There are many types of symbols. Money from investors, banks or financial organizations is one of those symbols.
A successful business plan (a successful manipulation of symbols) is one that brings with it the receipt of credits (money, another type of symbol). What are the rules for manipulating symbols? In our example, what are the properties of a successful business plan?
(1) That is closely related to reality. The symbol system must trace reality in an isomorphic way. We must be able to identify reality at the moment we see the symbols ordered.
If we react to a business plan with disbelief (“it is too good to be true” or “some of the assumptions are not realistic”), then this condition is not met and the business plan is a failure.
(2) That reorganizes old and familiar data into new and emerging patterns.
The manipulation of symbols must contribute to the world some contribution to the sphere of knowledge (much like a doctoral thesis).
When we face a business plan, for example, we must respond with a bit of awe and fascination (“That’s right! I never thought about it” or “(fixed). That way it makes sense”).
(3) That all symbols are internally consistent. The demand for external consistency (compatibility with the real world, a realistic representation system) was stipulated above. This is different: all symbols must live in peace with each other, the system must be consistent.
In the example of the business plan:
Reactions such as: “This assumption / number / projection challenges or contradicts the other” indicates the lack of internal consistency and the certain failure to obtain money (= to manipulate the corresponding symbols).
(4) Another demand is transparency: all information must be available at any time. When the symbol system is opaque, when data is missing or, worse, it is hidden, manipulation will fail.
In our example: if the applicant refuses to undress, to expose their most intimate parts, their vulnerabilities and their strengths, then they are not likely to obtain financing. The accounting system in Macedonia, although gradually revised, is an excellent example of concealment in a place where exposure should have prevailed.
(5) The fifth requirement is universality. Symbol systems are species of languages. Language must be understood by everyone, unequivocally. A common terminology, a dictionary, must be available for both the manipulator and the manipulator.
Clear signs of the failure of a business plan to manipulate would be comments such as: “Why are you using this strange method for calculation?”, “Why didn’t you calculate the cost of financing?” and even: “What does this term mean and what does it mean when using it?”
(6) The symbol system must be integral. You cannot exclude certain symbols arbitrarily. You cannot ignore the existence of competing meanings, double meanings, ambiguities. It must cover all possible interpretations and absolutely ALL the symbols available to the system.
Let’s go back to the business plan:
A business plan must incorporate all available data and all known techniques to process them. You can safely establish a hierarchy of priorities and preferences, but you must present all possibilities and only then make a selection, while providing good reasons for doing so.
(7) The symbol system must have links to other relevant symbol systems. These links can be both formal and informal (implicit, by mental association or by explicit reference or incorporation).
Returning to the business plan:
It makes no sense to design a business plan that ignores macroeconomic and marketing geopolitical contexts. Is the region safe for investments?
What are the laws and regulations in force in the territory and what are the chances of them being modified? What is competition and how can it be neutralized or co-opted? These are all external variables, external symbol systems. Some of them are closely and formally linked to the business in question (laws, customs fees, taxes, for example). Some are informally linked to it: substitute products, emerging technologies, ethical and environmental considerations. The Business Plan is supposed to resonate in the reader’s mind and provoke the reaction: “What a truth!”
(8) The symbol system must have a discernible hierarchy. There are, and there have been, efforts to invent and use non-hierarchical symbol systems. All failed and resulted in the establishment of a formal or informal hierarchy. The professional term is “Useful functions.” This is not a theoretical demand. Profit functions dictate most investment decisions in today’s complex financial markets.
The author (s) of the Business Plan must clearly indicate what he wants and what he most desires, what is an absolute sine qua non condition and what would be good to have. You must arrange and detail your preferences, priorities, needs and requirements. If you had to assign the same weight to all parts of the Business Plan, your message will confuse those who are trying to decode it and deny your request.
(9) It must be seen that the symbol system has a (useful) purpose and must demonstrate an effort to succeed. Therefore, it must be direct, understandable, clear and must contain lists of demands and desires (all prioritized, as we have mentioned).
When a computer faces some tasks simultaneously, it prioritizes and allocates its resources in strict compliance with this priority list.
A computer is the physical embodiment of a symbol system, and so is a bank that distributes credit. The same principles apply to the human organism.
All natural systems (and most humans) are goal oriented.
(10) The last requirement, but by no means the least, is that the symbol system must interact with human beings. It doesn’t make much sense to have a computer without a screen, or a bank without customers, or a business plan without someone to review it. We must always, when manipulating symbol systems, take into account the “end user” and be “friendly” to him. There is no bank, a company or even a country. At the end of the line, there are humans, like you and me.
To manipulate them to provide credits, we must motivate them to do so. We must appeal to your emotions and senses: our system of symbols ( presentation, business plan) must be aesthetic, powerful, convincing, attractive, resonant, fascinating, interesting. These are all irrational (or at least non-cognitive) reactions.
We must appeal to his cognition. Our symbol system must be rational, logical, hierarchical, not exaggerated, true, consistent, internal and external. All this should lead to motor motivation: the hand that signs the check given to us should not tremble.
Using this theory of symbol manipulation we can differentiate three types of financial organizations:
(1) Those who deal with non-quantifiable symbols. The World Bank, for example, when evaluating trade proposals, uses criteria that cannot be quantified (how is the contribution to regional stability or the increase in democracy and the improvement of human rights records quantified?).
(2) Those who deal with semi-quantifiable symbols. Organizations such as IFC or EBRD employ strong, quantitative commercial and financial criteria in their decision-making processes. But if they were totally business oriented, they probably wouldn’t have made many of the investments they are making and in the geographical parts of the world where they are making them.
(3) And there are the classic financial organizations that deal exclusively with quantifiable and measurable variables. Most of us find this type of financial institutions: commercial banks, private companies, etc.
Whatever the type of financial institution, we must never forget:
We are dealing with humans who are mainly influenced by the manipulation of symbol systems. Complying with the aforementioned standards would guarantee success in obtaining funds. Making the right decision at the national level would catapult a country to the 21st century without having to revisit the 20th.