Al Gore Says Short-Term Thinking Is Functionally Insane.
Short-Term Thinking is Our Biggest Problem.
These are just three of the headlines that popped up when I Googled “short-term thinking in business.” If this is true, then why are we still doing it?
Greenbiz.com recently quoted former vice president Gore as saying, “It’s not only insane where the values that we share are concerned, it’s functionally insane where the well-being of [a] business is concerned. It’s the wrong decision for the investors, for the shareholders, and for all the stakeholders.”
Gore was referring to a survey in which CEOs were asked whether they would make an investment which would make the business stronger, more profitable, and more sustainable and meet their internal return-on-investment targets if it would also make the company slightly miss its next quarterly earnings estimate.
Eighty percent said no.
This really struck a nerve with me, as my husband and I have frequently discussed today’s “instant gratification culture”–which begins with individuals and extends to corporations and Wall Street–with dismay. We believe that most of America’s ills can be set down at the door of Short Term Thinking. (I will admit, I fall prey to it sometimes too—especially when it comes to my favorite TV programs. I really can’t wait.)
But. Remember the Stanford marshmallow experiment? Researchers tested children aged 4-6 by placing a treat of their choice (cookie, pretzel, or marshmallow) on a table and leaving the room. The children were told that if they could wait for 15 minutes before eating the treat, they would be rewarded with a second one. Of the 600 children who took part, only one-third delayed gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow.
Follow-up studies years later showed that the preschool children who had delayed gratification longer were described as adolescents who were significantly more competent, and got higher SAT scores. They also had significant differences in the part of the brain that falls prey to addictions.
What does all this have to do with caring? December’s Character Word of the Month from Partners Advancing Character Education (PACE) is “Caring.” I can’t think of a more caring thing to do than to ensure that the world we leave behind for our grandchildren and their grandchildren is a less-polluted, more sustainable one.
Short-term thinking is selfish. I don’t have grandchildren. Heck, I don’t even have children. But I would feel bad knowing that I’ve done nothing to try to make the world a better place for those who come after me, even if they’re not closely related.
If we want to make things better, we must start rooting out this insidious short-term thinking: In ourselves, our businesses, and our society. Now that’s caring.
Caring: Showing a genuine concern for the wellbeing of others, and being a kind and supportive helper.