Thinking in a 1,000 year horizon

Until last week I had never met a company director or senior executive who thought more than just a few years ahead. Sure, there are a few visionaries such as Elon Musk who think longer term and in Japan and Germany some industrial sectors plan in 30 – 50 year+ horizons. But 1,000 years? Never, until now. I have met a successful quite amazing man (who remains anonymous because he is a valued client) who can think like this – and engage others.

How do you think in a 1,000 year horizon?

It’s interesting because it requires you to imagine the world you and the people you represent would ideally look like. In a way it’s an extremely long term view of the ‘triple bottom line’ strategic approach that was in vogue a few years back. It encompasses a balanced mix of commercial, social and environmental thinking. In simple terms it is all about human sustainability.

How do you engage stakeholders with such a view?

The way this person engages others is through a story that is presented in a continuum that starts a thousand years ago and stretches a thousand years into the future. It is a story that is told in real world images. These images are contextualised to illustrate why they represent various aspects of that continuum from a human/stakeholder perspective. It only takes a few minutes to grasp what the story is about – where it started and where it could/should go.

What are the key focuses?

  • That we need to live in balance with nature if we want to still be thriving 1,000 years from now
  • That we need to ensure that there is greater equity in societies.
  • That individual and societal resilience is essential for a positive 1,000 year outcome.
  • That commercial activities need to be conducted on a 1,000 year+ sustainable basis.
  • That inter-generational connectedness and legacy transfer is based upon a 1,000 year+ horizon.

What does this mean for business?

So much of what business does is within very short term horizons. Banks and financial institutions try to generate as much revenue and profit within as shorter time as possible – often with little thought about any impacts a few years from now let alone 1,000 years. The mining and fossil fuel sectors certainly don’t think in terms of a 1,000 year horizon and the legacies they are leaving. Some 80,000 industrial chemicals are manufactured around the world and many are contaminating the environment in ways that no one would have predicted. Addiction to technologies such as video-games and smart-phones, are impacting upon human behaviour – in both positive and negative ways. If we viewed everything we did in business in a 1,000 year horizon, how would that change what and how we do things? So far I have only ever met one business person who ‘walks the talk’, actually does think in such a long term, and can successfully engage others to be ‘part of the journey.