Sunday, September 25, 2016

Taking the Long View

This excerpt is from my regular column, Culture & Kibbitz on August 9, 2016, at The Clyde Fitch Report. You can read the entire post, which discusses the importance of taking the macro view along with the micro view, here.

Taking the long view.
In the past, I have written of the importance of taking the long view, in strategic and business planning. Similarly, it is critical to consider the macro issues of what we might call “change” while dealing with the micro impact of such developments. Until recently, the pace of change was such that it was possible to focus on the micro issues of how change affected individual's or organization's lives and leave the analysis of the larger, macro impact on society to historians. Since the industrial revolution, however, the pace of societal change has accelerated to such a degree that we can no longer ignore its macro impact on society in real time. Indeed, it is perilous to ignore the question of societal change in all public spheres.

In the political context, for example, our nation’s current electoral divide is driven by differing attitudes toward unstoppable macro trends unfolding in our world. One presidential candidate focuses on the micro impacts of change: job losses, tax-avoiding corporate inversions, animosity to immigration, proposing to stem the demographic, social and economic tides by forcing a return to “what was.” The other aims to strategically identify and advantageously address the macro, global changes we’re experiencing, while simultaneously addressing the micro impact of those changes on the individual.

In the cultural context, the decades-long weakening of the structures that have supported our creative industries make it tempting to focus solely on the micro impact of societal change: failing attendance, disrupted production and distribution mechanisms, chronic lack of resources from shifting philanthropic trends. But to focus solely on micro impacts and ignore the macro changes underway, or to assume they are unknowable and thus impossible to consider, invites catastrophe. Like in politics, considering macro issues is not risk-free: we will not know if we have properly planned and acted for the future until we look back with the eye of a historian.

Underlying much of these current macro changes is the triumph of unbridled markets. Fundamental, macro shifts have made it possible for some goods, services, money and people to flow freely around the world. With market forces now impacting, for example, the value of a nation’s currency, how health care is provided, and how funders ascribe value to creative efforts, to focus solely on micro-trends and societal change would be to act like penguins ignoring melting ice around them.

I have argued repeatedly in this column that the most critical consideration is our point of view. In teaching strategic planning, I impress on students that a plan is a rational, reasonable approach to the forces that a planner understands is at work. The strength of strategic planning is not in developing a roadmap to show the pathways for individuals across a never-changing geography, but in positioning buoys in an ever-changing ocean that keeps one directed on a path toward a successful goal. This is only achievable when a planner mixes careful consideration of the micro impact of events with the macro impact of change.

Read the entire fully developed post in Culture & Kibbitz at The Clyde Fitch Report here.

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