When it comes to Covid, Jo Cribb urges us to consider the messes we create for our future selves by taking care of today at the expense of thinking longer term

It’s been about 18 months of 1pm pressers.

Watching the telly each day to see what we are allowed (or not) to do tomorrow. 

Life in 24-hour bursts.

Based in Wellington, I can’t believe we have dodged the Delta bullet this long. I can nearly see the ferry terminal from where I am writing this. Covid is one sneeze away. For months, I have been expecting that tweet telling me to ‘”go home and stay home”.

Clever psychologists are frantically researching what the results of living with such uncertainty means for our minds. Probably even higher rates of anxiety in our young people, one predicts

Based on no scientific evidence at all, I have observed some impact in our boardrooms.

Collectively we have spent millions of governance hours discussing the next few months. We have done the WorkSafe risk analysis, debated our approach to vaccinations, and worried about our financial results this year. 

Many of us are also closer to the operations than before. Some of us will have been getting regular operational updates for over a year. Operational decisions may have come to the board table given the implications of Covid on delivery, the wellbeing of staff and profits. 

And rightly so. 

But most of us didn’t have longer or more board meetings so these hours of discussing immediate operational issues likely came at the cost of strategy. 

How many of us have been focused on the risks of Covid to our organisations and not considered the opportunities the current environment offers?

How many of us are muddling through tweaking, rather than asking bold questions like is our business model really fit for our medium- and long-term future?

A quick google of “post pandemic predictions” shows we are not alone. Few commentators are thinking more than 12 months ahead.

Short termism is already a real thing. 

Businesses are geared toward annual returns.

Normal governments are on a three-year election treadmill. This current Government is on an even shorter leash: a Covid-driven day-by-day one. 

Covid is probably a bit like crack for many of Wellington’s army of policy people with its tight deadlines, urgent crunchy issues and late night ministerial briefings. It will be a hard habit to break to get back to the medium term, system change and the like.  

And then as individuals we are those kids and the marshmallows in that Stanford experiment; wired for immediate gratification. Our brains naturally focus on today, not tomorrow. 

So Covid is playing to our cortexes. 

It’s hard to think about three years’ time, when we don’t know if we are going to get to the bach next month.

But while we need to take care of today, what messes are we creating for our future selves by taking care of today at the expense of thinking longer term?

Omicron may mean we will be in Covid’s grip for some time yet. 

We all need to fight that urge to not only scoff the marshmallow in front of us but also focus some quality thinking time on horizons longer than 1pm tomorrow.  


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