How to Create a New Vision Statement in Under Five Minutes
There is a Tesla Roadster whirling through space. Elon Musk put it there.
It sounds like the plot setup for an Austin Powers reboot, but it’s a real thing. When it comes to Vision, SpaceX sets the bar pretty high. While we can’t all be in the rocket-to-Mars business, there are a few things we can learn from SpaceX about the power of Vision. When a team makes a strong declaration for the future, it can motivate people to do incredible things.
What’s a Vision Statement?
Let’s get definitions out of the way. Mission and Vision Statements are easily confused. Historically, these statements answered a couple basic questions:
What future would your company like to create? (Vision)
How are you going to create it? (Mission)
I used to think there was an important distinction between these two, but now I’m not so sure. The lines are getting blurred. The once conservative Mission and Vision posters found in boardrooms have been replaced with a wide array of newish concepts, including Slogans, Manifestos, Beliefs, Core Values, and Principles. We could argue the unique purposes of each of those, but the lines are often more about semantics than function. The formalities surrounding Mission and Vision statements are fading as fast as the office dress code. If there was ever a legitimate difference between the two, no one really seems to care as much about it now. What was once a Vision some call a Mission, and vice-versa. Here's an example from Airbnb’s website...
“...To create a world where people can belong when they travel by being connected to local cultures and having unique travel experiences.” - Airbnb
Airbnb’s Mission Statement also happens to be pretty visionary. Not much in the way of “how” included, but the point is made and it works. Employees will pick up a number of important queues, including the concepts of local culture and unique experience.
The New Rules of a Vision Statement
A Vision has always been something meant to inspire, but the strongest brands have added an additional facet. The best examples of the modern Vision statement answer two important questions about the intent of the business:
What future will your company make?
How will the world be better as a result?
Part two is new. There is an increasing expectation that businesses not just be about profit, but about doing some good for humanity. What many younger companies have realized is that the promise of a better tomorrow is something we can all get excited about.
“Transportation as reliable as running water.”
These new Vision statements not only tell us about the future of the business, but how we will all benefit in that future. They are used as tools to align current employees and recruit future ones. They are equal parts business strategy and marketing.
How to Create the New Vision Statement
Vision statements don’t have to be complicated. Here’s one way to start crafting your own. We prefer simple and to the point, but the new rules mean that there aren’t any rules, so be creative.
A World Where…
Get the team together and have everyone answer the following:
1. What business are we in? What do we sell?
Don’t get too abstract here. Starbucks might want to say they’re selling happiness in a cup, but they’re selling coffee dammit. You don’t need to get cute, just start with your product or service.
2. How does that make the world better?
Coffee actually does make people feel like they’re living better lives. How and why do people benefit from what you do?
3. Who is it better for?
Who is the customer? Who benefits? It could be everyone, but often that isn’t the case. Not everyone is going to benefit from a better way to treat cancer or an improved ballet shoe or whatever you might sell. If you can get specific on the audience, do it.
Now, with those questions answered, have everyone write a vision of the future by completing the following sentence:
We will create a world where... (describe idealized, better tomorrow)
Aim for something not yet accomplished and include your customer if it makes sense. Once you have a few versions, refine and decide on a final. The real magic isn’t in the wordsmithing, it’s in the discipline required to stick to it after it’s created.
Here are a few FICTIONAL examples of Vision statements created using this process. While not exactly home runs out of the gate, you can see after only spending thirty seconds coming up with these, that it can be a practical approach.
GIANT ECOMMERCE COMPANY:
A world where anyone can purchase everything they want online.
GIANT PHONE AND COMPUTER MANUFACTURER:
A world where every human has the power to shape the future with a personal computer.
NATIONAL DISCOUNT RETAILER
A world where people can buy any product, at the lowest price, to make their lives better.
A world where humans colonize Mars.
Creating a vision is just one of the prerequisites for successful organizational change. Download our Checklist for Change to make sure you're prepared for your next change initiative.
Now, go forth and dream big!
Do you know of other creative and inspiring Visions? Tell us @Bourbonfat on Twitter.