Having a vision is vital to a business. It is a way of motivating people and helps in communicating where the company will be in the near future. Most of us are familiar with one type of vision, the corporate vision, the other, not much. Here I will discuss the 2 and attempt to make a clear distinction between the two. Note though that one is not better than the other; both works together.
Vision in the context of business is defined as where the company wants to be in the future or how it sees itself in the future. This is how vision is defined in books and in schools. Also taught is how a vision statement starts: to be the number 1, to be the best or to be the leading company. Let us call this type of vision, corporate vision. To help the company arrive at a corporate vision, a study of the external and internal environment is done. An example of a corporate vision is that of Microsoft, which states: “A microcomputer on every desk and in every home running Microsoft software.”
However, there is a lesser known or unamed type of vision that I call founder’s vision. This type of vision comes from the intuition of the founder, it is some sort of an aha moment in the sense that the founder sees where the future is heading regardless of their skills or resources. Intuition is a sudden understanding of a situation for no apparent reason. In short, the answer suddenly comes.
Let’s go back to Microsoft for the example of the founder’s vision. Bill Gates & Paul Allen founded Microsoft in the 70’s. Their knowledge in computers started by learning how to program their school’s minicomputer. Before formally starting Microsoft that we know today, the partners tried selling their program they wrote called Traf-o-Data, a program that counts traffic. The company had little to no success with this product. They went their separate ways as they entered college. Allen went to school in another state and Gates in Harvard. It would be hard for them to continue what they’re doing if they are from from on another. To continue their venture, Allen dropped out of college to work for Honeywell, a computer company in Boston, where the school of Gates is. Allen now lives near Bill Gates.
One day, Allen was walking on his way to Gates’ dorm and on the newsstand, he saw a magazine, Popular Mechanics. What he saw on the cover brought him excitement. Excited about what he saw on the cover, he rushed to Gates and brought Gates to the exact newsstand to see the magazine’s cover and validate what his excitement. On the magazine’s cover is Altair Computer from a company in New Mexico called MITS. The computer was small enough to fit on a desk unlike those available on the market then. When Gates saw it, panic set in and said, “oh no! It is happening without us. People are going to write real software for this chip!” That was Gates and Allen’s founders’ vision. So they went on and seized the opportunity.
A founder’s vision has the following:
- The sudden understanding of the future.
- It was neither clear nor concrete yet a “vehicle to a reward” appeared.
- Seeing a connection between past and future.
Founder’s Vision does not come out of studying the environment though it helps. In the Gates and Allen example, both had an experience in the field of computer technology that gave them a feel of what the turning point will be, and when they saw the magazine, they knew the turning point had arrived, hence the founder’s vision. To further explain, having founder’s vision is like what Isaac Newton said in 1675: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” One needs the help of one’s past experiences and the information of those that came before to see clearly what is ahead.
So, here are 2 types of vision, corporate vision and founder’s vision. The corporate vision requires a study of the environment in order to predict the future outcome of the venture, while the founder’s vision is sudden and appears into our awareness because of the information we have that helps us see what lies ahead.