The Visioning Innovation Style

“Let’s develop a clear sense of purpose and vision to meet this challenge.”

Some people like to focus on the long-term end-result. They have a vision of what they want to create and are comfortable letting their goals be their guide. They emphasize the Visioning style. People who favor this style are persistent, determined, hard working and visionary as they provide a group with direction, inspiration, and momentum. They trust their instincts and like to make decisions. Driven by their long-term goals and their organization’s mission, they seek solutions that focus on maximizing future potential.

When Stephen Arnold was General Manager of the Education and Games Division at Lucasfilm Limited, he used the Visioning style to meet his immediate business needs, to lead his industry, and to set the goals that could change the face of education:

"As a production organization, we're trying to design and develop exciting and successful entertainment and education products using interactive technology. Our bigger business purpose is actually to evolve the state of the art in interactive media. I do in fact go out into the future and figure out what it ought to be like. Then I turn around and look back to see what the pathway is, from the present to that future."

A Visioning Moment in History

In 1213, a group of English barons banded together with a common vision: to limit the absolute power of the king and to promise justice to all free men in the kingdom. They presented a document to King John, who refused to sign it. It took two years and the force of an army to convince the king to sign this cornerstone of English liberty and democracy, the Magna Carta in 1215.

A Famous Visioning Innovation

"If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I'll do it myself."

With that determined proclamation, Josephine Cochrane, wife of an Illinois politician in the 1880's, set out to invent a major kitchen appliance - not because Mrs. Cochrane was fed up with the humdrum chore of dirty dishes; she was a wealthy woman with a full staff of servants. Josephine Cochrane frequently gave formal dinners and was tired of servants breaking her expensive china. Every party ended with shattered dishes, which took months to replace by mail. A machine seemed like an ideal solution.

In a woodshed adjoining her home, she measured her dinnerware and then fashioned individual wire compartments for plates, saucers, and cups. The compartments fastened around the circumference of a wheel that rested in a large, copper boiler. As a motor turned the wheel, hot soapy water squirted up from the bottom of the boiler and showered the dinnerware. The design was crude but effective and so impressed her circle of friends that they dubbed the invention the "Cochrane Dishwasher" and placed orders for machines for their kitchens.

Visioning At a Glance

How does this style support innovation?

  • By seeing the “big picture” and providing long-term direction
  • By inspiring commitment and momentum towards a far-reaching
  • By supplying bold, far-reaching, imaginative ideas

How can this style hinder innovation?

  • By resisting options that don’t fit into the vision
  • By focusing on the future and neglecting important details in the present
  • By being unrealistic about the level of change and resistance involved in achieving a vision

What key questions does this style ask to stimulate new ideas?

  • What is the ideal long-term solution?
  • What if we started from scratch?
  • What do we really wish we could achieve?
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