I like spending time visiting other people’s businesses. Not selling, per se, just observing. Seeing the culture, the employee interactions, trying to pick up on the social norms of an entirely different ecosystem. Like stepping off an airplane on a different continent, I like walking into a different organization’s world and feeling the culture shock hit me for the first time. Reversely, I feel very uncomfortable when I walk into an office and feel nothing at all. The culture, the ethos, the vibe screams status quo. The walls are taupe, the carpet is brown. The artwork on the walls was presumably stolen from a nearby motel when the office was first built in the early nineties. My soul takes a deep breath before going any further.
Spending time at Apple Park or the Googleplex has been some of my most inspirational moments as a leader. Simply walking around, knowing that what once was a dorm room or a garage is now a sprawling campus of interconnected buildings or a giant arc reactor (in the case of Apple Park). Knowing that everything was done on purpose. As if, back in that garage or that Stanford dorm room, this already existed in Larry’s or Sergey’s or Steve’s mind. And, just as Michelangelo, the past thirty years have simply been a process of chipping away anything that wasn’t their vision.
That’s the power of vision. To go from 2 people to 137,000 in the case of Apple or 114,000 in the case of Google requires vision. To build an organization that reflects a brand as honestly and comprehensively over 3 decades and that can survive a change in leadership like that of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Nike, and IBM (to name a few) requires vision. It also implies that vision is not simply a picture in your head of the future. Vision must be, therefore, a set of irrefutable laws that will, if unbroken and consistently applied day in and day out for as long as it takes, create the future of ones choosing. A set of laws that are so deeply ingrained in the heartbeat of everything that moves inside an organization that it becomes part of the DNA of everything inside of it. And once a part of the DNA of everything inside of it, those pieces, once they reproduce in the act of growing the organization, they reproduce that DNA.
I have met more than one leader who referred to themselves as a visionary. The problem was, after working with them or under them for some time, I had no idea what their vision was. Vision must be more than an idea in someone’s head.
Think about the list of organizations I cited earlier. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Nike, IBM…some of the largest, most successful organizations in the world. Apple went public in December of 1980 for $0.39 (adjusted to reflect stock splits). Today it trades for 282 times that amount, sitting at $109.94 as of this writing. Is it a coincidence that the most successful companies of our generation are also the companies that most reflect the vision of their founders the closest to this day?
Here are three questions I want you to think about in regard to your vision:
  • Is your vision communicated clearly, consistently, and confidently?
  • What are the irrefutable laws of your vision?
  • Is your vision BIG enough to inspire for the next 30 years?