One of the qualities that an entrepreneur must have is the ability to envision the future. Vision might seem a lofty goal compared with the hard (and sometimes, harsh) realities of running a business. But without vision, navigation and decision-making becomes difficult. Vision helps simplify decision-making and an entrepreneur has to get hundreds of decisions right to have hopes of being successful. Without a view of the big picture, making even a small decision can appear to be a mountain to be climbed.
I have attached a lot of value to vision in my career as an entrepreneur. Sometimes, one gets it right. At other times, I have been plain wrong or a little early. I feel very uncomfortable without a long-term view of where the world is headed and how the things we are doing will make a big difference. I like to think of vision as a game-changer one which sets us apart from others because it gives me a clearer perspective on tomorrows world. There is no single view of the future. What I endeavour to do as an entrepreneur is to define a view of the future and work to make that a reality before others.
It is easy to underestimate the importance of vision. When one is faced with the nitty-gritty of making daily decisions to ensure that cash comes in quickly, the short-term gains precedence over the long-term. Even vision is set aside to focus solely on execution. But the question is whether one is running the right race. To build a vision of the future requires a lot of time and effort, and this can have an impact on the near-term. Successful entrepreneurs are those that can strike a balance between both, combining vision and execution.
So, what is vision? To me, vision is painting a picture of tomorrows world. It is about imagining a day in the life of your user with the products and services that you are making, and keeping in mind the changing competitive landscape. It is about thinking through pain points and crafting breakthrough solutions. It is about giving users an experience they may not even be asking for today. To build a vision of the future, one needs to come at it from multiple dimensions because technology and competition do not stand still.
Why is vision so important? For an early-stage company, one cannot compete and win the near-term battles, however well one executes. Others have a far better entrenched position. The entrepreneur needs to look beyond to the next cycle of disruptions that will come and build a vision around those. That is the time of dramatic upheaval and opportunities. The entrepreneur needs to prepare for that. It may take time for these opportunities to manifest. The enterprise needs enough cash and patience for the intervening years. It is not easy because todays pressures and deadlines will tend to take precedence. Entrepreneurs have to make sure vision is not sacrificed at the altar of the present.
Tomorrow: Mental Models