Creation and Innovation Instead of Reaction and Responding

Vision Through Presence, Impact and Influence 

Creative and Innovative Vision

The Importance of Real Vision

All of us have been taught to think in terms of circumstances. Yet when circumstances are the
prime motivator in your life or in your company, your choices are limited to 2 basic types of
action: reaction or response. Most people think that if you choose to react against, or prefer to
respond to, the circumstances that you are in, you have made progress. While reacting may
seem different than responding, the casual power is exactly the same: the circumstances.

Even in organizational business environments, reacting and responding is the dominant
orientation, much to the detriment of vision, creativity, innovation, productivity, and
heightened performance. Think of the term best practices. The underlying assumption is that
there is a right way to respond. Think of the phrase performance management or leadership.
That terminology comes with an assumption of how you prefer to act: here is the situation, and
here is what you should do about it (under what perception is the word should anchored?).

How many organizations react to the finite, short-term circumstances of quarterly financial
performance, declining sales, poorly performing marketing campaigns, team morale and well-being? This automatic thought process is one major reason why global economies struggle and
bankruptcies flourish. In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek writes about the critical importance of
playing the infinite game of legacy now, versus the win-lose finite game. Companies that see a
long-term, focused vision for their organization will win the economic war for success and

To shift from a reactive and responsive mindset to a creative and innovative one, we need to
change the question we are asking ourselves. Replace “How should I act?” with “What do I
want to create?”

Vision is created. The term vision has come to mean vague, futuristic declarations and warm
and fuzzy platitudes that are devoid of substance and power. People will frequently say they
have vision when they do not. It can often be an unmeasured goal filled with industry buzz
words. Over the past few decades, the notion of vision has lost its sense of meaning and has
moved away from an understanding of its true power. In a truly innovative and inclusive
process, vision is the single factor that allows us to imagine a reality beyond the circumstances
in which we are mired. We can reach for something truly original, something that cannot be
conceptualized if all we do is respond to our daily circumstances. It is vision that reaches
beyond our current limitations and becomes the focal point of our innovation process. A great
vision inspires everyone on your team to strive to be better — a mandatory attitude in business

The visioning and innovation process is the opposite of problem solving. In problem solving, the
focus is on the situations we do not want or that we are trying to avoid. We take action to get
rid of what we do not want and fail to create what we do want. Many people brag that they are
dedicated problem solvers. What they do not understand is that all the problem solving in the
world will not bring them what they want. If you were to get rid of all your problems, you still
would not have what you want. You will have spent a lot of time and energy spinning your
wheels, but getting nowhere. While problem solving has its place, you will not go very far if it is
your primary focus.

In keynotes, I often say: “If all you do all day is fight fires, solve problems, and baby sit, all you
will have are more fires, problems, and babies.”

Think of the iPod. If Steve Jobs had simply responded to the prevailing circumstances at the
time, we would be walking around with better Walkmans (a Sony invention). There were many
MP3 players around before the iPod, but it was a tough sell.

What did Jobs envision? First, he asked himself a pretty basic question: What do people want?

And the answer was obvious: they wanted to listen to music in a convenient format.

Having another MP3 player on the market was not going to do a lot. But the vision was not to
create a better piece of equipment. It was about people getting to listen to the music they
wanted, anywhere they wanted. It was about storing 1,000 songs in your pocket. And so, Jobs
began to make deals with major record companies and set up iTunes, a site from which you
could download music directly, rather than go to a store to buy CDs.

Jobs’ vision and picture of the outcome he wanted to create was as far from an empty platitude
as possible.

His next vision was to hold all of human knowledge in one hand. Take a peek at your
smartphone. How did he make out?

What about your vision? Is your organization’s vision a powerful tool that drives every person in
your company? Or is it just wallpaper in your lobby, a banner on your website?

If you or anyone in your company were asked to recite your vision, what would be said? How
would everyone do? This is a fair question today when it is so important to operate from a
powerful future and not get stuck in day-to-day reactionary tasks and problem solving.
If you are being asked to lead change and increase your impact with others, then you will
certainly see the value in developing tools that inspire growth, vision, and innovation. One
major stumbling block is getting people to picture future possibilities when they are stuck in
daily routines and stress. This is not a new challenge for businesses, but in today’s market, it is
vitally important to break through that block if you wish to grow or simply remain relevant.

“In the absence of vision, people are driven by their own agenda; inattentive to each other’s
needs and inadvertently pulling the wind from each other’s sails.” — Ben and Rosamund Zander,
The Art of Possibility

• Does your vision help people understand why change is really necessary?
• Is it ambitious enough to force people out of comfortable routines?

It will be important to start this work now and not wait for an upstart competitor to force you
into it.

So, what makes for a powerful vision? Perhaps we need to look to the past for some of the
most powerful visions ever created:

Abraham Lincoln saw a future where slavery would be abolished in The United States.
Henry Ford envisioned that every household would have an automobile.
John F. Kennedy declared that by the end of the 1960s, the United States would have put a man
on the moon and brought him back alive, remembered famously as the ‘moonshot’.
Bill Gates famously declared that every home would have a personal computer.It has been
suggested that this vision was declared at a time when the size of a microprocessor was the size
of a number of rooms. His own engineers were quoted as telling Gates there was no reason for a
computer to be in a home. Imagine if he listened to them?
Steve Jobs marketed devices that could store 1,000 songs in your pocket and all of human
knowledge in your hand.

These powerful statements are just a few examples of visionary declarations that have changed
the way we live today. One thing you need to understand is that these visions were spoken
when most people would have thought them impossible dreams. These leaders had the
incredible skill of inspiring people, even nations, into action in the face of intense criticism.

So again, this begs the question: in your organization, what is the vision? What is your personal
vision driving your every action? Does your vision compel you to jump out of bed every morning
and guide your actions and decisions? What is the vision declaration that will inspire large
groups to act? Is your vision meaningful and compelling?

Your vision will need to speak to many audiences, including current and future customers,
existing employee groups, and stakeholders in the organization and community.

Vision is a clear visual picture and a declaration of what is possible. There are many benefits to
visual language, one of them being the amount of information that a picture contains — it is
dimensional, rather than linear. You can see relationships among its various parts. Pictures and
stories in marketing are critical pillars to success; the same is true with your vision.

Thinking in pictures forces you to expand your perception and be concrete in your visualization.
There is little room for vague statements because you cannot see a picture unless you first
decide on the vital elements of innovation and the need for change. Vision is the first and most
important evolutionary step in the innovation process.

Before creating a vision, we should first explore ideas and concepts. At this stage of the vision,
we explore the many possibilities the declaration could manifest and choose one to focus on.
This is a profound step, and choice, in the process. We can imagine how Jobs envisioned how
people would use the iPod. Had he simply conducted customer surveys, he could never have
imagined it. That is because no one knew they wanted an iPod. This shows the limitation of
simply responding to customers and the existing market trends of the moment.

The best vision statements are simple, clear, one-line declarations that inspire everyone. Avoid
common wordsmith language and buzz words that do not really mean anything. Please ensure
that your vision statement is not something vague and boring like exceeding customer
expectations or providing shareholder value. Remember, if every person in your company or
team cannot see the vision, it doesn’t mean much.

Visioning is the compelling practice that leads us to the next set of actions in the innovation
process. We innovate on behalf of our vision. We need to think clearly about the circumstances
we are in, not in a reactive and responsive way but in a way that identifies where we are at in
relationship to where we want to be.

Of course, this is the dynamic that propels us towards the creation of our vision. Take strategic
action. The question of: “How should we act?” becomes “What actions do we need to take to
create our vision?”

You will find that some of those actions will be obvious and simple conventions. Ultimately, the
vision is meant to grow business development, improve profitability, and increase efficiencies.

Often, the circumstances are not conducive to convention or standard practice.

You may hear: “You don’t have enough time, money, or other resources.”

This statement reflects the mindset that it is never the right time to create anything. Please
realize that if you wait for perfect conditions, you will wait forever.

The motivations to invent, innovate, and originate new actions and processes are the
underlying structures that must always prevail in this work. Through the innovation process, we
reach far beyond the current reality and circumstances we find ourselves in. Our motivations
are not a reaction or response to current circumstances, but a different, dynamic urge to design
our lives around the things that matter most to us and to our organizations.

Creating a company vision that has the power to move yourself and others requires
breakthroughs, some fear, and some uncertainty. But most importantly, it requires a belief that
all this is possible. You are not expected to know how to get there — only to believe that it can
be done if everyone raises their game and motivation.

A true vision will require the stretching of resources and capabilities beyond how the business
usually functions. It will need to be ambitious, yet realistic and achievable, and requires great
effort from many people. It must be able to be measured in concrete terms. It must represent a
greater outlook for the organization and for everyone on the team. The vision pulls a team
towards possibility.

A real vision will require consideration and bold action to take it off of the wall or website and
transform it into language and action. The best vision and mission statements — including core
values that mandate actions and language — can be recited by anyone in the organization at
any time, especially in public outside of work, where branding and reputation really happen.
When communicating your vision, everyone must be able to picture or see what is being
conveyed. Weak and useless words like ‘try’, ’busy’, ‘more’, and ‘better’ are not acceptable. No
one can picture these words. The vision must be clear enough to be successfully explained in
less than five minutes.

Consider the following vision statement — a clear and short declaration that paints a picture of
a desired and inspiring future state.

In the 1960s, a janitor at NASA was interviewed regarding his contribution to the moonshot
vision. He replied: “I am helping put a man on the moon.”

What would people in your organization say if they were asked to speak about their
contribution to the vision?

If people in your company are not willing to take a punch to the gut for the vision, start over
from scratch. You do not have it yet. The organizational vision is what gets people truly inspired
to contribute and rush to work — they no longer zombies waiting for payday. If people are not
excited to share what they have contributed, your problem might be bigger than a lack of

You want every person on your team to know and understand the importance of acting with
the future in mind. They also need to understand the risks associated with following the status
quo and failing to adapt. They have skin in the game and will challenge others who are falling
behind. Every person has a stake in the outcome and feels involved and included in the process.
Living the vision is not the job of senior managers alone. Everyone at any level of the
organization owns it.

Everyone is willing, at any time, to report what they have accomplished. Actions,
accomplishments, successes, and even failures are shared on a regular basis. All actions taken,
successful or not, are recorded and posted on a wall for everyone to see. Learning from action
becomes engrained in how you operate as a group. This is expected and part of your winning

Watch very closely for people who may try, desperately, to dodge accountability here. Do not
give in. Be relentless in your expectations. Have a clear plan for those not willing to contribute
to the team. Expect nothing less than zero tolerance for cynicism and ego.

A strong vision will encourage people to feel that they are part of a learning organization.
Learning organizations stand for things that are bigger than themselves and attract the talent of
the future.

The downfall of all visions is inaction and apathy. Instilling a sense of urgency is very important.
Please set up clear follow-up plans and ask people to quickly report back to the group at the
next meeting. Ask people to identify and report specific examples of living the vision in action,
using dates and times in their reports. Real learning happens between meetings, with an
established assumption that reporting examples of the vision is expected from everyone.

People will need to feel included and recognized in this effort. Rewarding and appreciating
people is important.

One client we worked with represented a third-generation business with a rich history of
success. They realized change was important. This company was experiencing increasing
pressure from global competition and declining market space for their traditional services.
Through our work together, they created both an organizational vision and individual visions for
each manager and employee. A ‘war room’ was set up and everyone’s visions were posted on
the wall. Every meeting referenced the visions in some way. Every day, they placed a booklet on
the workspace of an employee. At the end of the day, that person was asked to write about
how they had lived, and contributed to, the vision that day. They would then pass the book
along to someone new. They recorded and published the results weekly. This company tripled
their business in less than three years. Every employee knew the importance of their work and
committed to its importance and execution. They understood the risks of not changing.

When taking on this work, everyone in your organization needs to be involved in the planning
and execution of the vision. Do not try it alone — you will fail. You will need the help and
cooperation of everyone in your company. Getting them on board is your first, and hardest,
task. If you are an individual entrepreneur, engage your clients and close friends.

Pushing for attention and action on behalf of a declared future and vision can be a challenge. It
is far too easy to consider this work airy and ‘out there’. Critics will fight the unknown and push
for the safety of their comforting, current realities. People will talk about how busy they are
and say urgency is needed in other areas. If all the attention and action is anchored in your
current reality, nothing will ever change. This is why most visions fail. People head off to
retreats and create vague statements that only benefit a few people before quickly returning to
their unchecked emails and messages. We can be our own worst enemies. There are better
choices to be made.

The Thornton Group - Begin your journey today.
The Thornton Group - Begin your journey today.
The Thornton Group - Begin your journey today.

failure is not an option

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