Thursday, February 21, 2013


Two articles piqued my interest last week – David Brooks’s New York Times op-ed and Gartner’s warning about social business networks.  When I connected the two articles, I suddenly concluded that businesses I encounter here in America are really beginning to suffer from “short-termitis!”

Read On:
Citing American companies, education and government, Brooks’s op-ed Carpe Diem Nation, asserts that instead of sacrificing the present for the sake of the future like our founding fathers, pioneers that traveled west, each generation of immigrants, we are now sacrificing the future for the sake of the present.  One example: R& D spending; between 1999 and 2006 U.S. companies only spent 3 percent compared to South Korean companies 58 percent, Finnish companies 28 percent and German companies 11 percent respectively.

Information technology research and advisory company Gartner predicts that 80% of social business efforts will not achieve intended benefits until 2016.  Gartner defines social business as more than just using social media platforms to get closer to customers.  They believe social business is all about the communication platforms utilized both externally and internally to improve an organization’s overall business functions.  The end game according to Gartner is all about getting everyone (customers, management, employees and business partners) speaking a common language, thus collaborating.  Gartner predicts that by 2016 and beyond, 50 percent of large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks that will be as essential/effective as email and telephones.

When I reflected on the two articles I immediately thought about the findings of an IBM survey I read in December 2012.  Among 1,700 CMO’s from 64 countries only 16% were actively utilizing social media platforms; 57% indicated that they will be there in three to five years; 71% admitted they felt unprepared for the challenges of today’s business environment.  My immediate reaction when I read these survey results was: “Why are they waiting?”  Then I realized that everyone is just focused on the short-term, not willing to change or invest the time and dollars essential for the future.  I emphatically label this “short-termitis!”  What are some of the classic corrosive signs of “short-termitis?”

·         Silos!  Silos!  Silos!
·          “That is not how we do things around here.”
·          An absence of experimentation!
·         “What is the ROI on social media?” 
·         “Twitter is for kids.  I use email.” 
·         “We do not have money in our budgets right now.”

Apologies to my fans: I have been on my soapbox advocating that it is time to transform and invest in your future ever since I first posted A Lesson From Charlie back on September 30th, 2009.  “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin 

Future winners, it is time to banish “short-termitis” within the walls of your organization!  It is time to adapt!  The future is here!


  1. I am pessimistic that America will get itself turned-around again in my lifetime. I totally agree that we are sacrificing the future on issues that will have a lasting, negative effect on our development. We need to get back to investing in the future, and not arguing about the past.

  2. Preaching to the choir, Jimmy! Same points I work with my clients to emphasize. Great minds think alike :)

  3. Hi Jimmy,

    As you read in my latest piece, I'm in complete agreement with you that our organizations suffering from "short-termitis" which is understandably due to our growing intolerance for uncertainty. The short-term view is easier to manage, though at the increasingly rapid pace, is becoming harder to anticipate.

    That's why we need leaders who have both the vision and the courage to get people to embrace the current uncertainty because of what they'll be creating in the long term.

  4. Well said Jimmy.
    Of particular note, it's interesting that "71%" of CMO's felt that they were unprepared for the challenge's of the business environment."

    That says a lot.

  5. It is very difficult for a public company to look at anything other than the short term these days. CEOs are judged (wrongly) on quarterly earnings, not vision. Any investment that does not have an immediate payoff cannot be considered. And staffing, in general, has been cut to the bone allowing only efforts that are tried and true, not innovative. Hard to spend a lot of time experimenting when you are desperately trying to hit your numbers with insufficient resources to do the basics.

    The incentives in place for leaders reward short-term stock price, not long-term value. Stupid, but true.

  6. Ahh, Jimmy, where to start. To the comment on CMO readiness: this function has been beaten-down over 100 years of industrial era thinking. Now, we pay the price for crushing these creative and innovative contributors and for decades marginalizing them as the "promotions and logo pen people." Or, we criticize social marketing ideas as frivolous, and wonder why corporate decay continues.

    When allowed to invest in the long term, who studied and broadly knows the customer, and how and what to deliver best? The COO? CFO? I digress.

    Brand success for example cannot be measured quarterly. Where would Ford, P&G or Coke be, without it. Hence - the long term, vs. the short term is not new, just that the economic decline has really exacerbated the dilemma of leadership's over-focus on "efficiency measures" at the expense of "innovation and creativity."

  7. Interesting range of comments. Yes C-suite occupants have to deliver quarterly results or they are out, but they need to balance their efforts on building a sustainable business as well. Just my opinion. Thank you everyone.