Realising innovation: The importance of a vision for radical change

Realising innovation: The importance of a vision for radical change

In my recent article ‘The future is more predictable than you think: Five trends that will disrupt your business’ and from hosting a hotspot session at creative innovation conference Ci2015, what emerged is that although many businesses acknowledge the importance of innovation, they face two challenges: The concept of innovation is overwhelming and they struggle with finding a place to start.

The infographic below illustrates that:

  1. Most businesses are on board with the imperative to innovate.
  2. Emerging trends indicate – with some level of predictability – what the potential innovation opportunities are.
  3. Defining your vision is critical to knowing which parts of the future are the focus for your goals.
  4. A range of proven approaches will provide discipline in the execution.


The importance of a vision in a world of digital disruption


A strategy may change. A vision is something that will guide and inspire commitment and provide direction. It is something that a team can embrace with a sense of empowerment.

An interesting change is occurring across corporate and business Australia. Re-creating a vision is now seen as a critical part of innovating successfully, setting direction, and providing the freedom to work towards it in different ways. 

Passion and vision are leadership traits that inspire change. When John F. Kennedy gave his Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs, he stated that the United States had the vision of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”, even though the US didn’t yet have the means to do so. Kennedy’s vision not only inspired and united the public – it was independent of how the outcome would be achieved.

Although ‘radical’ visions may not necessarily be achievable in the short term, they help understand the broader context of change and anticipate where your vision may fall down.

In setting a vision you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Is my vision visionary enough to withstand change?

Guy Kawasaki talks about those who survive based on their vision being visionary and robust enough to withstand change.  For example:

  • Ice 1.0 – Ice cutters saw their business as chiseling blocks of ice from the frozen river and delivering it to houses. 
  • Ice 2.0 – Ice cutters discovered that the ice could be stored in cold storage and delivered in refrigerator trucks.
  • Ice 3.0 – Ice cutters went out of business with the invention of personal refrigerators (Ice 3.0). Customers could make their own ice now.

Is my vision big enough to get everyone (who needs to be) on board?

A few years ago I was working closely with an around-the-world yacht race. I recall Magnus Olsson, the inspiring captain of one of our teams, telling me:

“This is the best chance a yachtsperson will ever have, so we have all types competing to make up the crew. People do not get along,” he laughed. “The personalities, the cultural differences, the skill sets differ wildly. Why do you think people who don’t know each other, or even like each other yet, want to share a toothbrush?

“They share a vision to race around the world and cross the finish line first. To achieve that, they know that every ounce of weight in that boat matters, and if that puts them closer to achieving their vision, it’s not even discussed.”

The vision was so great that it unified the team members and inspired them to put aside any potential issues.

Will my vision outweigh the fear, resistance and challenges that anything new in business faces?

One evening, on a mountain climbing expedition in Russia, I learnt that a war zone had just been declared below and that above, conditions were so perilous that climbers had perished.

I had found myself in a dangerous situation that few would want to be in. I couldn’t change the conditions that either route presented to me. Yet my vision – of climbing the mountain – compelled me to choose one decision over the other. I overcame my fear of what lay above in order to reach the summit.


Questions to ask when setting your vision and focus


Keep in mind, the vision should weather a changing landscape and have a long-term aspiration. Think about what success feels like for the people in your vision. Make sure you put something wild out there that is inspiring – document it, refine it, get feedback and share it.

Ask the questions:

  • What do you value and aspire to?
  • Is your vision greater than your strategy?
  • What is the essence of your company and the difference it makes? 
  • If you were to take a snapshot of your situation now, and one in 5-10 years, how would the world, your customers or your community be different or better because you’d achieved your vision?

If the window opened and blew away all but one representation of my business – I would hold on to the vision. 

In my next article, I’ll share some recommendations for the choices of approach for any business to get started.

Kate Eriksson is the head of innovation at PwC Australia’s Digital Change services. A stalwart of the digital industry, Kate’s experience and network spans across some of the most iconic digital businesses in the world such as Google, Facebook, Skype and Twitter.


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