstition has no part to play in business? Then again, today is Friday 13th – some of you might be reading this blog in bed as it’s the only safe place to spend the day…

I’d better begin with a frankly disappointing confession. As far as superstition goes, I’m whatever comes before vanilla. I’ve don’t have a lucky shirt or lucky socks and you’ll wait a very long time to see me kiss anyone’s head before a TAB meeting.

Fortunately, the other members of my team are more exciting. Jackie freely confesses that Friday 13th is not good for her – especially today as it’s in 2013. Having avoided holding meetings on Friday 13th in her previous life she promises that will change with TAB: unless she has to walk under a ladder to get there. Meanwhile Julia will be busy saluting a single magpie and instantly searching for its mate – as well as hunting out four leaf clovers and stray pennies to pick up.

What about the wider business world? For a start, what do we make of Feng Shui? Largely dismissed in the West; an essential part of any new enterprise in the East. How can a goldfish bowl in the corner of your office make a difference to the bottom line? But how can anyone build a new factory without making sure it’s on an auspicious site and properly aligned?

In Japan they take it one stage further. While they’ve replaced the English ‘good luck’ with ‘ganbatte!’ (meaning ‘work hard’ or ‘do your best’) what do we make of a nation that frequently avoids the numbers 4 and 9 as their pronunciation is similar to ‘death’ and ‘suffering?’ Then again, there are 80 flavours of Kit Kat in Japan: ‘kitto kattsu’ means ‘you will definitely succeed’ – guaranteeing that students devour Nestle’s finest before every exam…

But superstition can have serious implications for business – apart from the alignment of your factory. In the US it’s reckoned that ‘paraskevidekatriaphobia’ (the fear of Friday 13th) pulls down sales by a billion dollars because people don’t like to buy new consumer items on that day. In India it’s considered inauspicious to make new purchases during the Shradh period (roughly two weeks at the end of September): companies are forced to offer big discounts on products like televisions, refrigerators and cars to maintain sales.

Maybe it’s not surprising that people do whatever they can to assert some notion of control – after all, business is difficult and unpredictable. We know in our heart of hearts that wearing our lucky socks can’t affect the outcome of a meeting: but if it puts someone in a better frame of mind going into the meeting that can only be a good thing.

I’m absolutely certain though that all the members of the TAB York Boards know that what really counts is hard work, not luck. ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get’ as the old saying goes.

Have a good weekend – and a rest from all your hard work. I’ll be cheering on Newcastle as they play Villa. The lads have only scored one goal all season: maybe I do need lucky underpants after all…

One comment

  1. tommortonharrogate · September 15, 2013

    … and American hotels don’t have a 13th floor.

    Another great blog, Ed!


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