The Visionary's Role in Innovation

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As an entrepreneur starting and growing different businesses over the last two decades, I have experienced a lot of ups and downs. As we all know, not every idea or vision finds ultimate success, and in fact, most do not! However, I have realized through exploration and looking at many new (and diverse) business ideas – and also watching product ideas come through Product Creation Studio – that there are core principles, philosophies, and actions that contribute to ultimate business success or failure.

Through my various ventures and experiences, I have seen the value and importance of the role of the Visionary. The Visionary is the person (or people) who have a new idea and are willing and able to hold that vision and see it through to completion. I play the Visionary role in my business ventures, and I enjoy having new ideas and exploring new opportunities – some of those ideas go forward and succeed, and some do not.

So, what is the Visionary’s role in the process? Here are some of my thoughts about how you can approach new ideas and carry out your vision to find ultimate success.

Define your vision.

Your vision is where it all begins. You have a great idea. You realize a need for something you want to solve, or maybe you have a passion you want to pursue. As a Visionary, you are excited and ready to make something happen. However, before you go too far down the path, stop and take a moment to define your vision.

During this period, focus only on what problem you are trying to solve and what it might look like to pursue. Keep in mind what it is you hope to accomplish. Don’t worry at this point about HOW you will make it happen, focus on what it will look like WHEN you make it happen. Visualizing your success is a great first step in understanding the value you will bring to people and what you will be working toward.

This is the time to explore your ideas. Don’t be afraid to consider alternatives that sound far-fetched – this brainstorming is essential in helping you hone and define what your real vision and goals will be.

Identify the purpose, evaluate the opportunity and assess your ability.

Next, identify the purpose, opportunity, and ability needed to bring your vision to fruition. It’s important to define the purpose at this stage fully and to understand the WHY behind your idea. Who will benefit? Will others support your idea?

At this point, you also need to understand the opportunity available by looking at the market conditions. What has already been done? What trends have seen success, and which ones have failed? Is what you have something people want or need? They don’t have to understand or know that they want or need it yet, but it needs to clear that it’s missing from the current landscape.

Next, articulate the value. How will this improve/change/innovate the existing status quo? For example, when Apple had the vision to create the iPod, CD’s were the status quo. Music lovers didn’t yet know that they wanted or needed an iPod, but Apple realized that they could create a better user experience by making music digitally available. They created a new product and business model for music consumption that revolutionized the way we listen, purchase, and store our music.

Is your business idea financially viable? Is there gain? Remember that money is an outcome, not a goal. If there is utility and need, the financial payoff will follow.

Do you have personal passion and enthusiasm for the opportunity and for making it real? Are there others who can align with you, share your passion and support your vision?

Is it feasible? Do you have the ability and the core competencies to do what it takes? Can you hire if needed? Can you make a financial sacrifice to gain from the reward?

These are all critical considerations that will help you determine if the idea has merit and if you have what it takes to see it through. If you don’t take the time to answer these questions before you begin, you will find yourself faltering later, and it’s likely that you will not succeed.

Be firmly married to your vision, but be open to a flexible path.

Once you have your vision defined and you’ve determined that it’s feasible to pursue, it’s time to take steps toward making it happen. It’s important to take things one step at a time. It can be overwhelming to think about how you’ll reach the vision. But the reality is that you don’t have to know that even now. Just take small steps every day that will move you closer toward the ultimate goal.

Take chances and try new things. Some things will work, and some won’t. Every small step you take at this point should be moving you closer to your vision.

You may often find yourself taking three steps forward, and one step back. That’s OK, as long as you are moving closer to the goal and realize that backward momentum can offer insights to a better path. You will never take a straight path if you’re doing something that has never been done before. Remember that you can always take a step in a different direction tomorrow if you need to. The key is to stay firm with the vision on where you’re going, stay in action, and be confident that the steps you’re taking will eventually get you there.

There are valuable lessons to be learned along the way in this meandering path. You’ll amass important data points about what is working, and what is not. Attempts and missteps inform and solidify the vision and provide valuable information about how to best make your vision a reality. Expect to do a lot of course correcting along the way and know that this is part of the process.

Build a team that shares the passion for your vision.

It takes a great team to make a big vision come true. Not only is being a single founder a lonely road, but it’s typical that no one person has the entire skill-set needed to bring a big vision to fruition.

Activate your network early for help finding the right team members. Share your vision enthusiastically with people you know. Do this as soon as you’re thinking about an idea, get feedback and support, and continue to do this as you build the team who will help you make your goal a reality.

A good team consists of many members: partners, employees, and community resources are all examples of a well-rounded team. Everyone you bring on board should invest in your vision, and be passionate about making it a reality.

When building a team, it’s important to be self-aware. Understand your strengths and have the humility also to know your weaknesses. Fill your team with people who can illuminate your blind spots and support your weaknesses. Build a team that leverages different perspectives and strengths to fulfill the vision. Recognize that building the perfect team isn’t always possible and that the players will shift over time. Be flexible to changing team members when needed to keep your vision moving forward.

People like to work in teams, and teams need a clear vision and direction to be effective. Teams look to the Visionary to provide direction, stay motivated and keep them focused on the goal.

Let your vision guide your journey.

The role of the Visionary is critical in creating and building new, innovative products. As a Visionary, it is essential to keep your vision top of mind throughout the entire process and to be a constant leader for your team in order to remind them what you are all working for. I have learned that Visionaries make things happen through clear goal-setting, understanding the opportunity, building the right team, remaining flexible and – most importantly – by never letting go of the vision.

Of course, fulfilling a business vision includes much more than the above, and there are the necessary logistics involved such as a solid business plan and a financial strategy. However, by remaining true to your vision throughout the process, you will be able to effectively clear the path and do whatever it takes to make it a reality.

Self-doubt is healthy on this journey; it keeps you in check. Even though the path may not look exactly like you had visualized, don't lose faith. If you push enough, you'll get there eventually.