Of vision – and of seeing and being seen in the world

Vision matters – it’s what helps us see where we’re going in the world as well as help others see where it is that we’re going.

We know this. Every MBA course always has a section on an organization’s vision and mission. In fact it’s become such a truism that people’s eyes tend to glaze over when the poor facilitator is trying to get the team enthused over understanding what their vision actually is.

But…it really does.

In the latest findings from our InQ Diagnostic, over 1 in 4 respondents rated vision as the weakest part of their organization’s Innovation Intelligence. But, what does this mean?

A few years ago Nilofer Merchant wrote a great blog post on an organization’s vision. She said that the reason that it was so important was that:

it paints the goal, sparks and fuels the fire of purpose, and invites everyone to play a role.

Without a vision people literally don’t know where it is they’re going.

And, without a clear vision – those external to your organization (partners, clients, consumers and others) don’t necessarily know how they can work with you.

It’s great to make claims like ‘we’re going to be innovative.’ But, innovative at what? How are you going to innovate? What is it you’re going to innovate?

The more you can make this vision and associated goals clear to everyone inside and outside the organization the easier it’s going to be getting there.

A great example of this is Steve Jobs very famous announcement at the MacWorld Expo in 1998 that Apple was scrapping most of it’s product range and would in the future only be focusing on four product lines.

The genius of this move is in the clear vision it provided for all of Apple’s employees and everyone one outside the company too.

The Apple Four-Quadrant Product Board

The Apple Four-Quadrant Product Board

It was a pivotal moment in Apple’s history. It helped stamp indelibly on people’s minds that they were back! Others have said it, and we’d be inclined to agree, it was this shift that really signaled to the world that Apple were ‘back in town’ and were ready to become the world’s most innovative company.

A clear vision like this helps everybody in an organization understand not only what they’re meant to be doing but also how they’re meant to be working as a whole. The best thing about a great vision like this is it allows everyone to fall in line and move forward as an organization – including those outside the organization.

The importance of clear vision for the company in terms of innovation is that it provides:

  1. A unified goal for people to head towards;
  2. A way for people to understand whether or not any decision helps the organization move forwards towards that goal;
  3. A way to measure whether or not you’re actually creating the type of value in the world your organization is meant to be creating.

Combined these three elements help people link day to day activities to innovation objectives as well as the overall big picture.

A clear vision helps those in your organization and those outside to more clearly see where it is that you’re heading so that everyone can begin to work together towards these shared goals. If you’re having trouble getting results on your innovation efforts, make sure you have a clear and compelling vision.