Long Term Vision: The Built-to-Last Chair Test

Built-to-last, long-term thinking has the biggest impact, over time.

In early September, I had a chance to tour the Notre Dame Campus in South Bend, Indiana, and wow, was it a great experience!

The history was fascinating, the campus was stunning, the stadium mind-blowing. Imagine 80,000 people in a college football stadium – incomprehensible from a Canadian perspective.

long term vision notre dameWhat struck me most was how everything was built to last – right down to the chairs in their campus eateries. Our tour guide explained that these chairs are just one small example of the founders’ long-term vision to build an enduring organization.

These chairs have already been there for 80 years and were designed to last at least 100. At the time, samples of different styles were brought in and then thrown down the stair wells. The ones that withstood the beating were the ones they bought. Sounds like a fun experiment! I’d love to see how some of our furniture today stands that test!

There are hundreds of examples of what Notre Dame U. leadership has done to make sure they built an enduring legacy: the stands they took to make sure things happened, and the sacrifices they made. That long-term thinking has a big impact on culture – a sense of pride that infuses and inspires people to continue their vision, long after the founders are gone.

The whole experience made me think about what leaders can do, in this world of rapid change. While there’s always a need to innovate quickly and focus on short-term results, built-to-last, long-term thinking has the biggest impact, over time.

The Challenge

  • What, in your business, needs a ‘chair test’ to make sure it works in the very, very long term?
  • What currently fails your version of a ‘chair test’ that you need to change?