An Effective Vision Does More Than Simply Show Where You’re Going
“Vision” is one of the most commonly used and most widely misunderstood terms. There’s a tremendous amount of power in a vision. But unfortunately when the term is not used or understood correctly, we lose out on the opportunity to access the power.
Consider the Apollo Moon Project. It was amazing. They overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. When President Kennedy articulated the vision to put a man on the moon by 1969, the technology to accomplish it had not even been invented. An exciting decade of focused, Herculean efforts ended in 1969 when two men walked on the moon and returned safely home. It was amazing! …and then it was over.
What’s happened with NASA since? It has never recreated these spectacular accomplishments. There was a miraculous decade and then nothing.
BECAUSE: They didn’t know why they were doing it. There was no clear purpose. Were they doing it to win the “space race?”.. or the “Star Wars” initiative?… or in the spirit of Star Trek “to boldly go where no one has gone before?”
There was a challenging picture that focused efforts, but once it was achieved, it ended. It was not a “vision” that guided people into the future.
I was speaking about this awhile ago with a group of people and an engineer in audience said, “I was on the Apollo project.” I asked him what his point of view was, and he said, “You’re right purpose is important. Those of us working on the project did have a clear purpose. As you may remember, we were concerned about overpopulation in the 1960’s. For us, this project was about finding new frontiers to populate in order to save the human race. It was very motivating for us.”
That’s a noble purpose. But it wasn’t commonly embraced by the larger population, and because they weren’t aligned around a significant purpose, there was nothing to guide NASA into the future.
What we have discovered when looking closely at “vision” is that a picture the future is a powerful part of the vision, but it’s not enough. To provide ongoing guidance, a vision must show why as well as where.
A compelling vision includes a significant purpose that explains why in order to provide an answer the question, “What’s next?”