Whether you’re managing a company, a department, a brand, or your career, it’s important to have a clear picture of the future. As innovation becomes a driving force in virtually all industries, a clear vision provides a guide for where to take your entity.
A well-articulated vision tells you where you want to be in the future without getting bogged down in how you’ll get there. The “how” work comes with strategies, objectives and goals. If innovation is part of your future plans, it’s time to ensure your vision will effectively guide the way.
As we’ve seen over the years working with companies large and small, a vision is a popular term with a variety of definitions. Here’s our definition: A vision statement moves you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.
A vision describes an ideal future. It conveys a larger sense of purpose. It is inspirational and serves as a rallying cry for an organization, department, brand or person. It should be relevant, bold, authentic and succinct, and provide a guiding light for decision-making.
Vision statements come in all shapes and sizes. Here are a few corporate statements that follow a concise format. Often a one-line vision is followed by a few paragraphs that bring it to life.
Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time
Hallmark: To help people connect with one another and give voice to their feelings
Lego: To inspire children to explore and challenge their own creative potential
As these examples illustrate, strong vision statements are high concept, meaning that they provide the flexibility to innovate and move in many different directions.
Review Your Current Vision
With a new year upon us, now is an ideal time to revisit your current vision statement and decide if it still meets your needs, especially if it is over five years old.
Typically, strategies shift to address any changes in the environment while the vision holds steady. It’s important to periodically revisit your vision to make sure it still rings true. Determine if internal or external forces have dramatically changed over time to impact your vision. Ask yourself:
- Have your strengths changed?
- Has the competitive environment changed?
- Have your markets and customers changed? Are different needs driving the industry?
- Has the economy affected you?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time for an overhaul.
Create a Vision
If you don’t currently have a vision, or if you think it’s time for a new one, make it a goal to kick off the year with a clearly articulated vision that inspires and motivates.
The vision process requires that you look within, that you attempt to grasp what you stand for and what moves you – and how these strong feelings relate to what you want to accomplish.
We recently completed vision work for a brand at a major food company. Our goal was to create a vision and strategies to provide focus for the brand to grow over the next 5 years.
To lay the foundation for vision development, we led the brand team through a variety of creative exercises starting with the current situation and projecting to the future world. Here’s a high level overview of our process:
- Current Situation – Reflect on your core purpose, values, targets, products, competition, and brand personality. Identify strengths and opportunities. To uncover insights about key competitors, we asked small teams to create personals ads for each competitor to try to attract consumers to their brand. This exercise helped highlight competitive strengths.
- Future World – Imagine the impact of macro trends, think about the ideal core purpose, values, targets, products and brand personality. To fully explore the target of the future, our team created a giant collage of images that represented the lifestyle, mindset, hobbies and interests of the target. This visual representation provided rich insights that went beyond a typical demographic description.
- Synthesize – Identify key insights and create a short vision statement and supporting paragraphs that bring it to life. We asked pairs to create vision statements using insights from the foundation exercises. The team constructively evaluated each statement, listing what they liked and any concerns. We merged the best ideas from each draft into a final statement that represented a collaborative effort.
As a final step, it’s important to define the meaning behind the key words within the vision to make sure it is correctly interpreted. For example, our client’s final vision included the word “trust” and in this case, the team defined trust as building strong relationships with consumers, sharing values and offering science-based solutions.
Consider a vision statement as a living document that can be fine-tuned over time. Your goal is to move the vision from something that exists on paper to an idea that shapes daily life. If it is vivid and meaningful, your vision will inspire you to move in innovative new directions.