Evan Davis: I asked my guests what regrets they had about the last few years, given where the economy has gone since. With hindsight, what would they have done differently?
Now it's very difficult for people to think with hindsight about what they would have done differently and most of them suggested they’d probably not have expanded quite so fast, wouldn’t have pursued growth quite so much in those boom years if they’d known the economy was going to fall. The only thing that struck me about those answers was that we got less of an insight into their feelings of regret or their hindsight reflections on their previous mistakes. What we really got was an insight as to what drives the economic cycle.
It wasn’t that they had a regret because something happened that made their previous strategy a mistake - you know, they’d grown too fast and with hindsight regretted it. Really, it was the fact that they were all trying to grow very fast simultaneously for several years that drove the economy quite high, and of course when the growth becomes unsustainable, the debt, or the leverage, becomes a little bit too much. Then the economy turns and we get into the economic downturn.
So I thought it was just rather interesting. What we had was not a lesson in hindsight; it was really a lesson in the psychology that underpins the economic cycle, the optimism that runs the upswing of the cycle and then the turning point in the mood that runs the downswing.