Your perspective on time is vital to the way you make decisions and lead your life. Right now your mind is looking to the past for viable solutions, monitoring present resources or scanning the future for new opportunities. You’re shaped by your focus on what’s gone by, what’s here now or what’s coming next.
The MindTime Project has devoted two decades to studying the three time perspectives. Researchers derived a simple diagnostic tool that will pinpoint your time perspective in less than a minute. Try it. Are you a past thinker, a present thinker or a future thinker?
Past thinkers gather as much data as possible and are concerned with accuracy and truth. They refuse to take anything at face value. Refusing to trust that “everything will work out,” they attempt to reduce the risk of negative outcomes. They are reflective.
Present thinkers take action and seek control over unfolding events. They abhor chaos and confusion and are driven to establish balance and order, create structure and get things done. They are practical.
Future thinkers are open to possibilities. They seek new opportunities and intuit what the future will bring. They are visionaries who promote their visions with enthusiasm and energy. They push the limits of what is known and understood. They are imaginative.
Understanding where you stand on the time horizon is enlightening, but the big payoff comes when you interact with others. For example, I’m a future thinker. That explains why I get upset with past thinkers who slam me for not providing footnotes and with present thinkers who want to hold up the show for something I consider inconsequential. The MindTime Framework helps me understand where the others are coming from and appreciate how to work with them.
A 2005 study by American Society for Training & Development and IBM called “The C-level and the Value of Learning” interviewed CLOs and other C-level executives at 26 leading companies across 11 industries. Reading between the lines, the other C-suite members appear to be future thinkers; the CLOs are past and present thinkers.
C-level executives want their CLO to build the foundation to transform the company, not just to get people up to speed on today’s needs.
The researchers asked how the learning function contributed value to three strategically important business needs: accelerating growth, enabling transformation and increasing productivity. CLOs reported that most learning was technical and focused on skills; training enables the organization to operate. The C-level executives said they expected CLOs to lead, not respond. The C-suite saw learning as the major investment driving their businesses forward.
Quotations from the study highlight the gap between the two groups’ expectations. C-level executives outside learning said:
“The learning function has to become more strategic; otherwise it is an unaffordable luxury.”
“Learning has to bring customers along the change journey. It has to build the platform to enable us to change the business.”
“CLOs need to build capabilities to address future challenges of the enterprise.”
CLOs said: “The strategic value of learning is to reduce the cost of turnover and increased employee engagement.”
“The business plan for learning ties directly to business unit goals. Also incorporate our roll-up of individuals’ development plans.”
“CLOs are focused on performance and talent issues related to the current needs of business units.”
Now that you know your time perspective, MindTime suggests you think about your role in your organization. How can you make your way of thinking an asset to the group and a contribution to the greater purpose? By being aware of your creative role.
For a management team to be successful, each value must be present and respected. If you are a future thinker, your role is to carry the vision and ensure that your group embraces innovation, creativity and receptivity to change. If you are a past thinker, your role is to gather true and accurate information and make sure the group considers it carefully. If you are a present thinker, your role is to help things get moving, and your focus is on planning and harmony.
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