Vision Invents the Future

If you want to predict the future, invent it.  It’s not enough to have a new idea, the successful innovator must envision the future.  Imagine how the world will be changed, for the better.  Write it down.  Then engage others and share your core values with them.  Even if your vision sounds wildly ambitious at first, it will become more real every time you talk about it.  Think of it as your Mt. Everest.  It might take you many years to climb to the top, but nothing is impossible.

When herding cats, it’s best to have a bowl of milk.  Literally, that can mean milk and cookies.  Back in the day, Sun Microsystems had beer bashes on Friday afternoon.  One would stand around the keg with Scott McNealy.  Apple had a live band, a wine and cheese spread, and bowls of Oreo cookies with milk to dip them in.  You might imagine which ‘bash’ had more appeal. After an obligatory plastic cupful someone would say… “Sorry Scott, I have to go now.  It’s been nice and all, but I have some more coding to do tonight.”

A quarter century later, the food perks trend has reached New York startups.  Though it’s not really what attracts great talent to your company.  There are two more important things.  First, they want to know that their work will have lasting and significant value.  They want and expect to change the world, which makes them very interested in their employer’s core ideology and values.  Second, they know they have a short shelf life.  Anyone in their twenties should work at 5 companies over 10 years.  Unless a company they join quickly rocks the market there is no reason to stick around and vest worthless shares.

Satisfying both needs, the company worth serving has an audacious unifying vision.  This vision expresses the values of the company that each person hired will share.  This vision describes broadly how the company will change its market (and very possibly the world).  This vision creates a measuring stick for a set of goals that are otherwise impossible to quantify five years in advance.  Like a nice big bowl of milk, the vision focuses everyone involved on a common goal (customers included).

Think of great vision as a landmark used for navigation.  The landmark is your goal, a destination.  Set your sights on it.  Remember to look up at it periodically.  As the winds and currents throw you off course, reset and adjust to get back on track.  A great vision can be attained over many years, but not without constant strategy iteration.

So watch where you’re going.  Look ahead.  If you want to predict the future, create it.  Do remember though.  If it’s not audacious, no one will care.  Go big or go home.

Stewart Noyce writes and presents on innovation strategy, a passion he has fed over a multi-decade career.  He continues to accept intense, hands-on product management consulting assignments on new product teams.  Visit TruNorth Consulting for more details.
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