We all know that having great vision is a key part of creating motivated teams, high performance companies and ultimately brilliant results.
But what if you’re not a unicorn tech startup? What if you’re toiling away within a slow moving bureaucracy? What if you’re just trying to get your team motivated and pointing in one direction? How do you integrate a sense of vision in a way that actually works?
It’s our contention is that it doesn’t matter where you’re working or what scenario you find yourself faced with, if you understand the key components of vision thinking, then you can cast those components to fit your situation.
Let’s take a couple well known examples to tear down.
Tesla’s vision is “to accelerate the world’s transition to renewable energy.”
Google’s vision is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
We think there are 4 key elements in this kind of vision-based thinking that you can steal and adapt:
1. A strong vision is a point of view on effecting a change in the world, a fundamental shift.
The key to this idea is the sense of shift. Thinking about a state of change, moving “FROM THIS (current state) TO THIS (future state). You’re telling people that your intention is to apply energy and force to the world in order to create a lasting change.
2. A strong vision doesn’t have an obvious end point.
Connected to the first point, if a strong vision is about effecting a change in the world, then it’s somewhat counter-intuitive that this change need not have an endpoint. But there is no obvious end point to organising the world’s information, and that’s precisely why it’s so powerful and enduring for Googlers. There’s always more to do.
Recent research on the addictiveness of our social platforms suggests that the anticipation that your biochemistry seeks being just one more swipe away, is addictive. Much more addictive than constant fulfilment. In other words we are addicted to working towards a destination, more than we are to actually arriving. Great mission’s work the same way.
3. A strong vision doesn’t start with the organisation itself.
A lot of corporate missions fall flat because they start and end with the org itself, as if contained within the company is the sun, moon and stars. You’ve probably worked with, or for, this kind of company. Comfortable market share leads to insular thinking which leads to vision statements that start and end with the organisation.
If you want to apply vision thinking to your problem, look outside your particular bubble or context, look for adjacent or bigger contexts for the kind of framing that your vision thinking needs.
4. A strong vision is immediate and understandable.
“To organise the world’s information and make it accessible” is powerful because it’s understandable. A great vision is immediately gettable, it’s relatable, it doesn’t need to be buried under jargon or specialised knowledge.
So, now that we have the 4 components of vision thinking, how to take them and apply to your context?
Well, here you go:
1. Think about the change in the world that you are trying to create.
A quick hack for this is to write FROM on a post-it note, and TO on another post-it note. Put them on a wall and brainstorm shifts that make sense to you in your context. Next, think about the next adjacent but broader context, and write up some more shifts. Finally, think of the broadest possible (but still relevant), context and go again. You now have a long list of potential shifts, impacts that you and your team may make in the world. Synthesise and sharpen, sift the mud for the gold, and you have your starting place for articulating the impact in the world you want to create.
2. Formulate vision thinking without a specific end goal.
You’re looking for a piece of language that helps you put a dot on the horizon. It might sometimes come nearer to view, and sometimes drift further away, and that’s ok, but it should never actually arrive. Look at what you’ve written and ask, “Can we realistically achieve this in the next five years?” if the answer’s yes, then you might need to go again. (and if the answer is yes for sure then it might be a great goal or objective).
3. Try not to start and end with yourself.
A vision starts to feel like it has more significant impact when it’s not explicitly locked to the company. It will obviously be connected to what you do, but it’s not about you, it’s about your impact.
You will have to play with this depending upon your specific context, and what you’re looking to create a vision for, but remember to add the broader context or it will feel flat. For example, if your immediate context is a project in the customer success team, then what is happening with the overarching customer journey? Look at your customer’s lives, what are they trying to achieve or feel when they touch your company? There you might find the seeds of thinking that you can apply to your closer-in context, while still lifting your purview to something bigger than your own org.
4. Avoid jargon, acronyms, specialised language.
It’s an eternal piece of wisdom but if you can’t explain it to people not working in your field then it's not universal. If it’s not universal then it doesn’t really qualify as a mission.
So what do you think? Do we even need companies to have a mission? Let us know your thoughts, and if this article was useful to you let us know!