These days I have more and more opportunities to talk with entrepreneurs or CEOs of start-up companies. And I have come to realize the importance of creating a strong “vision”, also sometimes called a “philosophy” or “story”..
When told a vision is important, some people get the meaning right away while others have a blank look and say, “Well, we already have a management philosophy.” Although sensitivity about this topic is different from individual to individual, it will be more essential to have an attractive vision in order to ask people to get onboard a company, as businesses become more concept based and globalized. I sometimes even feel that, not infrequently, there are companies whose vision can be better polished.
So today, based on my own experience, I will sum up how to create a strong vision. I hope it will help readers.
1. A vision starts with a monologue that only you can understand
You may feel that it is a paradox if I say that a vision should not be easy for people to understand even though it is usually shared with people to motivate them to take action. A vision is “scenery”. People are not attracted by “familiar scenery”. They want to follow someone who sees scenery that they have never seen before. The important thing is that you can passionately tell the world what you want to realize but that does not exist right now “There is such marvelous scenery which only I can see now. Would you like to go and see it together?” At this stage, I think it is reasonable to imagine that 80% of the people hearing this see a question mark in their mind. When Masayoshi Son, founder of Softbank Corp., established his company, he declared that they would make a company where they counted their money one chou (trillion), two chou (trillions) as if they were counting tofu as in one chou, two chou in Japanese. However, some early employees quit their jobs immediately, because they thought, “Mr. Son is insane”. Soichiro Honda of Honda Motors even says, “The dream that other people can understand is not a dream any more”. It is not very easy to have a vision on such a large scale, but you need to believe your vision firmly especially at the launching stage of your business.
2. A vision should not be made logically.
Since human beings are basically animals when you get down to it, they take actions not with logic, but with emotions. They act for the thrill, the excitement and the happiness. Logic is a tool that humans made afterwards in order to manage human relationships smoothly. A vision must move humans intuitively, and so we need to understand that emotions are the main part while logic is just a tool. Also, there is a scientific mechanism that states emotions are infectious. Thus a barometer of a good vision is whether you can tell that your own feeling is strongly moved by the vision or not.
3. A story is equal to making an animation.
A vision is something that you see with your eyes, and it has the same origin of the word, “visual”. It is different from things that you hear with your ears or words that you read. A good vision allows people to imagine a picture in their brains. So how can we make such a vision? The answer is to use a story. The story means the thing that describes a certain scene like in a folk tale, such as “Once upon a time, there was a grandmother and grandfather…” It is not the story of a simple business target such as “We will increase our sales to a hundred million dollars in 10 years and will be at the top of our field”. The scene is a story like “Please imagine what you would be like in 10 years. You have a customer in front of you. The customer relies on you, the most reliable company. And one day, he says the following…” What is of importance is to imagine the scene in your mind, and it can be also envisioned in the format of an animation such as a movie. As a good movie or TV commercial goes all around the world, successful story making may enable you to unite with an overseas organization with high cultural diversity.
4. Set a vision target.
Next, we need to think about specific characters who appear in our picture. In other words, we imagine who exactly would be a target to become a fan. Young people? Office workers? The rich? Or families raising children? This is what is called “a persona” in the marketing field. The more you can imagine a face and the life of the target, the shaper the vision becomes. If you are doing B to B business, you should choose one company as a target customer. Is it a large enterprise? A venture company? A company in the manufacturing industry? A local company or a globalized company? And then you will make the resolution higher to reach the target you set.
5. Raise a colored flag and have the courage to accept being hated.
There is a principle that states “no one may like you if you try to get everyone’s affection”. Thus, it’s not a good vision to become the company that everyone learns to like. I think a company’s vision is like a flag. This means it should be basic colors, like red or white. A flag on the battlefield can be a distinctive sign between “us” or “them”. You can never lead anyone with a dull-colored flag. No one looks back at a company that says, “we exist for everyone including children and adults as well as elderly people”. When you clearly declare, “We cheer for families raising children”, then your target customer will support you. You should not try to attract everyone’s attention, not try to be all things to all people.
6. Get together and become “we” with the vision target
Now comes the point where we should involve vision targets and make them be someone to build the future together. The relationship with vision targets should not be that “I will provide this for you”, but that “You and I are dreaming the same future, and I can create this service in order to realize that future”. So the relationship with the target is not “You and I” but “We”. The important thing is to indicate a sense that “We are boarding the same ship”. It must be a very powerful vision if you are able to make a story that begins with the subject “we”.
7. Reinforce the message logically with evidence and reinforce it emotionally with personal experiences.
Now that you have clarified the target and the story, then what you are going to do next is connect “message, evidence, and personal experience”. For instance, let’s say the message you wish to convey is that you want to solve the concerns of families raising children. You should add some evidence that may strengthen the argument, like numeral statistics of poor social infrastructure or facts regarding world occurrences. This is strengthening via logic. And after that, you should also make it more persuasive with your original personal experience such as “I myself also had such an experience during my childhood…” or with a vivid episode that stayed with you. This is strengthening through the aspect of emotions. Those two steps will result in completing an impressive vision that is easy for people to understand.
8. Do not present a vision using PowerPoint.
The process is almost done, and now I recommend that you should not make a vision using PowerPoint when you present it. As I mentioned in the second item, a vision should evoke people’s emotions, and so the better way to tell it is handwritten (words or drawings). Also, visual and tangible tools can work very well such as LEGO and artwork, which are popular these days as a method of creative thinking. What I want to encourage here is using a tool that can unleash your five senses, releasing them without thinking too much. That enables you to output ideas about the things you have in your mind. (Of course, please use PowerPoint when making it into a document for a handout at the end.)
These are 8 critical points leaders should remember when creating powerful visions. I hope entrepreneurs as well as business leaders in large companies try using them to polish the vision of your team so that you can lead it more powerfully.