An organization needs a purpose, an intention – that is the core of its identity. Identity starts even before the vision, it is something that stays, something like the good cause the company stands for.
This deliberately has a moral undertone: it is meant to be rousing, to inspire people, and to give them an orientation and a backing of values.
Intent, Purpose, and the Start with Why
Using an example of two product presentations (described by Simon Sinek, in this case Microsoft Zune and Apple iPod) by Microsoft and Apple, it becomes clear how the existence of an intention becomes visible:
- At the Microsoft presentation of Zune, the majority of the presenters devoted a good portion of their presentations to how they would beat Apple.
- At the Apple event, 100 percent of the speakers spent 100 percent of their time talking about how Apple is trying to help teachers teach and students learn.
Microsoft had chosen a metric (“beat Apple at music players”), but it didn’t offer them any help on how to proceed with the next product. And just as “after the game is before the game”, the same applies: after every product comes the next. Only a consistent perspective gives the continuous long-term orientation.
Apple had this north star, this end-to-end orientation: to create the best user experience for its customers. And that gave them an advantage, gave them the resilience to perform properly under changing demands.
It should also be noted that in its early days (under Bill Gates), Microsoft did indeed set itself a purpose: “information at your fingertips”, i.e. to make information easily available to everyone at all times.
If one can say something general about a vision, then that should include
- Create a vision based on your users’ needs, not assumptions and the bottom line (though of course that will matter at some point). Think long term.
- Find your North Star. In most cases, it will be answering the questions, “How can we best serve potential users with unique, valuable, and actionable content?” and “What unmet needs or unanswered questions might they have?”
You will try (or have tried) many different strategies, and some have been more successful than others, but what is even more important than the trying is the process to review and adjust the vision.
- Is the vision in line with our identity, our purpose
- Does the vision put customer benefit first
- Is the vision compelling to employees, customers and public perception? Can it produce emotions that release additional energy?