futureTaking a long view approach to decision making requires vision, patience and a belief that decisions made today affect far more than just the outcomes tomorrow. Sadly, government, companies and individuals today seem far more concerned with the profit and satisfaction tomorrow, becoming shortsighted decision makers.

Some legislators choose inaction ignoring the solutions to long-term problems. Some companies look for the quick payoff to boost stock prices after quarterly conference calls. Some individuals choose the milk shake in the moment, vowing to return to the gym tomorrow. Each decision made can boost profitability and satisfaction today, but does not help plan for one, five, or even ten years down the road.

The job market also loses sight of the future when it chooses to disinvest in the young workforce, shedding paid internships and the opportunity to recruit and develop young, bright talent to lead business into the next generation. Why did America lose its long-term vision?

Shortsighted Legislators
Some politicians often take a short view, by voting on bills to increase their chances of reelection even when those votes harm the economy and the lives of everyday Americans. The most recent scuffle around healthcare reform illustrates this point. The House of Representatives has voted 40 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, most recently before their August recess.

U.S House of Representatives is mired in dysfunction, and shortsightedness. Compounding the problem, the body refuses to vote on key legislation, even if their party drafted the bill. The House did not vote on the transportation bill, the housing bill H.R. 2767 or a budget for the coming fiscal year, three pieces of legislation that address the nation’s long-term needs for homes, jobs and economic security. And the leadership is allowing the American governmental system, and some American citizen fall victim to political games and furlough Fridays.

A Business Model
It’s not just legislators making shortsighted decisions. The rise and fall of businesses provides a perfect example of the negative consequences of short-term thinking. Compare Blockbuster and Netflix for example. Blockbuster built a successful movie rental business but maintained the belief that their success would continue despite the Internet revolution.

Conversely, Netflix believed customers wanted a different way to rent movies and that the Internet would change everything. Blockbuster joined the online game too late, couldn’t play catch up and in the end, lost big. Netflix made long-term decisions, investing in a future they believed in while Blockbuster continued to make short-term decisions ignoring the reality of the market, including the decision not to purchase Netflix back in 2000.

Without adapting to the times and ignoring what the future might hold, Blockbuster became a business school case study. To better understand the well documented leadership folly, the situation can be viewed through two lenses, the theory of disruptive innovation and the theory of the job to be done.

The Personal Healthcare Crisis
Individuals make short-term decisions as well, choosing instant gratification over long-term reward. Look at our healthcare crisis for example. Unhealthy habits like a poor diet, smoking, and a lack of exercise can have disastrous health effects including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Yet the obesity epidemic grows. One-third of U.S. adults are considered obese. And yet, each year, more and more adults join this category despite knowing how to prevent obesity. Eat healthy. Exercise. But in the moment, it’s easier to go through a drive through than to make a healthy meal.

Long Term Investments Paying Off
As we come full circle, we can examine former government programs that have provided aid to at need populations, but were cut because of draconian measures, and a lack of planning. For instance, one particular program was cut and eventually eliminated in 2009, Youth Opportunity Grants, which provided aid and opportunity for the next generation to jumpstart their careers. Since then we have seen one of the most devastating economic declines in employment without policies supporting individuals. Recently, in the U.S. House there were proactive initiatives brought forth. The leadership should focus on worthwhile, helpful, recently introduced solutions to our current and future problems: H.R. 3016: Jobs for Urban Sustainability and Training America Act of 2013, H.R. 2889: Local Jobs for America Act, H.R. 3061: To amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to provide for the establishment of Youth Corps programs and provide for wider dissemination of the Youth Corps Model. The investment in these projects will not produce drastic short-term losses. Rather the programs will be a boon, allowing our nation to grow – pulling tens of thousands, if not tens of millions into economic prosperity.

Businesses leaders who embrace change and implement adaption into the corporation’s strategic plan have boosted long run profitability. In 2007, Facebook business leaders foresaw the boom in mobile web usage and acquired the business, Parakey. With this strategic move Facebook, maintained its presence in the mobile medium, where users check their cell phones 150 times a day, according to a recently released report.

The payoffs are far-reaching in business, but also in public health. It was posited Childhood obesity is a public health crisis, and this crisis prompted someone to be disruptive, you might have heard of this particular someone – Michelle Obama. She had a vision of more children should be living healthier lives, ones where they wouldn’t fall victim, and created an initiative called Let’s Move. Just recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that the program had an impact and could very well show that her effort, time and leadership improved America.

Why We Need America’s Future Workforce
The instances shed light on problems and solutions, or highlight previously known problems and often overlooked solutions. In partnership, business, government and charity must develop initiatives to help guide the national community to a positive plane of growth. Robert F. Kennedy once said: “The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.” America’s Future Workforce program embodies Kennedy’s words, believing long-term thinking and investments in internship programs, workforce development programs and today’s jobs benefits society in the future. The America’s Future Workforce program immediately supports an individual in an internship today. It also pays off down the road by helping young people take steps toward their long-term dreams to become vital players in a robust economy tomorrow.

Please note: I encourage a healthy dialogue addressing the topics in this post. Inevitably, opinions are like money. There is nothing so useless, unless when in use.

Image Credit: PhotoDune