How far ahead are you planning?

In a thought-provoking post from Neil Crofts, he looks at the effect of short-term planning on the way we live and work, and whether we should be challenging our notion of this.

Most of us when we are young find it difficult to think more than a short time ahead. As we mature we may begin to think a bit further ahead. Many organisations seem to struggle to think much beyond the next quarter. A few, often the more successful ones, might be looking five, ten or even more years ahead. Governments rarely get the chance to think more than one electoral cycle ahead.

Perhaps this short sightedness is one of our greatest challenges. Perhaps changing our timeframe is the single most effective thing we can do to improve the wellbeing and outlook for our species, and many others.

So what is the right timeframe to be working to?

Thinking about the extent of our influence on living people, it seems appropriate to consider responsibility for our actions and choices until the last person we have significantly affected dies.

We might want to consider 200 years as being a safe threshold, about the longest we might expect our children’s grandchildren to last. Perhaps this is the minimum period over which we should be feeling responsible?

Imagine the consequences, if we as business leaders, politicians or individuals framed our decisions in the context of 200 years of responsibility. Imagine how our voting, our compassion, our policies, our inventions and everything would be transformed if instead of thinking just of ourselves or our era, we also considered our children’s children’s, children’s, children’s, children’s, children (an average of 30 years per generation). It is probably not a coincidence that many of the native cultures saw their own responsibility in terms of seven generations.

The next frontier of our own evolution and of leadership will be to extend our stakeholder compassion not just to all people regardless of origin and all other living things, but also to future generations.

Many of us have already become aware of the self limiting effect of discriminating against those who are different from ourselves, perhaps it is also time we stopped discriminating against those who are yet to come.

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