Vision Gone Wrong: Volume 2

Too Short & Not Sweet

If your best friend came up to you and exclaimed, “I had an amazing vision yesterday!”  Would you be interested?  Considering this is pretty rare, I definitely would be drawn into the conversation.

“Tell me more!” you reply,  leaning on the edge of your seat, making sure to capture every word.

Your friend says, “I had a vision of delivering happiness to customers!”  Then they walk away.

In stunned silence, you stand up and shrug your shoulders.  “That’s it?”

Pretty weird situation to imagine, of course I’ve never had a conversation like that.  I doubt you have either.  But for a moment let’s just imagine that your best friend did approach you with a dream or a vision for their future that they were excited about.  What do you expect that conversation would be like?  Is it really possible to share an exciting vision of your future with your best friend in ONE SENTENCE?  No way.

I can imagine how it would look for me.  First of all, it would absolutely include a cup of really good coffee.  We would sit down, and I would get comfortable.  If somebody is about to lay out their vision, I’m in my most active listening mindset.  As they talk, it pulls me in. I can imagine myself and them in that future.  They describe what they see, I ask questions, they keep going.  We might stretch the vision even further or get into a series of “Yes! And…” moments.

My point is, you can’t inspire anybody to understand your vision in one sentence in real life.  So why do we have one sentence long vision statements in business?  Here is the example of a large, well known, company vision statement I used in the intro story:

“Our vision is delivering happiness to customers, employees and vendors.”

If you didn’t read my disclaimer from Volume 1, then you might review it now.  When you read this vision, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  For me, it was like I kept waiting for more information.  It’s a joke without a punch-line or a song that just ends abruptly.

  • What exactly do you mean by happiness?  How are you going to do that?
  • Who are the customers?  Do they like your version of happy?
  • Is there a difference between customers, employees and vendors that changes what you mean by delivering happiness?
  • What does this company even do?
  • How will we know if we are succeeding at delivering happiness?
  • More vacation makes me happy, can I have that?

Are you with me?  One of the major mental recalibrations from the Zingerman’s teaching on visioning is that the length should be much more than one sentence.  How much is up to you, of course.  But think of your vision as a sit down over coffee chat, not a banner behind an airplane.  To achieve this, an amazing (and simple) practice called the “hot pen” is taught by Ari and the ZingTrain team.

Hot pen is exactly what it sounds like.  You set aside a minimum of 15 minutes (but I prefer 30 or more) and start writing your vision… then you don’t stop.  You can’t stop. You don’t allow yourself to stop.  If you get stuck, you write the lyrics of “Mary had a little lamb” until you think of something else for your vision.  If you write something you don’t like, you leave it on the page and keep moving.  No editing, no deep thinking trying to figure it out first.  Just write the vision and keep writing until the time ends (or longer if you are still on a roll).

The way I describe my first experience with hot pen is that after 5-10 minutes of writing down what my logical side says I’m supposed to write down, I finally broke through the crust of my brain.  It will sound cliché, but the authenticity of what hits the page will surprise you after 10 minutes of hot pen.  At least, that has been my experience and many others who have been through ZingTrain.

Want an idea of how long a vision can be?  I love the Zingerman’s 2020 Vision.  It’s 8 pages long, and would be a great read over a cup of (really great Zingerman’s) coffee.

Don’t follow conventional MBA thinking about vision.  When you sit down, close your eyes, and imagine a better future… can you possibly describe what is happening in your mind’s eye in a few words?  Neither can I.

Too short is not sweet when it comes to vision.

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