“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”
If you look at any great business or even any great human achievement, one common thing that they all have is a clear vision set from the start. Whether that was Steve Jobs bringing computing to the masses, or John F. Kennedy claiming they would take a man to the moon and return safely by the end of the decade.
So many businesses start with a product vision at best. They don’t always take the opportunity to think bigger about the needs they will fill, capabilities they will create and the position that they will occupy in the world of commerce. They focus on product innovation, how they are going to fill a particular gap in the market or a specific market need, but a business vision is so much more than that. It is what connects people to the purpose of the organisation and its Founders, generating the kind of collective energy that enables something great to be achieved. It is about clearly articulating a single, detailed picture of the future that will create purpose and energy across the business as a whole.
Clarity = Energy
Clarity of purpose is key for individual and collective motivation. When the journey becomes ‘cloudy’ or difficult, it is an anchor that helps everyone to maintain focus and motivation towards the business and its core purpose.
In creating an organisation with a clear collective purpose, the opportunity then exists to define values that resonate with that, establishing a foundation for collective motivation and behaviours that will drive the organisation forward. This leads to the creation of a ‘personality’ within the business, connecting the culture that has been developed with how your customers see the company and the products that it offers.
Defining a Vision
Defining a vision doesn’t require that you set out to build an enterprise that is still going to be around in 100 years, or that you must create the next “unicorn” that attracts hundreds of millions of dollars in venture funding. It actually shouldn’t be too abstract and could just provide clarity on what you are going to do and how you will do it well. It might be that you are going to change the way banks process payments or how newspapers engage with their online readers, so that in three to five years (after proving the need for such a vision) the business is sold. Then your vision and associated business capabilities will be taken forward by an acquirer with a complementary purpose and the resources required to achieve that next step. In all of these scenarios, a significant Founder legacy will be created!
When setting your business vision think about answering these questions:
What was the motivation for starting the business?
What is the purpose of the business I have created and how does it improve the world?
How does the purpose of my business connect to my overall sense of purpose in life? Are they both aligned?
This might all sound a bit ‘fluffy’ but there is a significant body of research that suggests if you do not feel a sense of purpose in what you do, then you are much more likely to lose motivation, burn out and never achieve the goals you set for yourself.
To ensure that your vision is not just a ‘fluffy’ statement it is also critical to set your purpose in the context of the market dynamics in which you will operate, so that you connect it to how you will ultimately position the business. Yes, that means you need to undertake the required market research about what you plan to build as part of the first steps on your business journey, in conjunction with creation of your vision. If what you are planning to do is truly new and absolutely innovative, this need will be even more obvious than if you are just looking to fill an existing market niche. You must be quite certain about the available market in both cases, regardless. Sometimes the totally new innovation may actually be addressing the problem of a relatively smaller audience compared to the niche player in a very large market.