Over the last several weeks executives from both Fortune 500 and mid-market companies, in talking about limits to top performance, said the big barrier to their personal and team success was not understanding where their company was going or what the Big Idea was.
It’s the vision thing.
Vision is often hard to define but starts with the leaders of organizations. P&G’s vision states, in part: “We will provide branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world’s consumers.” Its vision is anchored in improving the lives of its customers. Similarly, Wal-Mart’s vision focuses on consumers: “The values that guide our decisions and our leadership are the 3 Basic Beliefs: • Respect for the Individual • Service to our Customers • Striving for Excellence. “
Where is this going? Ideas create exponential value, up or down. Ray Kurzweil, a well known inventor, futurist and author, argues that because technology is growing exponentially, the future we will experience is not linear. Just look at current events in Egypt if you want confirmation of exponential progression of ideas from thought to action. Using the Internet, a small group of activists has quickly mobilized millions to protest.
Management has to think in this new dimension. The rate of change has become exponential. Vision, translated into action, creates monumental change. For example, Rupert Murdoch’s recent launch of “The Daily” promises a revolutionary new publication exclusively on the iPad. My sense is that this project is going to change the publishing industry by disseminating news to consumers on a profitable basis. The Daily integrates text, video, audio and tactile experience into news. The vision is that the under-35 audience gets its media from the Internet, not print or TV. Hence, make news and information available where people look for it, in ways that consumers are willing to pay. Fifteen million iPad users will determine if the vision translates into reality.
On the other hand, action without vision has the potential for disaster. The GM Volt electric car illustrates the idea. One can argue there is a dream of a green planet, but the Volt exercise is only possible to the extent that government subsidies prevent financial failure.
Without a unifying vision of what “green” means, establishing the concept in consumers’ beliefs and enabling a process to build infrastructure are not possible; thus, individual projects are destined for economic failure. If “green” is the real vision and not a day dream, it seems to me that government and companies would sponsor rapid development of technologies such as thorium-based nuclear energy because the technology is particularly well-suited for use in molten-salt reactors, or MSRs, eliminating the risk of meltdown. Simultaneously, leaders in the US would exploit the natural advantages our country has with coal and natural gas to facilitate a “green” vision that is economically viable. These are viable infrastructure-based energy sources that enable low cost electricity, which in turn would catalyze exponential innovation in battery design and manufacture, thus leading to rapid adoption of electric vehicles at the expense of petroleum-based fuels.
We all dream of a better life, a stronger company and a fulfilling family. It’s the vision of making those dreams happen that translate thought to strategies, strategies to plans, and plans to action. Sharing those visions and plans inspires those around us to join, multiplying results exponentially.