Mindset, she explained, requires a fundamental shift in thinking, as the world we have created cannot be solved with the same thinking as that which created it. “We require a substantially different way of new thinking if humanity is to survive,” she said.
A big part of that mindset is embracing the values of dignity, empathy and compassion. “In my experience, long-termism starts with each and every one of us doing the hard work of reconfiguring what it means to be human,” Ramphele said, referring to her upbringing in an African village where these three “universal values” were embedded in people’s lives.
Culture change is then needed to “release people from the bondage of fear, so they can have new ways of thinking for radical systems and cultural change for future generations,” she argued.
Three factors holding back long-termism in the business world
In the business world, the lens through which Yue chose to assess the topic, there was a trade-off between profitability and sustainability. Indeed, businesses were not structurally aligned to take a long-term approach to sustainability due to three factors, she said.
One is that companies are being judged on their quarterly earnings performance. Two, related to this, longer-term measures are harder to evaluate. “We know that we need more trust and collaboration, but what does it look like to have 10% more trust and collaboration?” Yue asked.
The third factor is siloed cultures. Today’s organizations are built, by design, for specialization. But when it comes to tackling complex challenges related to long-term sustainability, “cross-divisional” collaboration is hard, Yue explained. “We have all responded to what is more urgent, rather than what is more important,” she suggested to the audience.
For Reeves, the solution to dealing with this “structural misalignment” required a blending of different ways of thinking. “The dominant mode of thinking in business is analytical planning, or dialectical thinking, but the unprecedented problems and solutions for the long term need this to be supplemented by imagination,” he said.