I first came upon visioning when I was introduced to Zingerman’s, a gourmet food business based in America, named by Inc. Magazine ‘the coolest small company in America’.
Inc. said that the ‘vision’ the Zingerman’s partners came up with for the future of their community of businesses was ‘far better than anything a management-consulting firm could have devised for them’.
The Zingerman’s vision is defined as ‘a picture of the success of a project at a particular time in the future’.
A vision isn’t a strategic plan – which is the map to where you want to go. A vision is the actual destination. It’s a vivid description of what success looks and feels like for you – what you are able to achieve, and the effect it has on your staff. Successful visions are inspiring, based on sound thinking, written down and communicated.
The benefits of a vision are many and varied, including providing direction, a sense of purpose for the future and identifying what you will or won’t do. It helps to set priorities, align people and activities across an organisation and they should reflect a company’s values and beliefs. By defining a vision, you and your team have a clear picture of what you want and where you want to be and by doing so, you are more likely to realise it.
Does it work? Well, five years ago Team Absolute sat down and envisioned the type of agency we wanted to become and how different a day in the office would be in January 2019. We envisioned 11 things we thought would play a significant part in shaping the future of the agency.
I’m proud to report that looking back through the plan we made at the beginning of 2014, nine out of 11 have become a reality:
We are working with larger businesses around the UK, all with a turnover in excess of £5 million; we’ve expanded our team, won awards for great work, refurbished our offices and – best of all – there’s a shift in how we position ourselves and are perceived. No longer is our core business media relations; we are now an award winning, contemporary, smart, digitally-led, integrated communications consultancy which is still great at ‘traditional’ PR, but is no longer defined by it.
So without doubt I recommend ‘visioning’ which originally emerged in the States in the 1950s when Ron Lippitt and Ed Lindaman came up with the concept of ‘Preferred Futuring’ – a rather clunky name for a quite elegant process. They believed that when people focused on the end result rather than the litany of logistical issues, the energy level in a room went up. And by getting people to start thinking about what success was going to look and feel like, creative, out-of-the-box ideas flowed more freely.
Steve McDermott, named Europe’s leading motivational speaker, talks about how the boxer Muhammad Ali won fights by envisioning them in extreme detail. Ali called this ‘future history’. Steve gets audiences to do the same; ‘Think of your dreams, professionally and in your personal life, but imagine yourself two years from now, so you’re talking about your dreams as if they’ve already happened’. He says this encourages us to emotionally engage with our future achievements, increasing the likelihood of them actually happening. Steve goes as far as to say that most companies have little idea what business they’re actually in. “You say to them, why does your organisation exist and they reply ‘to make money’. That’s no mission or purpose. No reason to get out of bed in morning.”
Well, I got out of bed this morning feeling great about Absolute in 2019 and our vision for the next five years. So something’s definitely working.
By Rachael Whitson, MD, Absolute PR and Marketing