As we head into the graduation season, I am again being asked about "great advice" that I received at college.
Well, I am extremely privileged and lucky to have received such advice well before I got to university in 1977. And since then, I have been very fortunate to pursue an academic and professional career that has reinforced its wisdom, relevance and power.
This great advice came from my late father who passed away in 1981. I suspect that he started conveying it to me early on in my childhood though I first became aware of it in 1971.
As a 13-year-old living in France, I asked my dad why he was paying for four -- yes, four -- daily newspapers. It seemed to me that they mostly covered the same news. Wasn't this a big waste of money?
No, he responded quickly. The four newspapers covered almost the entire political spectrum. As such, they conveyed to us much more than what had happened, why it occurred and when. In combination, they also delivered different ways to think about the same issues.
My father's simple advice -- the "how" can be as important as the "what" "when" and "why" -- was reinforced over the years... first by my undergraduate education at Cambridge University, and then during my job at the International Monetary Fund and, most recently, my tenure at PIMCO.
At Cambridge in the late 1970s, students in economics were exposed not to one or two, but to four -- yes, four -- different schools of thoughts: Neo-classical, Keynesian, Neo-Ricardian and Marxist.
Sure it was very confusing for me at first. Yet, over time, it reinforced my father's advice in a continuous and sustainable fashion.
Over the years, I have found it important to pursue more than one framework to think about some problems. And many times -- though certainly not always -- insights from several perspectives have dominated those offered by a single one.
During my time at the IMF (1983-2007), I was privileged to participate in many discussions -- and some very difficult negotiations -- with country officials around the world. Quite a few of these interactions struggled at times to overcome the fact that the parties at the table were looking at the same set of facts using different analytical frameworks, experiences and perspectives. Understanding this basic reality contributes to better outcomes.
Today, I am lucky to work at a firm that tries very hard every single day to ensure that different perspectives are heard -- indeed, they are actively solicited. And it is not an easy endeavor. Fortunately, Bill Gross, PIMCO's founder, has hardwired this into PIMCO in many ways over the years, thus letting structure do some of the heavy lifting.
For example, we periodically come together as a firm to listen to outsiders selected not for their specific views but, rather, for their thought leadership.
Sure what they say is important; but how they think is even more valuable to us. So, not only do we listen to them carefully, but we also try to make sure that we conduct the subsequent discussion looking at the world from their (and not our) perspectives.
We also give the floor to our brand new MBAs/PhDs in order for them to tell us what PIMCO should be thinking.
As these bright new colleagues are yet to drink the PIMCO kool-aid, let alone recognize the strong views that us "old timers" sitting in the audience hold, their narratives have been extremely valuable in both informing and influencing our collective thinking.
Also, every week, three committees are tasked to challenge the firm's Investment Committee; and they are judged by how well they question and probe.
Then there is the whole set of daily efforts aimed at flattening the internal playing field, including by combating vigorously any notion of historical or position entitlement.
The effort does not stop on the investment side. We are also working hard to ensure that inclusiveness and diversity drive an important part of HR efforts aimed at hiring, mentoring, empowering and promoting the range of talents that are so critical to the sustained success of a meritocracy like PIMCO.
So, as new graduates leave college and enter the labor force, they may wish to consider the advice that I was incredibly lucky to receive from my father as a child.
Be serious and disciplined in pursuing more than the what, when and why. Also be curious, and think deeply about the how.
In doing so, I suspect that you will come across many occasions where a range of perspectives enrich rather than confuse, thus leading to better outcomes. And to maintain this approach through your adult years, don't hesitate to let good structure to do some of the heavy lifting.
Follow Mohamed A. El-Erian on Twitter: www.twitter.com/elerianm