Mar 29 2011

OK, it’s probably not technically a word but I’ve been dying to write this for a few days now. I’ve had to put it off for several reasons, one being the title itself, I can’t be seen to be too short term minded if I am going to write about the problems with being too short term minded!

As a former employee and a big fan of Toyota (the company, not the cars although I am sure there is nothing wrong with them, just not my taste) I am often allowed the great pleasure of demonstrating to people that having a short term outlook, especially in business, is not required, and actually often the opposite is required for long term success. I have a habit of quoting Toyota’s first of 14 principles : Principle 1. Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy,even at the expense of short-term financial goals.

To me this is something that we, in the west have somehow lost sight of. it used to be part of the western ethos – work hard and after you work hard you will get rewarded. Now we want things today, yesterday even. From directors & managers to shareholders and of course wives! We all have a tendency towards instant gratification! I know I do, I find it hard to resist certain things and can find myself struggling to think of the longer term consequences of my actions.

The debt crisis (including high personal debt), climate change (although I personally am not convinced this is man made but that is another post for another day), dropping out of school, obesity, even permiscuity could be attributed to a short term mentality. True, we are only on the planet for a few decades, might as well make the most of it, but at what cost? and who pays? Some of the above our only paid for by ourselves, some are paid for by others, some may never be paid for.

I am not suggesting we should all go without and become martyrs to demonstrate our will power and patience. But we need to start thinking more about the longer term consequences of what we do, both at home and at work. How many of us forgo things we want because we know the long term consequences are bad or will be more costly than the benefit today? Whether its a debt or the old “moment on the lips, lifetime on the hips”? Who gains and who loses? Who are we kidding?

I wish it were as easy as writing this…

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