Creating a company takes more than an idea. It demands a vision. And visions are more difficult to sell than products. Because a good vision isn’t easily attainable but still remains worth reaching for.
Great visions are grounded by the practical pragmatism of what it takes to reach a destination which is often located somewhere over the horizon … unseeable but imaginable.
We have a change the world attitude. We don’t mind being disruptive as long as it is with the intent to create something new and better. Smart disruption displaces the conventional and replaces it with an unconventional way to do things that actually meets what people want, need and expect.
We call what we are doing ‘shaking the category etch a sketch.’
Visions should be lofty and grounded.
Simple yet reflective of a complex world.
Pragmatic & practical yet not the status quo.
This is about having a vision, vision statements and thinking of a ‘place to go’ … a place to aim for … business and personal. You will find some practical stuff <because I have had to do it recently with several companies> and some … well … thoughtful stuff <because any time you work on vision projects you inevitably start thinking>.
Let me state upfront.
I am an admitted ‘hope vision’ type guy.
The vision statements I write and the visions I gravitate to almost always have some ‘bigness’ to them … always strive for aspirations … and attempt to offer a sense of hope … as in hope for something better in what we offer … maybe make things better in Life … certainly give people hope for something better.
This can be small hope <if I make nuts & bolts my hope is everlasting strength … of something else>.
This can be big hope <if I am remaking how everyday healthcare is conducted my hope is … well … enabling people to live a better, fuller, Life>.
The bottom line with me is that a great vision, and visionary, has an idea of the world they want to be part of … and how they want to help create that world <whether it be in a small or big way>.
Let me get the practical ‘what is a vision statement’ crap out of the way first.
To be clear.
A vision statement shouldn’t be confused with a mission statement.
– Mission statements are present-based statements and reflective of your external existence. A mission statement answers the question “why does my business exist?”
– Vision statements are future-based and internally focused. A vision statement answers the question “who do I see myself as in a bigger picture <and where do I see my business in this bigger picture?”
A well crafted vision statement should communicate the company’s goals in a single sentence … or a few concise paragraphs … or in a tightly knit manifesto.
As you can see … a vision has no formula … excepting it should inspire.
I believe visions are to be treated seriously … but is also a time for creativity, dreams and fun thinking.
They should stretch the imagination as well as offer some construct for direction and culture. A good vision statement will help set the company direction for employees as well as guide priorities … all the while challenging employees to think & grow & inspire <actions & attitudes>.
Develop a good vision and I promise you … a good strategy will follow <note: strategy never leads to a vision>.
The problem is that some vision statements consist of one vague statement which, frankly, anyone could say. Some are too long, unstructured and wandering reflecting not only a management’s lack of understanding of what a company really does but also reflects a lack of understanding for meaningful aspirational direction.
Suffice it to say … there is something called the Golden Bull award “for excellence in gobbledygook” for which many visions could be nominated.
None of this stops me from seeking something that whispers ‘be dynamic beyond your purpose’ in everyone’s ear.
I do believe the vision can be one of a company’s cornerstones. But I also believe that because there is so much <too much> importance being placed on such statements that businesses tend to sit down like it is going to a dentist … generates a vision … whether it is good or bad … and posts it up on some website to prove they have a vision.
Let me unequivocally state … I would rather have no vision then a bad vision.
But a good vision?
A well articulated vision aligns a company <that is a good thing>.
And more businesses apparently need a well done vision because according to a Harvard Business Review study up to 70% of employees do not understand their company’s purpose & strategy <that is a bad thing>.
It’s bad mostly because failure to understand your company’s position typically leads to poor decision making <that’s the practical side> and leads to thinking commodity-like thoughts about your company <that’s the ‘value’ side> and, finally, doesn’t lead to any ‘wow, I am part of something big & purposeful & meaningful’ <that’s the aspirational side>.
Maybe it’s because I have been working with some people on visions and seen how excited they get when they truly think about how their little idea can actually make something better and how what they thought when they thought of their company was part of something bigger they had been thinking.
And maybe that is why I like vision statements. I like aiming for something in the future. I like inspiring people. I like an organization that feels like it is doing something more than making something or providing some service.
I like that a vision aims for some “what” … as in what could be & what do we want to happen.
I like a vision that is so big that it is compelling, not only to everyone else, but to me.
And, yet, no matter how big a vision gets it is very specific in outlining who you are as an organization.
This may sound crazy but I have seen dozens upon dozens of companies who have not taken the time to define themselves … or … define themselves so broadly it is meaningless … or … the worst … create a bunch of beautiful words and then behave in a completely different way.
If you discuss vision with business nerds you will get so many definitions and suggestions your head will start spinning.
If you discuss vision within an organization it may start in a good place but inevitably will be dragged down by pragmatism and ‘clarity’ <see mindless drivel>.
Here is what I know.
Your vision is your dream.
It is your company’s north star.
And while its primary objective is to inspire and create a shared sense of purpose throughout the company inevitably it sets the direction for new products, company culture, future decisions, hiring and … well … everything.
It is dynamic beyond your own purpose.
That’s business and vision.
Which leads me to my second and last thought on visions and a ‘place to go.’
Vision statements are a well renowned business tool.
Why isn’t it a personal or individual tool?
I would encourage everyone to write one of their own.
Here is the incredibly great thing about a vision … its big and it gives you some place to go.
This isn’t dreamer type stuff … albeit … the stuffy pragmatic jerkwads of the world tend to shove this type of thinking up many people’s asses.
Far too often if a young person, shit, anyone … writes down a vision for themselves you will see the people they share it with shaking their heads and saying “well, that’s nice, not very realistic, but nice …”
What shitheads they are.
A vision is some horizon. It’s a place to go. Something yet to be created but a directional north star for who and what you are as a person.
Let’s call it ‘your soul direction.’
I tell young people that they may never get there … and that’s okay … the most important thing is maintaining sight of the north star.
I think we lose sight of how important something like this is for everyday schmucks like you & me.
In a world in which far too often visions seem small & practical <therefore not really a vision> it seems like trees become the focus and we never see the forest. And if that is the case then how the hell do you even know you are in the right forest?
All you know is that there is another one of those frickin’ trees in front of you.
I will end with where I began … creating a great person takes more than an idea. It demands a vision. And visions are more difficult to sell than products.
Because a good vision isn’t easily attainable but still remains worth reaching for.
Visions are difficult mostly because they are difficult to ‘sell.’
Sell to yourself as something practical and worthwhile <because Life has a nasty habit of suggesting there are more important things to focus on> and sell to others <because people have a nasty habit of being scared of big things>.
I would suggest to truly be happy in Life … Life will demand you have a vision.
I would also suggest that you will more likely be happier as a person if you actually have a vision.
I would also suggest stop trying to ‘sell’ anything when it comes to a vision.
Do you think the night sits down every day wondering “how the hell am I gonna sell all those people own there that this star is the one that points North?”
Direction & vision feels right. It doesn’t need selling. And, what the hell, if you are the one who can see the world you want to help create … only you can really see the direction to get there.