The power of an inspiring vision


The world history’s most famous vision was formulated by President John F Kennedy in 1961, when he, in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the arms race with the Soviet Union, decided to go for a moon landing. His vision was formulated in a single classic sentence: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth before this decade is out“.

A strong and inspiring vision that is communicated clearly to all affected can have a very strong symbolic value both to create a loyal customer base and to get the employees to feel that they together have an important role to play.

The vision should guide the direction of the business and indicate a clear way forward that can be guiding for several years without changes and adjustments.

The vision needs therefore not to be detailed, but it must be ambitious and something that one can strive for. The vision must also be in line with the core values ​​of the organisation. The vision should primarily affect how we look at things rather than how things are. A new vision is not a gradual change of an earlier vision, but should signal a break with the old and a new step towards the future.

A strong vision should touch the heart as well as the brain and strengthen the inner motivation of the employees – “maximum profit” is therefore not a good vision, even though it is the basic driving force behind a company.

The vision can also serve as guidance in delegating decisions to lower levels, and in particular, it calls for creative thinking and necessary risk taking among all employees in order to reach the goal together.

The vision motivates the necessary changes that constantly need to be made along the way. As long as the employee can clearly connect to the vision of change, it will be easier for them to accept and support the changes.

A strong and clear vision can in itself also be an important factor in why creative individuals actively seek an organisation and that those already present remain.

Although the vision may be ambitious, it must also be realistic and accompanied by sufficient resources to implement it. A high-flying vision without resources just creates frustration. Since most visions are qualitative rather than quantitative, the vision must be complemented by indicators or key figures so that you can measure success and preferably a timeframe when it is to be met.

A company that succeeded in formulating its vision is the American restaurant chain Sweetgreen specializing in healthy, nutritious and organic food. Their award-winning vision reads: “Sweetgreen, founded in 2007, is a place for delicious food that is both healthy for you and in line with your values. We use local and organic ingredients from farmers we know and partners we trust. We support our local communities and create meaningful relationships with those around us. We are there to create experiences where passion and meaning meet.

What makes this vision so strong is that it not only describes what they want to achieve or sell, but also why and in the last sentence of the vision, one effectively connects the heart with the brain. By eating at Sweetgreen you can feel good both to body and to soul and to eat well.

In a world of stiff competition, where companies struggle for their survival by constantly trying to be a bit better and a bit cheaper a short while until one of the competitors occasionally gets a head start, the answer to the question “What?” Can get a customer to buy a product occasionally. “What” appeals to our intellect and rational decision.

Next time, on the same basis, we can buy the competitor’s product instead. Instead, one should strive to give a good answer to the question “Why?” On the other hand, you can create a faithful customer group that continues to be loyal in both wind and wind. “Why” activates our implicit automatic thinking. This happens without effort and is strongly linked to our feelings. When something feels right, we will continue to go in that direction, even if objective facts are to change.

Simon Sinek illustrates this exceptionally well in his book “Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action”. In the book, Sinek uses Apple as an example. Had Apple been a traditional computer company, they could have said, “We are making great computers. They are beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. Do you want to buy one? “. This sales pitch had responded well to the question “What?” And would surely give a lot of sales, but not more.

Instead, they say, “In all we do, we believe in challenging the status quo and thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is to make products that are beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. We happen to make computers. Do you want to buy one?

By reversing the reasoning and consistently starting with “why,” Apple has managed to create emotional ties to a large group of people who also have an inner driving force to think differently. The result has become an almost religious supporter group that in every mode chooses an Apple product instead of any other, just because it’s Apple.

Starting with “why” instead of “what“, you have also not committed to a specific product but can sell music players or smart phones with equal credibility. It is the visionary leader’s primary task to formulate “why” and indicate the direction and then work relentlessly by constantly reminding about it until it is in the spinal cord of customers and employees.

Someone must then also work with “how” and “what“, but in large organisations this can be done by people one step down the organisation. In many really successful companies, the visionary leader has worked in pair with the pragmatic and technically skilled implementer, such as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Apple and Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Microsoft. If you are a leader in a smaller organisation and do not have a doer on your side, you need to combine vision with an ability to analyse, plan and implement.

Detta blogginlägg på svenska

Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

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