“How do you see yourself in five years time? How about in ten?”
I often find my people having difficulties answering this question, whether as individuals or corporations. I did not think much of this trend, until I had a stint working as a member of the investor relations team of a domestic corporation doing business world-wide.
During this time, I had observed many differences between domestic and foreign investors, but none were more obvious than the question above – whereas domestic investors focus mostly on past achievements and how they came about, their foreign counterparts prefer to spend the same amount of time or more talking about visions of the future and what actions are or will be taken to realize them.
It was quite clear that foreign investors are not easily impressed by past glory. And they do not waste time asking about what can be extrapolated from existing data. Rather, they are keen on finding out about what future goals are set and how paths to them are drawn backward to the present. They want to know what risks will or will not be taken, and what exit strategies are planned upon both successful and failed attempts at attaining the goals.
In short, they are not interested in how much investment has already been made, but in how much, and how willingly, investment will be made going forward. Their investment strategies are based on assessment of how future-oriented our investment strategies are… which brings me back to the question at the top, the question my people have difficulties answering.
When I came full circle after investing much of my time pondering on this topic, it suddenly dawned on me.
Maybe the difference in investment strategies directly correlates with difference in decision-making.
Maybe when you focus too heavily on how much investment you have already made, it makes it harder to decide not to invest further even when it is not giving you the expected returns, because you do not want to admit your investment strategy has failed.
But maybe when you focus more on what investments are necessary to achieve future goals, it makes it easier to decide whether or not to continue investing in what you already have, because your investment strategy will be to always look for ways to maximize your returns.
Maybe this is why my people are generally slower and less bold in making decisions.
Maybe this is why I hear so much “this is the way it’s always been done” and face so much objection when trying to make bold changes fast.
Maybe I am not simply irritated by their indecisiveness, but frustrated even more by the cause of their indecision – their lack of attention to drawing clear images of the future.
In the past, I had decided not to invest further in these people who will only say “no” to my way because it is not THE way… there was no way I could expect any return from them! But I have now adjusted my investment strategy – whenever I get the chance, I ask “how do you see yourself in five years time?” to plant future-oriented thinking in the minds of my people.
It is not an investment I can expect returns any time soon, and there are risks of further alienating myself from my people, but I will not plan any exit strategies. I believe it is something worth incubating, so that somewhere in the future – in five years time, or in ten, maybe – I will see people from around the world attracted to invest their interest in my people and my homeland.
This is my answer to the question at the top, and I intend to keep investing my time and effort to make it come true!