Nobel Prize Winners Agree & Have Advice For You

Kara Powell | Feb 2, 2012

At last week’s World Economic Forum over a private dinner, eight Nobel Prize winners were asked what they perceived as the world’s biggest challenge. According to this Harvard Business Review blog yesterday by Tony Schwartz, who attended the dinner, their answers ranged from overpopulation to the environment.

But there was one unifying theme in their answers: humans not making a connection between our current behavior and its consequences.

In his blog, Schwartz quotes one economist from Bangladesh: “Leaders don’t have time for the future because they’re too busy with the present.”

Translating this to practical terms, Schwartz gives an example of the power of investing in your employees’ long-term health (folks in ministry can translate this principle to their volunteer teams):

At one point during a Davos session last week, I asked more than a half dozen CEOs at a discussion I was leading, “Do you believe that your employees perform better if they’re happier and healthier? The unsurprising and unanimous answer was “Yes.” Then I asked the CEOs, “If that’s the case, how much time, energy and money do you invest in insuring that your employees are healthier and happier?” Nearly all of them agreed the answer was very little.

The value of investing money and time in taking care of employees, rather than simply trying to get more out of them, can seem hard to measure. Also, because it doesn’t produce instant results, it may seem at odds with the urgent aim of getting more done, faster, right now.

Recently one of my kids remarked that they couldn’t believe we had already completed the first month of 2012. That’s true, but it’s still a great time for us to ask ourselves as we think about this year: Are we keeping focused on what we want in the future (whether the future is the end of 2012 or even further out), or are we getting too lost in the present?

If you’re a parent navigating a busy schedule (basically meaning pretty much all parents), have you asked yourself WHY you are driving your kids around to hockey, soccer, and piano? What’s the end goal?

As a ministry leader, are you thinking about WHY you’re doing the upcoming retreat or mission trip? Or are you so lost in the details of the videos that you’ve lost sight of what God might intend to do and you haven’t prepared your volunteer leaders as well as you’d like?

I want to learn from the Nobel Prize winners and try to be more aware of the future consequences, both intended and unintended, that emerge from my choices today. I think we’ll all be better off if we let the future drive the present, instead of the other way around.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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