The Long Term Starts Tomorrow...
When you build a fire, it isn't where you put the sticks that matters, it's where you put the holes. The holes let the air circulate, carrying oxygen to feed the fire. If you pack the sticks too tightly, the fire soon dies. If you pack them too loosely, or with no care for how they are arranged, the kindling will burn out and the logs will never catch.
It's the same with businesses and most other organisations. You need the right mix of infrastructure and freedom, or your fire will never burn brightly. This book has been written for leaders across business and government and beyond, who seek to make a real difference to their organisation and who may be struggling to see or deliver their vision in a risky and rapidly changing world. The thinking applies as much to nations and not for profit organisations as it does to companies, so replace one with another as you read.
The application of scientific method and economic theory to business since World War Two has brought much needed rigour to decision-making. But it has also stifled innovation and encouraged tactics so short term that some of the world's largest companies have been destroyed in a matter of months or even weeks. Happily, the opposite is also true. The internet giants of today ignored short term revenues and profits completely and instead created businesses that would be valuable in the future – a long term plan unlocked by the right short term focus.
These outcomes show that there are fundamental flaws in conventional business thinking and decision-making. The tools we are using today have proved to be remarkably poor at identifying star performers and avoiding corporate disasters over even relatively short time periods. By exposing the reasons for these failings, and providing rigorous new ways to examine how best to unlock future profitability and value, I hope to set organisations (and even personal investment portfolios!) free so that they can emulate the growth and inventiveness and success of the world's greatest companies. And I have suggested a simple, incisive methodology to test whether your current medium to long term thinking is likely to be found wanting within just a few years.
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