Going Backward Is Dumb. Looking Backward Isn’t.

There was a story in this morning’s paper that had me shaking my head once again. Seems as if it’s a daily occurrence, I know. This one got me thinking about the things we can take away from the subject and apply to business, which is also a daily occurrence. The story was about our shared stupidity and our general refusal to learn. Let me explain.

Here is the headline: American Drivers Regain Appetite for Gas Guzzlers. I’ve linked to the story but as you can imagine it has to do with many people giving up their fuel-efficient cars to buy gas guzzlers as the price of gas has fallen. Of course, in addition to adding a lot of room to the passenger compartment, these vehicles also add a lot of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, and unless you’re one of the few who are ignoring virtually every scientist on the planet, that is creating a changed climate for us all.

I’m not ranting today about the politics of this. To me, it’s not very different from what a lot of managers do in their own businesses. The higher price of gas was a crisis. Many car owners adjusted by decreasing driving, buying more efficient vehicles or using mass transit if it was available. Most good managers do the same sort of thing in a crisis. They cut spending, focus on business development, eliminate inefficient product lines, and do all of the other things one can do to continue on until the crisis has passed. What the great managers do is to continue to operate with that mindset even after the crisis is long gone under the assumption that the same problem or another one is virtually certain to rear its head at some point. That doesn’t mean they fail to invest once conditions have improved. It does mean that they learn from the crisis and adjust and they don’t go back to doing exactly what they were doing before.

I own a hybrid and my family owns two others. I can’t see going backward with respect to fuel efficiency and greenhouse emissions no matter how cheap gas becomes. I try not to go backward in business either. Going backward is dumb. Looking backward and learning isn’t. Your call.

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