Remember Chux? The disposable diaper that took the market by storm in 1932?
Of course you don’t. Chux saw its product as a luxury item, and happily kept its little throwaway business to itself for almost forty years. Then Pampers came along in the 1960s, supported by a huge, mass-consumer vision with persistence to match, and blew Chux out of the market-transforming baby rearing forever.
And everyone knows the legend of the two Steves-Jobs and Wozniak-who invented the personal computer in someone’s garage. Only they didn’t. The Altair MITS came to market long before in 1975. It’s just that Steve Jobs had the mammoth vision of a computer on every desk; and Apple II became the first PC hit.
I just finished reading a brilliant book titled Will and Vision-How Latecomers Grow to Dominate Markets, by Grard J. Tellis and Peter N. Golder.
This book takes the concept of vision and makes it concrete, demonstrating sixty-six cases where a huge vision of value for a market combined with persistence and indomitable will, made the ingredients for blockbuster success. Along the way the authors bury the concept of first mover advantage. They offer numerous examples of companies that arrived second, third or later, and went on to dominate their markets.
So what does Will and Vision say are the key elements of success?
The authors-academics grounded in research-not than starry-eyed growth consultants like yours truly-carefully reviewed the historical record: vision was the number one element.
That’s right. Big fat vision backed by persistence, will, and relentless innovation.
Today’s world offers many choices. People who lack vision are apt to drift to the next appealing project as soon as things don’t go the way they planned. They lack persistence to achieve anything important.
Will and Vision offers us a different kind of world. (Of course I’m biased. I’ve been shouting about vision and commitment for years.) We aren’t talking about a “vision” that’s sloganized and prettified and pasted on a plaque. We mean the kind of vision that highlights the importance and value of a product or service to many people and ultimately points the way to a new future. And, of course, requires a 100% commitment to bring into reality.
More mass-value vision examples, from high tech and low: Dell computers, not IBM or IMSAI; Sony video recorders, not Ampex – who gave up a ten year lead; Microsoft Internet Explorer – not Netscape, or its predecessor, Links; McDonalds’ Ray Kroc – not the McDonald Brothers; Gillette – not Wilkenson Sword.
Mass market + high utility = big vision.
Seeing what no one else can see. Having a new world view.
Leaders in each of these companies owned a view that extended further than any of their predecessors.
And that expansive vision enabled these people to gain access and leverage the resources (Key #4), maintain the persistence to bring the vision into reality (Key #2), and sustain relentless creativity and innovations (Key #3), over a period of years.
Here are a few points about a successful vision taken from the research:
- The vision must be unique. Not uniqueness of product per se, but unique in the way your product serves the world;
- The vision must be simple and easy to grasp;
- Seeds of the vision typically exist in some form in other products or services; (Thank goodness we don’t all have to be inventors or originals-only visionaries!)
The new vision may be of a thing for which there no market-yet. (This last bit is illuminating for any of us stuck in market research.)
And some important points regarding will:
- Reaching your vision may take a long time. Vision without will won’t get you there. Only great commitment can;
- A misplaced belief in luck or other unseen forces hinders our ability to persist. We will find evidence that no such luck exists, and use that as an excuse to quit.
- And this great insight: persistence can manifest as a series of minor solutions, and contrarily, complacency in small successes can be a barrier to innovation that farsighted vision requires.
Some additional tips for long-term success:
- Maintain a continuous feedback loop and solicit others’ opinions regarding your execution;
- Keep a sharp eye for market changes, and be willing to respond quickly;
- And as Andrew Grove suggests, paranoia drives innovation. A healthy fear of competitors sneaking up on you can keep your product or service fresh;
So how big is YOUR vision?
Is your vision big enough to drive the kind of success you seek? Is your vision large enough to sustain you? Is it important enough to mobilize the resources necessary for its realization? Is it sufficiently inspiring to partners and employees and customers and investors-and all the other people you need to be successful?
If you don’t think it’s big enough, it may be time to get your vision checked.
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