Deputy PM calls for “horizon shift”

Thanks to Matt Gitsham over at Ashridge for drawing my attention to Nick Clegg’s speech yesterday. As with all political speeches, I guess some healthy cynicism is required (the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating). Nevertheless, as a marker of intent (a link to Mike Klein’s latest post over at CommScrum), it’s interesting stuff.

As Mike rightly says, intent is the organisational “why?”. Intent drives strategy. And Clegg, with his call for a “horizon shift” in the mindset of politicians, business and society at large, has set out one half of a very clear sense of purpose for this coalition government – governing for the long-term.

With the pain still to come, there’s no doubt some political expediency in all of this, but that doesn’t make what he has to say any less credible. IMNSHO, the picture he paints of short-term interests trumping long-term value creation is entirely accurate:

Our political culture – and in many ways our society more generally – has become too focused on immediate needs and demands, rather than considering our obligations to the future…

In firms and in the financial markets, the temptation to drive for short-term profits can sometimes undermine long-term prosperity. The hunt for annual or quarterly economic returns gives vitality of markets – but the focus on immediate returns can also result in instability and, perversely, lower returns over a longer time-frame…

The best companies – the ones built to last – look well beyond quarter-on-quarter profits. In terms of bringing about the horizon shift we need, corporate myopia matters at least as much as political myopia.

No argument with Nick there; nor with his assertion that social justice includes justice between generations. Particularly interesting to note is his choice of standards here, referring to liberal philosopher John Rawls’ insistence that people should consider the implications of their actions over at least two generations; also to the Native American standard of judging the impact of their decisions over seven generations (an example I’ve heard Ray Anderson use in the past).

Full marks for the rhetoric so far, but…

As I alluded to at the beginning – and as Mike again rightly points out in his CommScrum post – nothing destroys credibility quicker than a measurable gap between stated purpose and actual performance. It’s action that counts.

And whilst Nick may rattle off examples of what he sees as these principles in action (getting the public finances straight etc.), I’m aware of at least one other that appears to run entirely contrary to these ideals – the cessation of funding for the Design Council’s Designing Demand programme.

This is a great programme helping small businesses to avail themselves of design (and Design Thinking) expertise to drive innovation. Initial workshops, services and up to five days’ support from a team of expert Design Associates (of which my father is one) are funded by the programme, thereby removing a critical barrier to entry and providing the space and time for these businesses to fully understand and appreciate how design can create value for their businesses.

Harking back to several of my recent posts – and indeed my book – that put design for sustainability at the heart of future prosperity, that seems sadly short-sighted.


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