My inbox is flooded, my cell has 3% battery life and the housekeepers organized all the charging cables… somewhere. So instead of doing something useful to make up for taking a 2 hour nap at work today – hey it’s good to be the king – I’m going to answer something that people desperately beg me to teach them every day.
Overly simplified, it’s not much more than an easy punchline for Scott Adams to throw in the Dilbert comic and help disaffected middle-level management cope with their inability to come up with a better lie than the one they are copying from someone else. Quite simply:
Vision is a process of buying into the lie that someone else has figured out an answer to a problem that nobody else has figured out yet. When you see your bosses talk about the vision, company mission, agenda and even something as routine as promotions and company rank it’s all a plea to have you believe in a lie that might come true if we all wish hard enough.
But what if you haven’t completely given up on life and work?
Over time people become bored with their jobs, companies and lives and decide there are better ways to spend time. For some it’s drugs, for others it’s vacations and for some it’s spending 2 weeks fishing. Whatever it is, some people never see their work through to the eventual success and decide to quit without actually walking out the door. It happens to every mediocre business out there.
But it doesn’t have to.
Allow me to simplify this vision thing, at least in the way that I see it. I spend most of my time emailing, chatting, Facebooking, conference calling or just shooting @#%^ with my partners. When you talk to enough people you start to hear some common problems and you start to pitch different solutions or proposals – either stuff you’ve failed at or seeing what they have failed at so far. Then you think of a solution. Then you wonder if it would work. Then you do some quick math in your head and figure out if you could sell it and…
I know the problem. I know the solution. I’m pretty sure I could make $ marketing, selling and delivering the solution. The vision is the process of getting from where I’m at now to people using it to solve their problem.
It’s actually quite simple. It’s the process that’s troublesome.
The Foolproof Vision Making Process
In the past year we’ve launched three different companies. Two of them are already making money and the next one will in a few weeks. So allow me to share some tips.
Every day I talk to people who have no creative way of figuring out their way out of the box they’ve taped themselves into. It’s probably because I spend most of my time talking to people with technical backgrounds whose job it is to forsee potential problems instead of creative ways to get around them. If you’re one of those take a tennis ball and go hang out in your sales guys office. Keep on bouncing it against the wall behind them until they either jump up and catch it with their teeth or challenge you to a game of phone-handset-tennis-ball baseball world series. If you have more than one sales guy you can either start a fantasy league, betting pool or have the others play the outfield. No matter the process, once the first tie hits the ground you’ll be in the right mental state to work on your vision.
First: The first person you need to sell the dream to is yourself. One of the biggest problems small biz IT folks have is thinking that someone else has figured it all out. They haven’t. So start lying to yourself about the thing you’re about to produce – this way when you lie to your potential clients it will seem extremely genuine.
Second: Understand that your idea is stupid but hopefully nobody else can figure that out until they sign the check: market test your ideas. Call your clients, partners, colleagues, have a staff meeting. Lie until something strikes you down. If it doesn’t it’s safe to say you’ve got the divine go ahead!
Third: Stick with it. It’s easy to point out problems, it’s hard to work around them and actually build something. Everything is dumb, stupid and idiotic when you’re looking at the first draft. Revise. Refine. Redo. But the process of the lie becoming reality is what the vision is all about. This is the hardest part because it involves the most work and time.
Finally: Give it time to fail but have an exit strategy before you even start. I cannot stress this enough. Just because nobody cares about what you’ve done right away or people dismiss it doesn’t mean you’ve failed.. yet. Give it some time. Try to revise it, play with it. Some of the biggest opportunities I’ve missed aren’t in the projects I’ve lost to others, they are in projects that I was too impatient with and didn’t stick with. It also speaks a lot to the maturity of what you’re doing – if you have a 6 month horizon then who would ever sign a 1 year contract with you?
It’s easy to criticize, it’s hard to work. Before you can convince everyone else that you’ve figured something out you need to convince yourself. The process of selling the idea starts with the idea itself. Vision is the process of lying to yourself hard enough to believe you’re telling the truth to everyone else who is going to lie to themselves in the process of making you an honest person.