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Business Leaders

How Lifelong Learning Drives Innovation (2/2)

Using learning to increase innovation

 

In part 1, we discussed how learning and innovation are intrinsically linked. Now let’s look at how learning plays out in business. And most importantly – how you can encourage and foster learning to increase business outcomes.

 

Onboarding new talent

As a whole, the education system isn’t preparing students for the world of work. It just isn’t set up that way.

Oftentimes, employers will have to provide complete on-the-job training through graduate schemes and apprenticeships. That’s just to get the basic job done – talk less of having competitive employees in the marketplace.

If you want your new hires to be competitive, you have to also ensure that they engage in self-study. A new hire who comes in and expects to be spoon-fed information won’t ramp up as fast as they could.

In the time they aren’t productive, you’re losing money.

It’s also important that your new hires learn through others in the organization – their peers and senior staff members. By creating a culture of peer-to-peer learning, you can save greatly on formal training programs. It will also help better integrate new hires and make them feel part of the team.

Typically, when organizations approach the topic of training their employees, there is a common reluctance. Why invest in training when they could get up and leave?

Worse, a competitor could poach them and give them an advantage.

This sentiment is understandable.

But there is a middle ground. This is where company-wide, lifelong learning has its place. If you make learning a part of the culture, you won’t need dedicated programs that build their soft or hard skills.

If you create the right culture, they will take it upon themselves and consider it a natural part of their job.

 

Upskilling mature workers

 

Source: IMF

 

As we live more healthily, our lifespan increases. Particularly in modern countries, we have an increasingly older workforce who are staying in employment for longer.

Although they have decades of experience and know-how, the rapid change of digitization means that older workers can no longer afford to remain stagnantEspecially in technology work. There is a rapidly changing knowledge framework that employees need to keep on top of.

There may be a point in time where your company needs to overhaul its IT suite to stay competitive. In this case, the skill sets of old will decline in value. If your team doesn’t welcome continuous learning, then they may have to go.

 

Solving problems

There is a military saying that states no strategy survives the first contact with the enemy.

When your team is running daily operations, they may find that some things aren’t working as well as they could be. Typically, there are two ways that learning on the ground happens:

  • Experiments – For instance, your marketing team may realise that certain types of campaigns aren’t resonating with your customers. In this case, they run different experiments and learn from the results to determine the best course of action.
  • Observation – Alternatively, your customer service team may realise that there are certain issues that keep on arising. In response, they work with the product team to develop a solution to it.
  • Pro-activity – In this case, your employees make a conscious effort to learn about and anticipate your customers’ changing situations.

 

In recent years, Salesforce and other SaaS companies pioneered a new approach to servicing their customers.

Source: Gainsight

 

They introduced a new role; ‘Customer Success’, which goes beyond what traditional account managers and customer service reps deliver.

This new role is about ensuring the customer is maximising value from your product. At the core of this role is the learning process. Customer success managers have to continuously be learning about the changing needs of your clients. Without active curiosity, they won’t be able to anticipate potential problems before they arise.

 

Industry evolution

In an ideal world, your industry will remain the same. You won’t have to worry about changes in the market or new competitors.

In reality, the market evolves.

You may have the best product at a particular time, but that may not be the case going forward.

How do you adapt to these changes?

You pay attention.

One of the best ways to do this is through your sales team.

Learning through sales – Your sales team is on the front line with new customers. This means that they get to learn deeply about your customers’ evolving problems. This is especially important for prospects you are yet to acquire – you get to learn about how the market sees your product.

If your reps have a positive attitude towards learning, you have the opportunity to uncover hidden demands and see how the industry is changing.

But you won’t be able to rely on just your sales team. Customer conversations are great, but sometimes you have to uncover needs and discover knowledge through your own means.

The most effective way to do so is through Design Thinking.

Design Thinking – This represents a method of innovation where you discover knowledge and uncover insights in the most efficient way. We touch on this in our article about why business leaders need scientific thinking, but here’s a quick overview. The Design Thinking process consists of 5 iterative steps:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

The Design Thinking methodology is typically executed by your product, design and marketing teams. Through the above methods, your whole team will be learning in real time.

But that’s only if they’re encouraged to do so.

Learning of this sort needs to be a permanent fixture of the culture. It’s a way of working, not just one-off experiments.

The alternative risk is that you discover the market has shifted too late and you aren’t able to adapt. This is an issue that companies who are undergoing digital transformation may face.

 

How to foster learning

We’ve spoken about practical ways that learning can improve business outcomes through:

  • Onboarding and training
  • Your sales team identifying changing customer needs
  • Solving customer problems through support teams
  • Developing new products through design thinking

These are important channels for learning. But this assumes that your team actually cares.

After all, some people view learning as a form of work. What if your team members aren’t on the same page as you?

 

Employee engagement

 

Source: Dale Carnegie

 

If your team isn’t engaged, learning won’t happen.

It may happen by natural occurrence, but it won’t be utilized to effectively help your business. They may be learning things that could help you, but aren’t motivated enough to speak up about it.

If there’s no engagement, they likely aren’t going the extra mile to really understand how to improve your processes. In this case, the engagement of your employees will be a bottleneck in utilizing learning to increase innovation.

This is a huge topic in itself, but as a general rule of thumb to improve engagement you could try the following:

  • Ensure team members understand and internalize your vision
  • Foster team building and employee bonds through extracurricular activities
  • Ensure all team members feel valued and their work is recognized

 

Internal feedback

A large part of employee engagement is creating a healthy feedback culture. You need to set up lines of communication from the most junior employee all the way to the shareholders.

If you subscribe to the management philosophy of the past, you may come from the perspective that there isn’t anything you can learn from a junior. You may think a junior employee won’t be able to contribute to higher level decision making. They in no way can replace you, but all members of your team will have their own insights about what’s happening on the ground.

After all, it’s not you that’s talking to customers every day. You’re not the one building the product either. That means you’re probably missing a lot of key information about the execution side of things. Information that can help you more efficiently achieve your vision.

Creating employee feedback channels achieves two things:

  1. Increases your learning for strategic decisions – Learning from every member of your team gives you practical insights which you can use for strategy.
  2. Increases engagement, leading to better learning – Your employees will feel that they have influence on how the company moves forward, regardless of their position. This creates a sense of ownership which stimulates the desire to learn and solve problems.

 

Source: Glint

 

Once you have established a culture that is more conducive to learning, you have to ensure that they have the right tools. Employee engagement and feedback apps such as Glint or Insights ensure that every team member is heard.

 

Stimulating curiosity

You also need to think beyond operations when it comes to lifelong learning. Think about how to stimulate your company’s curiosity in general. Naturally, the best way to do this would be to hire curious people. But it’s still possible to create a more curious culture.

A few things you could do include:

  • Lunch and learn – Set up recurring events where industry leaders come in to talk. This could also be a great way to build stronger relations with your client network.
  • Subsidized books – The best way to stimulate curiosity is through interesting books – both audio and text. See if you can work out a deal with retail outlets for subsidized books.
  • Incentivize learning – You could set up company-wide bonuses or recognition for employees who share interesting ideas.

A lot of what curiosity is about involves following the ‘itch’. For different reasons, there are things that we are curious about at a particular time. If you go against this ‘itch’, then it doesn’t create the right environment for learning.

For that reason, you should expand the scope of learning to include things outside of your traditional business. It doesn’t even have to be about business. Just find interesting things in general that can feed their curiosity.

 

Next steps

Argopreneurs offers a 2 day transformation boot camp that can help you create a culture of lifelong learning. Our team of experts will study your situation and carefully guide you through best practices in corporate strategy, innovation, and leadership. Get in touch immediately for a consultation.

Peers suing together on mountain top

The Power of Peer Networks (1/2)

Since the beginning of the human experience, your survival depended mostly on the people around you.

 

As trade and commerce evolved, this continued to be of importance.

 

The most successful traders throughout history are those that set up networks around the globe.

 

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’.

 

Although an exaggeration, there is a lot of truth to it.

 

Whether it’s applying for work, breaking into Hollywood or acquiring customers – who you know matters. Talent and value can take you far – but to go further and get there faster you need to surround yourself with the right people.

 

You likely already know the value of having smart team members, aligned investors and advisers who are experienced in your industry.

 

But there’s another type of network you should invest in – your peers.

People vs product

 

 

Depending on your background, you may scoff at the idea of investing in your network.

 

It’s easy to think about cultivating networks from the stereotypical ‘schmoozing’ perspective.

 

For founders and executives who come from a technical background, this is more prominent.

 

Your focus is likely on delivering excellent value through your product offerings.

 

Founders and leaders from business, marketing, and sales backgrounds may have the opposite view. You may inherently realize the value of strong network building as you are more people-oriented.

 

Looking at the two perspectives, it’s obvious that you need a combination of both.

 

Business is about building things people want. It’s fundamentally a human domain. You aren’t building products for your own satisfaction. The aim is to get your product into the hands of people that need it. And one of the best ways to commercialize your products is through the networks you cultivate.

 

At its best, your network represents your platform for accessing the world of commerce.

 

Business networks

 

Before we talk about the benefits of a peer network, it’s important to take a look at the other types of business networks. That way, you can clearly see the unique value peer networks provide and how it amplifies your other networks.

 

Source: Business Advice

 

  • Investor networks – Having people that understand your vision is essential when giving up part of your company. You want a robust investor network to be able to find the few investors that are the right fit. And importantly, to keep them close in case you need an injection of cash.
  • Talent networksHaving a pool of talented professionals who can actualize your vision is the first network you have to build. But it’s an ongoing process – especially when you need to expand rapidly.
  • Supplier/partner networksYour partner network is essential to the processes and distribution of your products. These relationships are a mix of exchanged value and cultivated relationships. The strength of these networks affects your expansion and bottom line.
  • Customer networksThe customer network you build is the most important. It’s what we’re all in business for. Strong customer networks amplify your products reach through word of mouth.

 

Peer networks – the difference

 

When you take a look at the different types of business networks, there is one thing that binds them together.

 

These networks are conditional. 

 

What does that mean?

 

Your ability to cultivate these networks is purely about the results and value that you can provide. For the most part, the nature of these relationships are selfish.

 

Customers want the best product. Investors want a big return. Employees want to work for a market leader with growth potential. Partners are only loyal to the money you are helping them make.

 

Nothing said here should be surprising.

 

Although business is a human domain, the nature of the beast means that it can be cold and ruthless.

 

 If you aren’t meeting somebody’s needs, they don’t want to hear from you.

 

A different type of business network

 

A peer network is about cultivating the people who are walking the same path as you.

 

This could be other founders, entrepreneurs and executives. 

 

Peer networks are unique in the sense that they bring out the human side of business. It’s no longer purely about driving results and adding value. Peer networks are more unconditional in their nature.

 

Why is there a difference?

 

With peer networks, you aren’t beholden to produce for anyone.

 

Instead, you are all producers, and you are on the same journey together.

 

There’s no underlying tension with your peers. You will find people who want to help you. Not because they want something in return, but simply because they understand where you are coming from. And likewise, you would want to help them for the same reason.

 

These networks differ from other business relationships in many ways:

 

  1. The group is comprised of people in the same position as you
  2. There’s no underlying tension to deliver
  3. They are more open and authentic
  4. You can talk about and solve problems relevant to your role
  5. You can use these networks to amplify your other networks

 

Examples of peer networks

 

 

 

One relevant example for business leaders is the Young Presidents’ Organization.

 

As the name suggests, it is an organization for entrepreneurs and leaders under the age of 45 who are executives that meet a certain threshold in each industry. This threshold is typically quantified in terms of total employees or annual revenue.

 

To give you some perspective, the YPO has been operating since 1950, with 24,000 members in 130 countries. It’s one of the oldest peer networks for business leaders. Some notable members include:

 

  • Charles Schwab – Founder and CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation
  • Sheryl SandbergCOO of Facebook
  • Robert Wood Johnson llPresident of Johnson and Johnson
  • Penny Pritzker – US secretary of commerce

 

How they work

 

Networks such as the YPO typically operate in a decentralized way, with local chapters in each city. 

 

The chapter serves as your home where you will meet regularly, learn, socialize and share ideas. With local chapters,  you get the benefit of meeting people who operate in your local economy.

 

This is particularly useful if your business relies on locality. The locality of your peers also goes a long way to creating lasting bonds that you can rely on.

 

Peer networks also provide ways to connect at regional, national and international levels through forums and conferences.

 

There are also means to connect based on interests and industry through online networking and webinars. A combination of which can give you access to people you wouldn’t have met under normal circumstances.

 

Benefits of peer networks

 

In part 2, we will go into detail about the benefits of peer networks and how they can drive results. If you would like to learn more about different peer networks, inquire today about the Argonauts Club. It’s our exclusive network for successful entrepreneurs where you can meet your peers, learn, grow and succeed.

Strong peer network help you climb every mountain

The Power of Peer Networks (2/2)

In part one, we introduced the different types of business networks. We spoke about how peer networks such as the YPO are distinctively different from other networks. Let’s now take a look in detail about the benefits you can receive from peer networks.

 

Amplification of business networks

Driving business results is the most tangible reason to have a strong peer network. In the previous article, we looked at the different types of business networks which were:

  • Client networks
  • Partner/supplier networks
  • Investor networks
  • Talent networks

Your peer network has the capability to increase the effects of your other business networks. You could view it as the ‘network of networks’ in the sense that it sits at the heart of everything else.

 

Amplifying client networks

 

The strength of your business networks affects your outcomes.

The larger your client networks, the more customers you have access to. When joining a peer network like YPO or EO, you could make friends with people who could become customers.

Is there a big account that your team has struggled with? What if you could have face time or get a referral to somebody in their leadership team? That’s the power that being part of a peer network can give you. It can give you the ability to reach into accounts that you would not have access to traditionally. 

As it’s a shared environment, there is also more trust as the relationship begins in a more lighthearted setting. It’s the closest thing to being part of a modern ‘old boys club’.

 

Amplifying partner networks

You are also likely to run into people who could be lucrative business partners. 

This could be in the form of

  • Distribution
  • Suppliers
  • Technology partners

By building close relationships through a peer network, you can expand your reach by finding common ground in a trusted environment.

 

Amplifying investor networks

Source: Favilla World

 

In a peer network, you will find leaders of companies both large and small. Some of these companies could be important financial partners: both in terms of raising capital and company restructuring. If you join an executive peer network, many of these leaders will have access to their own broad investor network. And if there is ever a time when you need to inject new capital in your business, your peer network can be the first place you look for new introductions.

 

Amplifying talent networks

Leaders in your peer network will likely also have access to a wide pool of talent they have worked with. If you are headhunting for a hard to fill role, it may be difficult to do so through conventional means. Often times, talented executives can be picky. They are usually coveted and can join any company they wish. But through a peer network, you can get direct introductions to people who would be a great fit for your company.

Through this network, you have an advantage over companies who are using impersonal headhunting techniques to attract them. If you can get a strong recommendation from one of your peers, then all the better.

 

Learning

Source: Total Mastery

 

Whichever organization you choose to join, you will find lifelong learning to be at the forefrontThere is only so much you can learn from books and your own experience. Sometimes, the best way to learn is from people that have been there already. 

It’s almost like a cheat code to life. 

You get access to the right answers in the shortest space of time.

 

Other’s mistakes

Through your peers, it’s possible to avoid costly mistakes. More often than not, the path we are on has been walked before. Most challenges in each generation of business are experienced by the majority of companies. Whether that’s digital transformation, dealing with globalization or getting hiring right. Through a strong peer network, you can achieve your vision faster through fewer bottlenecks. It allows you to avoid the common mistakes that you may have been blind to.

 

Problem solving

You may have a particular problem that you are finding difficult to solve. It may be strategic or process-oriented. Either way, sometimes a problem is best solved when you bring new perspectives to the table. This way, you can escape the often one dimensional way of seeing things.

Your peers can help you with this in three ways:

  1. They can bring different perspectives to solving the problem
  2. They aren’t emotionally invested so are unbiased
  3. They may have experienced the problem themselves and can tell you the solution directly

 

Organized initiatives

 

Besides an MBA, there isn’t any formal education on how to be a business leader. And even an MBA doesn’t always reflect the practicalities of the situation on the ground. For the most part, business leaders learn their job through experience, self-study and reaching out to peers.

Organizations like YPO and EO create structured learning initiatives. These are based on their network’s collective experience. And unlike an education from a university, the knowledge shared has all been thoroughly tested. It’s not just theory.

These learning programs are practical ways to help you become a better leader. You no longer have to figure it out yourself or manually reach out to people.

 

Emotional support

Aside from acting as an amplifier and a fast-track to learning, peer networks are unique in that they are unconditional. 

Although there is typically an entry requirement, the nature of the relationships within the organization isn’t based on what you can provide. This creates an environment which is much more open and authentic.

Your peers are also all on a similar journey. They can empathize with your experience. 

This means that your peer network is probably the only place where you can really open up. This network provides you with the opportunity to discuss:

 

  • Your business problems – No matter how good your relationships are, there are simply some things you can’t discuss with your business network. It’s always expected that business leaders put on a strong face and act like everything is running smoothly.
  • Personal problems – In a similar vein, you may have personal problems that you can’t discuss with either business acquaintances or family.
  • Fears and anxieties – Mental health in business is something that takes a backseat in the presence of our results-orientated culture. You can’t speak about it openly, but that’s the only way to deal with it. A peer network allows you to speak through your emotions.

 

But it shouldn’t only be about you.

It’s also important to be the listener among your peers. It’s helpful to understand the problems that others are facing. This way you gain more perspective into your situation. Listening also helps you build stronger relationships with people as they allow themselves to be vulnerable with you.

 

Genuine friends

A side benefit of the emotional support and shared experiences is that you will start to develop genuine friendships with your peers.

Friendships are typically made when people see each other repeatedly with common interests. The strength of the friendship is deepened when people are able to open up and be themselvesLocal chapters and even online networking can achieve this. Some groups such as the YPO even have spousal or family retreats. These retreats allow business leaders to integrate their personal lives into the network. This strengthens the bonds between members even further.

 

Next Steps

Ultimately, peer networks have two main benefits:

  • Increasing business outcomes – This is achieved by amplifying your existing networks and solving your business problems through learning.
  • Humanize business relationshipsAs peer networks are more unconditional in their nature, you can relate to other business people on a more personal, genuine level.

 

Being a YPO member myself, I can tell you from a personal perspective that being part of a strong community of peers is a valuable experience, both professionally and personally.

Why Vision is a Leader’s Most Important Skill (2/2)

In the first part, I mentioned how vision is like the glue that brings business together. This metaphor will help you understand why having a concrete vision is important.

Creating a great business is hard. Bringing together a great team, identifying markets, solving customer problems and fending off competition. These are just a few things you have to deal with. And without a concrete vision about why your company exists and what you believe in, excelling in these areas is much harder.

Your ability to harmonize the various aspects of business through a strong vision is key.

To illustrate why, let’s take a look at a charismatic visionary: Elon Musk.

 

An example of a strong vision

 

Source: CBInsights

 

Musk is one of the founders of PayPal. He went on to found SpaceX and Tesla Motors, which he both actively runs. He is also the founder of Open AI, the Boring Company and various smaller ventures. Some even describe him as ‘Ironman’, in reference to the superhero who shares the same inventiveness and desire to take on the world.

But what is it that distinguishes Musk from other entrepreneurs? He’s smart, but there are thousands of smart entrepreneurs who aren’t as successful.

What sets him apart is his otherworldly vision for the future.

And I mean that literally – SpaceX’s vision is to make humanity a multi-planetary species. Likewise, Tesla Motors vision statement is to drive the transition to sustainable vehicles.

 

Source: Market Watch

 

Through this strong sense of purpose, Musk is able to do what others aren’t. He is able to thrive despite the many setbacks he’s faced. Here’s how Musk’s vision impacts his business:

  • Building a team – Musk’s compelling vision appeals to the talented and idealistic. The best people aren’t just looking for a job, they’re looking to change the world. Through working with Musk, they’re able to do so.
  • Overcoming adversity  – Musk has overcome a huge amount of adversity. First, he struggled to get funding for his ideas. He faces negative PR, funded from incumbents in the car industry. And all the time, has to overcome difficult technical challenges. Yet at every stage, he has managed to succeed – something only possible with a strong purpose.
  • Penetrating the market Tesla is making waves in the centuries old automobile industry. It’s an industry with high barriers to entry, powerful lobbies and red tape that keeps upstarts at bay. In Q2 2018, Tesla shipped 40,740 vehicles. Considering his cars range in price from $55,000 to $100,000, Tesla is doing very well.
  • Spotting opportunitiesHow many entrepreneurs can go toe to toe with the American, Chinese and Russian governments? Musk’s SpaceX brought spaceflight into the private domain. Where other entrepreneurs shied away, he had the vision to seize the opportunity.

 

Creating a compelling vision

 

You should now have a greater understanding of the importance of having a vision.

Now it’s time to turn inwards.

Start thinking about your current situation. Do you even have a vision? Or is it just a vague idea about what you do and how you do it?

Worse, are you on autopilot with no clear sight of where your organization is going?

 

Making it concrete

 

You probably have some idea of where you are taking your business. But having a vague idea of your purpose isn’t going to give you the effect that you need.

A fuzzy vision won’t remind your people about why they come into work everyday. It isn’t going to give them the fuel they need to do their best work.

Likewise, if your customers don’t get a sense of what you represent then you are missing out on a key competitive edge. Do you want your customers to think about you based on what your product does? Or would you rather they align with your brand as an expression of their values?

A study by researchers at the University of Bangkok and Macquaire University found that there were 7 aspects of a powerful vision. They were:

  • Conciseness
  • Clarity
  • Future orientation
  • Stability
  • Challenge
  • Abstractness
  • Ability to inspire

 

These factors play an important role in the message that you are trying to communicate. But it’s also important to look at the factors that inform your vision in the first place.

In other words, how do you find your why?

There are four steps that will help you construct your why.

 

1. Identify problems

Think about what problems your company is solving. Think about the implications of these problems and the effects if left unsolved.

For instance, let’s say you are a manufacturing company that produces parts for wheelchairs. The problem you are solving is that you are helping people to be more mobile. If left unsolved, people’s life quality will suffer.

 

2. See past it

Next, it’s important to go beyond what you are currently solving.

You need to be able to see the forest from the trees.

In other words, you can’t just be fixated on your specific problem. You have to be thinking about the future and adjacent problems that you aren’t solving. You have to visualize how your organization can tackle the whole industry, both now and in the future.

In the example of the wheelchair manufacturing company, you could have a broader vision to give people lifelong access to great mobility. This would extend their focus past just wheelchair parts and more into the domain of personal transport. The emphasis of ‘great mobility’ could mean developing ways of enhancing general mobility – even for people without disabilities. This could mean inventing a completely new method of personal transport – something akin to a Segway.

 

3. Define values

Then you have to start thinking about what your company represents. What are the ideas, beliefs, and values that guide you as you go about solving these problems?

Think beyond profit. Do you represent honesty? Fairness? Changing the status quo? These are the values that give work meaning beyond simply earning a living.

With the example above, the company could embody values of freedom, equality of access and respect regardless of physical ability.

 

4. Create a story with meaning

Finally, you want to bring it all together to create a story that has meaning. You now exist to represent a mission. Your organization is embarking on a new journey.

We are Mobility Manufacturers Inc. Our company represents freedom, equality of access and respect for all. The reason we exist is that everyone should have the ability to easily and efficiently move around our shared planet. We started 5 years ago when we personally experienced the difficulties and lack of access that disabled people have to deal with.

 

 

Next steps

 

One final aspect of developing a vision lies within yourself as a leader.

You may have a compelling vision, but you need to embody and represent it. The vision has to be communicated through you. And for it to resonate, it has to be congruent with who you are.

With our vision workshops, we help you formulate your corporate vision. And mostly importantly, become a charismatic visionary yourself.

If you feel lacking in regards to the strength of your vision, reach out to us today.

Why Vision Is a Leader’s Most Important Skill (1/2)

What makes a great company?

 

Every industry has various companies competing for market share.

 

Yet, there always seem to be a few outliers. These companies dominate and make it hard for competitors to displace them.

 

Vast hours have been dedicated to answering this question. The best academics and consultants have all tried to figure it out. With good reason – 80% of entrepreneurs fail within 18 months of business.

 

But nobody can agree on a single, definitive factor. Business can’t be reduced to a simple formula.

 

Instead, there are many factors colluding to create the stopping power of the most successful businesses. Factors such as team, market and customer demands.

 

There is one factor that brings them all together, however. There is a metaphorical  ‘glue’ that gives meaning, direction and coordination to the various elements of successful business.  

 

The ‘glue’ i’m referring to is vision.

 

By providing a destination and purpose for the organization, a powerful vision is capable of bringing people together to define an industry.

 

Destination and purpose

 

Vision acts as the destination and purpose of an organization’s existence.

 

Where do you want to end up?

 

In order to make progress towards something, you have to know what you are aiming for.

 

You need a target – a goal.

 

Vision represents a combination of the two. It is having a moving target that you are continually trying to hit. And also, an idealistic endgame.

 

Vision represents how your company moves on a day to day basis. It’s the driving force that energizes your people as they build products and interact with customers.

 

It also represents the big why – the big change that you want to see in the world.

 

If we actualize our vision, how will the world be different?

 

Understanding vision

 

The story of Steve Jobs has been told countless times. It’s been dissected and taught throughout business schools. It’s even been made into movie (more than one actually).

 

But the reason why it’s effective is that the message is clear and easy to understand.

 

Especially if we want to define and understand vision.

 

Source: Engadget

 

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak changed the world. They built one of the most successful companies of all time. They named it Apple, Inc.

 

The name itself doesn’t seem fit for a computer company. Had they been working with business consultants at the time, they would have walked out in protest.

 

But the name itself gives insight into where Jobs was coming from.

 

He wanted to be different. He wanted to challenge the status quo. He was the ‘square peg’ that society wanted to fit in the ‘round hole’. He rejected this idea.

 

He believed that personal computers should be in the hands of everyday people.  Not just business executives. He wanted to empower the masses by giving them tools to advance the mind. He wanted these computers to have an intuitive user experience – designed for the everyday person. He wanted to beautify and democratize access to technology.

 

That was his vision.

 

The how, the why and the what

 

In his best selling book, ‘Start With the Why’, Simon Sinek created a model that encapsulates what vision is.

 

Source: Simon Sinek

 

In what he calls the golden circle, there are three aspects: the why, the how and the what. Here is some further clarity:

 

  • The Why – This circle represents the problem or need you are solving. It also represents the shift in the status quo that you are trying to bring about. You could be solving the problem of internet connectivity in Africa. But your broader why is to bring the human family together.
  • The HowAlone, the why of your vision is just a dream. There needs to be a pragmatic road map that leads to the achievement of the why. This is the building aspect where processes and systems are put in place to achieve the vision.
  • The WhatThe final circle refers to the output of the two inner circles. What is the product or service that is being built in relation to the vision? What are the features that allows it to solve that particular problem?

 

Starting with why

 

Having vision is about the why of what you do. The best businesses are laser focused on the problem they are solving. But they go further. They have a definitive mission which goes beyond that particular problem. And ideally, they define a new status quo. 

 

Here are some examples of company vision and their why:

 

Facebook – To give people the power to share and make the world more connected.

 

Apple – To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind. (This was quoted from Steve Jobs as his original vision).

 

Google – To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

 

Amazon – To be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

 

TED – To spread ideas.

 

None of these vision statements talk about what they do. Nor do they mention how they do it. But in the background, these are the factors that allowed them to achieve the why. Hence, the why, how and what are all interconnected and codependent.

 

Google doesn’t speak of the complexities that their search algorithms have. But it’s this robust technology that allowed them to organize the world’s information. This despite there being others on the same mission.

 

Apple’s original vision statement isn’t about how aesthetic their products are – although this was a core part of how they achieved their vision. Instead, there is a greater feeling of revolution and empowerment. Great user experience was just a means to achieve that.

 

In all, although the how and what of vision is important (critical to achieving it), the why has to come first. Otherwise, there is no concrete destination to build towards.

 

Becoming a visionary

 

In the next part, we’ll expand on why vision is important. We’ll talk through how entrepreneurs with vision are better suited to navigate the challenges of business. We will also take a look at practical steps that you can use to develop your vision.

 

If you feel you need hands on help, Argopreneurs offers a 1-3 day workshop that will allow you to create a sustainable corporate vision. We will help you set your entrepreneurial goals and define the steps required to get there.

 

Reach out to us today by email or phone for a quick chat.

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