There is too much short-term goal orientation in the world. We can see this everywhere, from Lehman Brothers to XFactor. Everything is instant and everything is replaceable. Even our political systems are based on the short-term goal orientation of re-election. As if the content of our lives has lost context and therefore the meaning of life. And the less meaning there is, the more short-termism ensues. Don’t get me wrong I’m not proposing that we all need to find god or turn to religion, even though religion is certainly one way of giving context to content.
“If content is king than context is god”, Gary V says. We can even go a step further, content (= data) without context is meaningless. This also works for the meaning of somebody’s life. And that’s what religious systems give people, religion is context. Obviously, context for one’s life isn’t exclusively linked to religion, it can be found in many ways and is dependent on and chosen by the individual. Enforced meaning is meaningless and just furthers short-term goal-orientation.
Death, or more precisely what happens after death, is another magnifier of short-term goal-orientation, unless you would believe in reincarnation and rebirth. All in all I suggest not to worry about what happens after death. It doesn’t really matter. We can’t influence it anyway and dropping it brings peace of mind.
What does matter is what we do now and how we live in the present – within the context of generations and centuries. An important part of our responsibility is to create a healthy planet and healthy society. Because, even selfishly, just imagine you will be re-born, wouldn’t you want to make sure you are returning to a healthy place? Focusing between the now and the long-term actually feels very relaxing and gives much more freedom and space than the short-term goal-orientation.
Looking beyond the short term also has an impact on the practical level and requires us to alter some existing models. Let’s take one of my favourite models, Kenichi Ohmae’s strategic triangle, the 3C’s framework. It states that when planning, a business has to consider and integrate three components to achieve a sustained competitive advantage. These three are: Customer, Company, Competitor. I suggest adding a 4th C, that of Community.
Community can be segmented in the same way as the other components. It can be the local community that a company functions within, but also the wider community of society and the intrinsic value a company brings to the health of a society. Community is not a corporate social responsibility program added onto the activities of a company, just using its manpower or financial muscle. Community, by my thinking, should actually go to the heart of our businesses and companies. It’s about balancing the focus. For example in recruitment Community could be the measure of how many people actually found employment through our services.
If a company/brand/product doesn’t have a positive effect on community, it is meaningless at best and unhealthy at worst. Let’s take gambling for example. I don’t understand how it serves any community besides the people making money. However, I’m not advocating top down rules and regulations of industries, after all and fortunately, we live in a democracy. Nor do I advocate not making profits, as the ultimate CSR program of any company is to grow and be healthy and spread the wealth and value through employment and work.
What I am advocating is that companies give communities as much importance as competitors and customers. And as companies are ultimately just groups of individuals, that these individuals take their responsibilities as citizens in a democratic country seriously. Only then will we end up with something like a holistic approach to business.