It is said, in many forms and forums, that the person least prepared for
the future is the one who is certain about what the future will be. Why
is this a universally accepted truth? I believe it is because no one ‘knows’
what the future will be. There are certainly ways of looking to what the
future may be like and some of these things are quite predictable--like
demographic projections. A visionary knows that the future can be what
one makes of it and that the very act of thinking about the future, changes
the future. So, being a visionary is about imagining but, also making
or engineering things that come to reality in a future time frame.
Having a business or enterprise vision without action can be a meaningless
exercise. It is dreaming. Dreams are good and helpful, but if they only
remain as dreams they are without importance. A dream translated into
action is the crux of being a business visionary. Hans von Seekt said,
“The essential thing is action”. And action has a critical
first stage: “a decision born from thought.” Thought. Decision.
What does this require?
In today’s organizational world we are most often involved in one
or more of the following activities. We would agree that to do these things
well requires thoughtful behavior, focused attention, and activity. So
thought is a part of this. We negotiate, we communicate, we develop and
manage budgets with a discipline required for success, we organize activities
and structures and processes, we apply technology-indeed some have postulated
that information technology does not support a business—they say
it IS the business because we are so dependent upon it, we deal with culture
and its powerful role in enabling or preventing actions. All of these
things are done within the context of an overriding ideology which, in
turn, guides how we go about doing them. These are actions best done by
thoughtful and judicious decision making. But is it visionary?
Visionary thinking demands and requires imagination. Imagination that deals
with the ‘becoming’, the ‘what will be’ question,
the ‘what should be question’. It is the ‘what if?’
of doing. Visioning requires judgment, a form of thinking and thought
which fully engages both sides of our brain at the same time in analysis
as well as creativity. Judgement also requires a thorough, if not complete,
knowledge of the organization: its history, scope, capability and values.
While this thought and understanding is informed by the past and the present,
it is not bound by them. Visioning requires wisdom. Wisdom traditionally
incorporates judgment and knowledge and we have already counted these
as components of a visionary thinker. Wisdom also incorporates deep knowledge
of people and what is true and right in a life of good character and conduct.
In this sense wisdom is a key component of applied vision. Visionary thinking
includes commitment to the ‘decision born of thought’ as von
Seekt so aptly says. The strength to act on a vision is what separates
visions from dreams. It incorporates a sense of the realistic without
being tied to the constraints of noise of the crowd.
Are visionaries misfits? Perhaps. But I choose to believe they are realistic
idealists who are motivated by the possible. They use techniques to validate
their thinking so that others can ‘see’ along with them. They
are humble because they are often alone. They are not seers who see the
future. They do not make predictions. They are, however, doers who dream
and dreamers who do. In short, a visionary is an Imangineer.