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A collaborative team working together to build a shared vision towards their goals and success.
Posted by Laura Wendt | March 22, 2024 3:04:35 PM EDT


The Future is Ours to Write: The Critical Need for a Shared Vision in Business

In a world teeming with uncertainties and rapid transformations, the concept of a "guaranteed future" in the business realm remains as elusive as ever. Yet, as we navigate through the staggering changes brought about by recent years, one thing stands clear: the collective steps we take now to build a resilient, adaptable foundation will define our stability when the next wave of upheaval arrives.

Even without immediate turmoil, the need for a collective vision is paramount. Crafting a future together is not a task reserved for times of crisis; it is a continuous endeavor that defines the trajectory toward success.

By uniting in purpose and direction, businesses can transcend the ordinary, reaching plateaus of achievement that redefine what is possible. In this proactive, collaborative future creation, an organization finds its true north, steering towards a horizon of opportunities and reaching unprecedented potential.


Why a Shared Vision is Non-Negotiable 

A shared vision is not merely a nice-to-have; it's necessary for businesses aiming to make a mark. According to Jen Croneberger in a recent Forbes article, a missing vision “can create a stagnant workplace, a problem with engagement and a low bar for goal setting. It’s not just where companies want to be in the world, but where they want the world to be because of them. In the ‘Be, do, have’ of company culture, vision is the ‘be.’”

Furthermore, research shows the impact of a shared vision on tangible business results: According to a study by Bain & Company, among 500 firms over a 10-year period, those with a clearly defined vision had revenue growth 12 times higher than those without one (Zook & Allen, "The Founder's Mentality").

When an organization lacks a unified vision—an aligned-on future for where it is heading and what it aspires to achieve—its efforts can become disjointed and inefficient. Picture a team of rowers in a boat, each rowing in a different rhythm and direction. The lack of coordination not only hinders their progress but could also send them off course or, worse, cause them to collide and capsize. Similarly, in the absence of a clear and common vision, departments within a company might pursue conflicting priorities, wasting valuable resources and energy. This disunity can lead to missed opportunities, as the company's potential is scattered across a range of disjointed initiatives. Ultimately, this can result in lackluster performance and outcomes that fall far short of what could be achieved with a more aligned approach.


The Stark Reality: We're Not as Aligned as We Think

Most organizations believe they have a shared vision, but if you scratch beneath the surface, you'll find a starkly different reality. A Leadership IQ study of 21,000 employees found that only 29% of employees say their leader’s vision for the future always seems aligned with the organization’s.

No wonder, when team members are asked about their vision of the company's future, answers vary widely. This misalignment isn’t just hypothetical; it's a tangible gap that can be felt across an organization’s strategy and operations.


The Transformative Power of a Shared Vision

A shared vision, when genuinely embraced by an organization, becomes the heartbeat of its existence. It is the lens through which decisions are made and the beacon that guides the company's journey. However, the true power of a shared vision is unlocked when it transcends the abstract realm of ideas and is brought to life in the everyday actions of the individuals that make up the organization. It's not enough to have a vision statement tucked away in a business plan or pinned on a break room wall. It must be a living, breathing picture painted across the canvas of the organization's culture. 

This vision needs to be articulated with such clarity and passion that every team member can see themselves within it. Ideally, you would like to have a team that represents a cross-section of the company articulating this vision, such that every voice is represented. Team members should be able to envision not only the final outcome but also the impact of their individual contributions on the collective achievement. This level of detail and clarity turns a static vision into a dynamic force that inspires action and drives the organization toward its goals. It's like transforming a still photograph into a high-definition movie, where each scene motivates and propels the narrative forward, capturing the imagination and commitment of all who are part of it.


The Created Future: A New Paradigm

What if organizations flipped the script and created a future “from the future” instead of extrapolating the future from the past? Imagine defining where we want to be and then charting a course backward to the present. This approach encourages creativity, as noted by Peter Drucker, who famously said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

So, how do we begin? It starts with understanding that the future exists in the realm of language. By shifting our conversations, we, in turn, shift the reality we inhabit. This is not merely a philosophical exercise but a practical framework to ignite change, as supported by extensive research on organizational dynamics. 

Building upon this foundation, we approach the creation of the future by first vividly envisaging the desired outcome as if it has already come to pass. This detailed vision of the future becomes a beacon, guiding every decision and action. From this vision, we reverse engineer the steps necessary to arrive there, meticulously charting a course from the future back to the present. 

This method of 'backcasting' ensures that strategies are not constrained by present limitations or past experiences but are instead informed by the transformative potential of what could be. By aligning our actions with this envisioned future, we methodically construct the pathway to its actualization, transforming aspirational goals into tangible results. This is the essence of creating the future through language; it’s about crafting conversations and decisions that don't merely respond to the current reality but actively shape the reality we aim to achieve.


Conclusion: Envisioning a Shared Tomorrow

We stand at the cusp of a new dawn in business leadership, where the collective vision becomes the cornerstone of enduring success. By harnessing the power of language and shared ambition, we can construct a future that galvanizes hearts and minds toward a united destination. And so, the question now is not what the future holds, but rather, what future will we hold together?

As we redefine our trajectories, let's remember that the true measure of our success will be the shared stories of tomorrow we write today.