Posts tagged visionary
How To Become Visionary

So, as senior executives, what can we do to overcome our own biases that prevent us from seeing possible futures for our organizations and markets? In essence, how can we become visionary.

We have to become better at sensing by creating systems and routines to dismantle our biases, to put them in check, in order to see reality better. We have to disconnect ourselves from the way we have framed the world, from the way we understand the world, and try to glimpse the future through fresh eyes.

John Cage was an experimental composer born in 1912. He was a leading figure of the post-war avant garde movement. Like many artists, he constantly challenged his understanding of things and his own expertise. He questioned the very nature of what music was or what it could be. He said of himself, “I’m trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing.”

Every executive might take Cage’s words to heart.

If you want to see better, to sense, to be able to see around corners like Jack Welch, you need to put your habits in check. Unlearn what you know. Try to overcome some of your cognitive biases in order to see reality better and then, try to look forward and extrapolate possible futures.

This is not about data analysis, which breaks information down into smaller and smaller bits. This is about synthesis, about unifying, bringing everything together into the whole. This is about becoming visionary.

When we synthesize a pattern and feel the wholeness of it, we experience harmony or kalos. Our awareness is not defined by the rational, by analysis, but by a complete, emotional and intuitive understanding. This is the moment of having a vision, of recognizing truth. This is sensing.

Sensing the future starts by becoming open to possibility, by setting aside our attachment to current patterns and ways of understanding, and then, by recognizing the many human biases that surround you and your organization.

Any executive in any industry can develop routines and activities to see better and to foster values that support a dynamic sensing mindset and culture throughout the organization. Learning to sense better, becoming visionary in the face of uncertainty, is the first step toward organizational agility.

Fast innovations reduce investment risk

Firms have been moving away from large internal R&D operations and are using incubators and accelerators to develop and scale new products and services much faster.

Success comes more from the speed of these incubators and accelerators than from the initial quality of ideas offered for consideration. By making a small investment to test a large quantity of ideas in the incubation phase, a company reduces its risk when it chooses to make a bigger investment to build out and scale an innovation to bring to market or deliver new value propositions.

An incubator team made up of about 6-10 people (a mix of both intrapreneurs from inside the firm and entrepreneurs from outside) can iterate on up to 50 product ideas in three months, quickly moving from one idea to the next and killing off bad ideas early in the process before the company makes a larger investment to roll out a product.

The innovation team will engage both customers and people across the organization, soliciting rapid, continuous feedback.

The idea is to generate lots of ideas, weed out the bad ideas quickly, refine the business models for the winning ideas, and pass those winning business models onto the accelerator stage to go through a similar process to roll out and scale quickly.

A corporate incubator can derisk investment by building value propositions through the process of engaging the customer and people throughout the firm before a big investment to commercialize is made.

Severin Schwan, CEO of Roche, one of the world’s largest pharmaceuticals, says it’s important to establish stage gates early in the process to minimize investment risk: “Our aim is to find things that will one day be breakthrough innovations,” said Schwan in an interview with McKinsey Quarterly, “and to ‘derisk’ them during the early stage, to the point where they are not big gambles if they get to the late stage.”

At each stage-gate hurdle, the innovation team can:

• Stay the course with the design

• Pivot the design/business model

• Kill the project

When a project is killed or fails during these early stages, it’s a victory for the company. The firm hasn’t lost tens of millions of dollars by investing in an untested product.

Perhaps just as important, the company has learned something about what the customer wants. By killing the project, the organization is able to take what it learned and apply that knowledge toward finding a different value proposition for the customer.

Every step of the innovation process is an opportunity to learn more about the customer and market. This knowledge will help the company ultimately deliver better products and value propositions to the customer. And it will help guide the company’s strategic vision.