Spelling out how the world would be a better place if your innovation was widely adopted is a powerful way to inspire your team and those looking to invest in your company.
Sometimes some organisations pay lip service to their vision without doing enough to ensure it is embraced and acted on. They are reluctant to talk about their social purpose because they think shareholders are purely financially motivated and won’t see the value in it.
This misses the huge motivational potential a strong vision brings. Purpose is extremely important for job satisfaction and growth. Successful companies create a culture where people are committed to the vision.
Nike’s vision is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.)”. Nike cleverly captures the idea that athletic performance is relevant to everybody making itself relevant to its potential customers, elite athletes as well as its employees.
It is important to define a clear vision. “How would the world become a better place if your innovation was widely adopted?”. Start-ups need to articulate their vision by focusing on the human aspects that make it practical and engaging for everyone involved in the business. This can inspire employees, customers and investors.
As early as 2002, Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings expressed his dream for 20 years in the future. He dreamt of “becoming the best global entertainment distribution service. Licensing entertainment content around the world. Creating markets that are accessible to filmmakers.” In 2014, Netflix was the first streaming service to win an Emmy (for House of Cards) and now Netflix is a top entertainer winning 8 Oscars from 89 nominations.
Identify core values
It is important to flesh out the various ideas about what your business stands for with your team. It helps to hold a series of workshops with employees from each functional area, because people’s aims and principles are often different depending on their role in the business. This will identify the values at the heart of your business.
During workshops, you can ask employees why they think the company exists. Often feedback is surprising, but the aim is to clearly define your purpose in one or two sentences. Your purpose must be something that will remain constant, even if your business plans change. You can never completely fulfil your purpose – it should keep your company moving forward continuously.
Your purpose should have an emotional connection – how do you improve people’s lives and make the world a better place? You want people to wake up every morning feeling energized and excited about being a part of your company.
Innovative English soccer club Forest Green Rovers’, vision to be the world’s greenest football club is well underway. Sustainability is central to everything they do and they are proving that sports clubs can lead the fight against climate change. Owned by ‘green energy’ entrepreneur Dale Vince they are now trialling a kit made from coffee bean waste. All the match-day food is vegan, the pitch at their Innocent New Lawn ground is organic and mowed by electric mowers and irrigated with recycled water, and the club is powered 100% by renewables. An electric team bus is in the pipeline as well as an eco-friendly all wooden stadium.
Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia puts employees at the heart of the company and has a clear vision to protect the environment. Yvon Chouinard, founder, began to realize that pitons and the metal spikes used by mountain climbers, were damaging Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan peak. In 1972, his company’s catalogue became a showcase for “clean” climbing gear. Today, Patagonia is still making the conservation of resources — natural and human — a priority. “It’s very hard to produce a high-quality product without high-quality employees” the company says.
Look to a successful future
When your vision is clearly defined, test your strategy. Identify what activities you need to scale-up and whether your strategy will work long-term. In addition to your values and purpose, it is important to give your team something tangible to aim for. Set an ambitious 10-year goal and provide regular updates on the progress towards this. Reward your team when progress is made. There must be alignment between vision and business strategy.
A great example is the Barça Foundation. To achieve its vision of being the leading sports foundation in the world in terms of its social contribution to children and youths, it has worked in three strategic areas: prevention of violence, social Inclusion and education in vulnerable areas. The Foundation has developed different programmes to fight against violence, bullying and one for refugees.
A club’s vision should connect with people’s personal sense of purpose and motivate them to share your passion for your sport whether they are fans, players, employees, shareholders or customers. A shared vision is much more likely to become a reality.
Tania Vie Riba