Can Companies Be Too Invested In the Present

I’ve been thinking about something Bob Kelleher said during the SilkRoad Connections Conference. He was talking about sustainable companies. Not sustainable in the sense of recycling and reusing. But sustainable in terms of lasting.

He raised an interesting question, “Is it possible for companies to be too focused on the present?” Organizations too focused on what’s happening today, might miss out on opportunities for tomorrow. A perfect example is Polaroid. In its heyday, Polaroid employed over 20,000 people around the world. They were heavily invested in print photos. When the digital camera took off, Polaroid was left behind. Not even OutKast was able to save them with the line “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.”

present, future, mission, purpose, sustainable, talent, hire, recruiting, invested

I hadn’t really thought about focus the way Bob described. We talk about how businesses need to go “all in” when it comes to fulfilling their purpose. So it seems counter-intuitive to say there might be a point where “all in” can be too much. But I can see where being able to shift direction is critical to organizational success.

Companies don’t have to change their mission or purpose to be sustainable. They might need to change their methods.

A few years ago, I was chatting with an accountant friend who shared that he was changing his business. I asked why. I mean, let’s face it, paying taxes isn’t going away. His point was software programs like TurboTax allow people to do their taxes at home faster and cheaper. As an accountant, he needed to find new ways of fulfilling his mission of saving people money.

Smart companies today are thinking about their purpose. They’re focused on accomplishing the goal, but they’re not locked into the method. As the market changes, they can change along with it and still be successful.

These companies have a tall order when it comes to talent. They want to hire the best – employees who can think on their feet and make good decisions. Make no mistake, these companies are willing to invest in training – because they know it will only benefit the bottom-line. And they’re not losing sleep over employee disengagement. Their employees are engaged and it shows.

Something to think about: Is your company so invested in today, that they’ve lost sight of tomorrow?

Image courtesy of HR Bartender


  1. says

    Absolutely they can. And most are. We rarely consider what immutable values do companies have. We constantly look at how companies add value – but we do it in the context of today’s market, today’s customer, today’s products/services. Real long-term value comes from knowing what your sustainable values are, your current relevant skills are and the audiences that can leverage them for their success. It’s what we call SRITM.

    I explain it better here:

    and here…