Building a vision is about developing mental models about the world one is in. One needs to understand technological change that is happening along many fronts. One also needs to understand history. In some cases, experience itself is a great teacher. Having lived through one era, some of the lessons from that world can be applied going ahead. Vision is about building these mental models and continuously enriching them based on new inputs that one receives from reading, conversations with people, and ones own thinking.
Vision takes time to develop. It is not just about that one Eureka moment. Theres a lot of hard work that needs to go into building the circumstances to create multiple smaller Eureka moments. Vision evolves in step functions, but with a lot of incremental enhancements along the way. Every once in a while, there will be a leap in thinking. But those small steps that build towards the big jump are equally important.
Vision can be a great differentiator. For entrepreneurs with little else, all they have is a dream to sell. What they need to do is to put forward a future that others who are needed to join them (team members, early adopters and investors) can be convinced about. The hardest part convincing other about the future that one is portraying. Passion of presentation makes a big difference. The entrepreneur has to believe in that vision. The challenge comes in convincing some of the non-believers that is a test of the visions strength. The non-believers may not change their mind but if they can be made to accept that what the entrepreneur is taking about is plausible, then that is a victory in itself.
The mental models work as building blocks in the development of the vision. They help enrich the view of the world and put a trajectory on the innovation that one is seeing around. The mental models necessarily have to be diverse because competitive barriers across industries are not as strong as they used to be. Technology is obviously a key component understanding emerging technologies and their impact is critical. It is also important to build mental models of the scenarios and businesses in different countries. For example, understanding China can help in projecting what will happen in India. At the same time, it is not about perfect copying. The mental model needs to also take into account differences (especially cultural) that exist and how they will play out.
Getting the timing right is perhaps the most important thing. The problem with entrepreneurs with vision is not that they can be late, but that they will be too early. Entrepreneurs are natural optimists so there is a proclivity to shortening time horizons in getting to the future. On this hinges the success of the enterprise. It is not necessarily about having a Plan B. What entrepreneurs need to think is how they can also manoeuvre others to act in a way that makes their vision become a reality faster. In a sense, this means creating an ecosystem which works to bring to life tomorrows world faster.
Tomorrow: A Personal View
TECH TALK The Value of Vision+T