VISION: ANTICIPATING THE FUTURE
Amidst myriad essentials, Vision constitute a vital aspect in organizational accomplishment. It is a conduit to explicitly communicate the organizations ambitions. Of course leaders do recognize its monumental importance and its formation is never dealt in a cavalier fashion. Apart from forming and communicating the vision to the organization, the leader hangs on to its implementation with tenacity. Of considerable import is the need for the CEO to have an inner syndicate who buys into this vision. Powerful communication strategy is generated within the firm that fires up the imagination of employees who engender a behaviour of total ownership of this vision. The Vision/Mission statement is adeptly articulated and months are spent over selection of each word augmented with felicitous phrases that enliven the blue print of the firm.
Here are some powerful examples:
- Google: “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.”
- Disney: “to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.”
- Facebook: “bring the world closer together.”
- Ikea: “to create a better everyday life for the many people.”
Is vision of the organization attributable to just the leader. Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Grey both designed devices that could transmit speech electrically (the telephone). Both men rushed their respective designs to the patent office within hours of each other in an animated movie like instance. Alexander patented his phone first. Later both entered into a famous legal battle as to whose invention it was and Bell won. Elisha Grey was forgotten by the world. But did Alexander device the telephone alone with his own vision. No Thomas Watson and he both worked on this vision to refine the harmonic telegraph though largely Alexander is credited with the vision originator.
The Mac from Apple was the first computer to use graphical interface and until then one had to arduously type in the commands. Did the Mac idea originate from Steve Jobs? No Jeff Raskin had sparked off the Macintosh project in 1979 and later in 1981 Steve directed his attention to Raskin’s project. Jeff Raskin was responsible for the initial concept and specifications for what was known as a computer with a GUI. Jeff worked with Bill Atkinson and Guy Kawasaki on the project but Steve Jobs was the boss. Steve understood the importance of the Macintosh project and its mass appeal. There were strong disagreements between Steve and Jeff and Jeff left in 1981. Steve appointed another person to run Raskin’s vision but now with an improved new vision of Steve. The project eventually took off, attained amazing significance and Steve lived long enough to enjoy the grandeur of the enterprise and its commercial success. Bill Atkinson designed the original interface; Burrell Smith designed the brilliant digital board.
EYE FOR A TELESCOPE
Ever wondered how the telescope works? What prevents us from seeing objects at considerable distance? It is because the object doesn’t take up enough space on our eye’s screen (the retina). Any thing at 200 feet distance does not cover enough pixels on our retinal sensor for us to read it. If we were blessed with a bigger eye, we could collect more light from the object and create a resplendent image, magnify that part of the image so that it stretches over more pixels on our retina. Precisely this is what two pieces in a telescope make possible. One is the objective lens or primary lens and the other is the eyepiece lens. The objective lens collects lot of light from a distant objects and makes this light or image to a point or focus. The eyepiece lens thereafter takes the bright light from the focus of the objective lens or primary mirror and “spreads it out” (magnifies it) to take up a large portion of the retina. This is the same principle that a magnifying glass (lens) uses; it takes a small image on the paper and spreads it out over the retina of your eye so that it looks big. When you combine the objective lens or primary mirror with the eyepiece, you have a telescope. The main idea is to collect considerable light to form a bright image inside the telescope, and then use something like a magnifying glass to enlarge that bright image so that it takes up a lot of space on our retina. In short the telescope has 2 properties
- How well it can collect light and
- How much it can magnify the image.
Forming the vision is the same. The leader may have the most of the visionary insights but a conjoint approach between the leader, leadership team and other members of the firm working coherently can collect more light on its objective lens. This light could be statistics, trends, disruptive innovations in the market place, experience bits, intuitive feel, customer’s preferences, competitors progress etc. all of which form information or call it bright light. Thereafter this information collected on the objective lens has to be enlarged, embellished and cast into a vision with the help of the eyepiece lens, which thereafter is projected and communicated to all employees, and ecosystem of the organization.
Vision need not be the sole prerogative of the leader in fact it shouldn’t be. Each and every employee must own it as if it is his or her conceptualised vision. Vision needs absolute employee ownership. Collective vision from ideas collated by the team, is equally effective and sometimes can become more powerful than individual vision. Most leaders have an idea generation phase prior to incorporating vision but it has to be consciously driven as a movement within the firm by the leader.
Great vision is perspective and clairvoyance but none of these are innate, it can be learnt, practiced and capitalised. Vision is not the ability to predict the future with accuracy rather is a combination of the ability to size up a high probabilistic trend which comes from effectively:
- Synthesising data
- Trend analysis
- Assessment of people
- Technological revolutions
- Global opportunities
- Competitive landscape
and load of other aspects that must lead to a perspective, a world view about the innovative or disruptive products or services that are brewing in the playing arena.
Vision has to be backed up with risk taking abilities, stringent implementation philosophy, disciplined processes & systems, decision making and action oriented behaviour and inter-departmental unequivocal cohesion across the firm. It is incumbent upon good leadership to instate a team that is comprehensively immersed in such research that churns inputs for the board’s analysis. Visionary firms such as Apple, Google, 3M, Nike and Amazon radiate lines of affinity towards such an approach. Amazon encourages employees to embrace intrepid and bold attitude toward experimentation. The firm considers this crucial to their future success that is built upon innovation.
These days in the industry there exist positions on the board such as:
- CVO (Chief Visionary Officer) as appointed in SUN, Cisco, Connex networks.
- CIO (Chief Innovation Officer) as appointed in Citigroup, DuPont, Coca-Cola, Owens Corning, and AMD.
- Director Special Projects: Sergey Brin is cofounder of Google (worth $ 29.3 Billion) and the Director special projects. He runs Google X the secretive division of Google that focuses on risky projects (smart contact lenses, airborne wind turbines etc. reality spectacles (Google glass) and so forth.
Vision is not about future generalizations, predictions, serendipity or any mind techniques. It is about synthesising & analysing information, extrapolating trends, exploring the range depth and insight of technological path and immense imagination about user preferences (e.g. Disneyland theme park, films, mobile applications, autonomous cars, futuristic eye wear, nanotechnology, 3D printing, virtual reality gaming, leap motion interface to TV and displays, eye tribe eye tracking and the list just goes and it spans multiple domains). Vision is like the cybernetics system, which means ‘To steer or navigate’. It is about having an organizational goal and taking action to achieve it. As Pink Floyd puts it in the song ‘Nobody home’: ‘I’ve got wild staring eyes, I’ve got a strong urge to fly, But I’ve got nowhere to fly to’. Vision determines this flight path.