We had a couple of ‘visioning’ exercises today in the office, where teams had to create a vision for themselves. The session was split in to three slots. The first was where teams where told how to create a vision (this included a video on visioning). Then they broke in to teams to do brainstorming to come up with a vision and a roadmap to achieve the same. Then everyone assembled back and presented the vision and the road map to everyone.
I was in the audience during the presentations. Teams took turn to present the thought process (which was bay and large some issues that existed in the system), the vision and the roadmap to achieve the same.
There were two very interesting observations from the exercise. The first was that most of the teams came up with very long, detailed (sometimes complex) vision statements. There were a few that came up with one liners. The audience liked the latter more.
As I was watching this, it occurred to me that when we make a ‘vision statement’ in one sentence, the space around it contains enormous possibilities that really should characterize a vision. When the vision statement is something logical with long set of statements the space around that is missing. This reduces the vision to a simple act in the future. I think the same is true in most cases. When you can present a problem in the most concise manner, the possibility space for solutions is larger; this is the space for innovation. Many times we are unable to come up with innovative solutions to the problems is that we define the problem so much in detail that we drastically reduce the opportunity space around it.
The second was more interesting. Most of the vision statements (and the roadmap) typically consisted of things that weren’t happening as desired. This is in fact the negation of the past or even the denial of it. That means when we look ahead in to the future, actually what we see is a negative image of the past. For e.g when a team puts “Delivering Quality solutions” as a vision, what they really mean is that we have not been able to do that in the past. And in the future we want to change this.
The same thing happens if we set a vision for ourselves. The influence of the past on our psyche is so much that it restricts or confines your view of the future. For e.g you put a vision for you that you will be perfectly healthy in another one year, you are actually saying that you are not healthy now, and you do not approve that and it needs to change.
This is as if the vision is in the past, and not in the future!
What is the problem with creating such a vision? It not only reinforces the undesirable past, but also reinforces the sense of denial. If you have failed to set this right in the past, it also creates fear and doubt about the vision itself. These two are sufficient to make sure that you can never achieve the vision.
So what needs to happen when you create a vision, either for your own or a team or the organization? You need to put aside the past completely, keep the ‘opportunity space’ as open as possible and create a vision. Be aware of doubt , uncertainty or fear. Any trace of it, the vision is most likely a denial of the undesired past and the mind will do what ever it can to make sure that you don’t make it.
Also visioning is not the act of logical mind; but that of the creative mind. When your vision looks logiocally right and practically achievable, chances are that it’s not a vision, but just an act in the future.