I’ve been in boardrooms when that “Eureka!” moment happens: a vision is clarified, and those who have slogged through the journey of its articulation feel the magical unlock of possibilities occur. Opportunities abound, creativity is sparked, and fascination is unleashed. Purpose, intent, alignment, and messaging all seem to fall in place.
That moment often takes a hit when you share that vision with the entire company – and people just don’t care. Or, at least it seems that way as their eyes glaze over, and you feel as if you’ve hit a brick wall. When executives perceive apathy, lack of creativity, and disinterest in the collective success of the company, they often start down a path of chastising toward compliance. Or worse, they start second-guessing the strategy itself.
Recognize that people will not care about all facets of the company’s vision for innovation. This might be your baby, but if you expect others to be as enthusiastic as you are, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. However, you can get them to care, resonate, and jump in on areas they connect with. My years of experience working with innovation leaders have taught me that the best way to build enthusiasm and participation in your vision is to employ a few key strategies:
> Create a Rallying Cry. There needs to be at least one unifying element that everyone can fully understand and buy into. That becomes your rallying cry. “Reinvent the Company!” or “Fight the Enemy!” or “Delight Our Customers” or “Drive Radical Efficiency” – whatever it may be, you must capture the essence of your vision in a short, memorable statement that is easy to understand and repeat.
> Pave Many Paths. Buy-in does not need to be an all or nothing thing. Leaders need to outline a variety of ways to move the vision forward. Allow people to engage with the component(s) of the vision that they resonate most with. They like safety innovation? Cool. They can focus on that and forget the rest.
> Fight Inferiority. People reject things they don’t understand. There is not a single professional in any company that hasn’t at one point felt they didn’t understand something they should. They feel like a fake, or incompetent (this is true even for CEOs). Combat this by making humility the norm and curiosity the fuel. Learning organizations thrive, so create on ramps for people to learn about complex topics they might be interested in.
> Define Unconventional Roles. A great company vision requires a variety of personality types to come together. You don’t just need inventors or creatives. You also need project management gurus, engineering type tweakers, compelling sales people, empathetic marketers, and finance wizards. The best innovation work is driven by a very diverse set of employees all bringing their unique skills to the table. Invite that by defining those roles upfront.
> Allow for Permutation. Engagement will inevitably trigger evolution of your vision. When smart people engage with what was cooked up in a boardroom, they are bound to adapt it iteratively as they go. Ultimately, this may mean that the vision come to life looks a little different than its original incarnation. That’s okay – and it can actually be great. As long as it is not misdirected mutiny, let it happen.
The vision for your company should be big, bold, and daring. It should also be clear, concise, and actionable. Applying these noted approaches will vastly improve your chances of seeing it successfully implemented.