Mainly, it's a silly word. I went to see John Kay speak at the RSA a couple of weeks ago and while what he was saying was mildly interesting, his delivery was the stuff of caricatured maths teachers (my maths teacher was in fact lovely, and read us Winnie The Pooh as reward for doing our GCSEs early).
Anyway, to the point. Basically the theory of obliquity says, when chasing complex goals it's better not to attack them directly. Things like wealth and happiness. John Kay feels that the wealthiest people don't necessarily chase money, but instead are driven by doing/making/being the best - which usually brings lots of cash.
I've been thinking a lot about shareholder value and how it's basically what is wrong with the current business set up, and therefore the economic set up and therefore the world (this is just me trying to reconcile my fairness meter with a job in advertising). It means we're all short-termist in our pursuit of money and if there's one thing I know, it's that short term gain always comes from the loss of someone else.
In Drive by Daniel Pink (which I've misplaced and will now horribly misquote) he writes about a new business model, a for-profit that is about long-term shareholder value and real social responsibility built into the revenue model rather than the model we currently have. I think stuff like this is awesome, good capitalism if you will.
The flipside of obliquity (silly word, but I do enjoy it) is that simple tasks are best achieved directly. Going back to how we get more play in our lives, would it not be interesting if we put more indirect thinking into getting milk or the Sunday papers, or cooking an egg. Life would be more entertaining that's for sure.