The downside risks of being in this mode are many, among them is beginning to accept it as normal, as though a perennial short-term orientation is what a post-COVID environment will always be like. I would like to argue that, not only is the evidence for this rather patchy, but it is in fact the opposite that is forgotten but more valuable.
Let me say it, long-term thinking is even more important, more relevant, and more critical today than at any prior time in human history, and the skills we need to practice it – more of it, more regularly, and more with others, are all at hand.
This of course comes close to home, for many of us, at the Ascent Growth Partners. Here are three practices our team has learned in embedding long-term thinking into our work:
- Make your way of triggering long-term thinking, of inviting others to participate in it, explicit. Our manifesto, for example, outlines Anticipation as the first value we practice. It lays out not only why anticipation is so critical (and valued by so many of those we work with) in today’s world, but how we go about triggering anticipation in our work. We speak openly about what we can see and recognize when we practice anticipation, and equally, what it is like when anticipation is absent. That has helped team members stop in their tracks and point to the long-term, as a guide to our decisions today.
- Set goals that encourage everyone to focus on where value truly resides – where it matters most. Goals setting is one of the least appreciated practices in strategic making and where we often resort to short-term and often counter-productive practices. Let’s take, as an example, the consulting industry – notorious for its short-term incentives – revenue-based incentivization of partners, chasing quarterly targets while punting the value of long-term relationships, and seeing delivery teams as mere ‘resources’, can all encourage behaviour that is counter-productive to long-tern value creation. What has helped us to play the long game, are incentives which prioritize longer-term value, created with clients and partners and where choices are guided by clearly-defined longer-term outcomes of the relationship, and what it might realize. There is a process, we found, to this, and one which so many can apply.
- Engender trust in the emerging view, the possibilities of and the capabilities to surmount what the future may throw at us. Taking time out to celebrate the ‘green shoots’, the first proof points that our long-term thinking is evidencing in our current reality, allows us to pace the long but incredibly rewarding walk to long-term success. Developing the capacity to hold uncertainty, while we learn, supported by our mindset (again, explicitly spoken about), has made a remarkable difference in how we show up and participate in the long game.
Such practices may not suit everyone, they are simply what we have learned so far. My invitation to you is to discover your innovative way to play the long game…and play it well. The more we can become skilled at bringing long-term thinking into navigating the choppy waters of a world that is emerging, the more our goals will be within reach.
To Dorie Clark’s words ’Big goals may seem, and frankly are, impossible in the short-term. But what few realize is that with small, methodical steps taken day after day, almost anything is attainable, and frequently sooner than you might imagine.
Have a good weekend everyone!