Bryan’s Blog: Don’t Crap in Your Own Backyard – The problem with short-term thinking

Dealing with what is in front of us today is always appealing.  However, sometimes we need to shift our thinking to the much longer-term.  Here is a story I use to help people to think more long-term.  I am interested to hear how you meet the same challenge.

“When I think about long term thinking and the lack of it I always seem to come back to pollution.  Why anyone thinks we can continue to pollute our atmosphere is beyond me.  We first learnt we should not pollute our own “backyard” when we lived in caves.  That took about 2 minutes to work out if you had a small cave.  We then worked out we could not pollute our creeks and rivers, think cholera epidemics.  Then in places like Sydney, Australia where I live, it took us the better part of a century to work out our ocean outfalls were a bad idea.  It was the 1980s or so when the term “Bondi Cigars” became popular (referring to floating you-know-what that resembled cigars as they passed your surfboard or boat after heavy rain).  Now we having been polluting our atmosphere for more than a century and some people still don’t think it is a bad idea!”

Short-term thinking gets things done, it ensures action, and it gives the analysts something to write to their clients about.  However, it distracts from the longer-term strategy.

When we sit down and plan on an annual basis we develop strategy.  That’s great and I commend the executive teams that think hard about the next year.  However, annual planning is often just a tweak to a stale strategy.  The leadership team may have grown complacent with success or stale from the battle in a difficult market.  We miss out on innovation opportunities.

What you should be doing is revitalising your planning every two to three years with a view to innovation and to disrupting your market.