Rob-Jan de Jong’s book Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead seeks to provide a solution to the “how do we create an inspiring vision for our company” question.
This isn’t referring to those vision statements that are a mile long with marketing slang and sprinkled with a few inspirational words. We’re referring to those vision statements that make people aspire to be more. It’s the kind of vision statement that drives companies like Apple or Baskin Robbins to continually create innovative products and attract great talent. It’s the reason we have vision statements.
The problem is not in the resources. There are plenty of books and even fill-in-the blank templates that can help any business executive cobble together a seemingly impressive vision statement. Rob-Jan de Jong argues that the problem comes how we learn about vision statements.
Although creating vision and mission statements is part of businessperson’s training, there is an unequal distribution of talent when it comes to creating a good one. There’s the vision statement created by Apple and Microsoft and then there’s the vision statement from your business.
Integrating the People Back Into the Vision Statement
In Anticipate, readers are told that creating a vision (not just a vision statement) is within the realm of everyone, if they understand the principles of what makes people tick.
These psychological principles are the key. If we are looking to inspire people with our vision statements, shouldn’t we focus on what makes them inspired in the first place? If you can match your business goals with a little targeted psychological inspiration, you can create a better vision.
For most companies, this is actually the opposite of what happens. Most business executives start from their business. They focus on their business and then try to add a few inspiring words. A better approach might be to focus on the people. What relationships do you want to create? What do you want to sell? Who kind of talent do you want to attract?
These kinds of questions focus your attention on the people behind the business. Vision statements are for people. They can and should include what your business creates or sells, but the main focus should be on what you want to create with people.
Building Visions Requires a Visionary
So, how do you build great visions for your company? Well, you need a visionary.
To reach that goal, the author of Anticipate provides a 4-step process that guides readers through the psychology and behaviors of a visionary. A visionary is a person who inspires others to move employees to above average. They are the people (not necessarily executives) who inspire others to be more productive within a company. They are the people who embody what your company is after.
It’s your job to capture that essence and use it to plan the long-term vision of your business.
De Jong goes into quite a bit of detail about the psychology behind a company vision and a visionary. He discusses communication strategies that can facilitate or hinder the communication of a vision. He also describes how a vision can have a negative intended effect.
One example given in the book is Enron. One year, they are a touted as “revolutionary company”. The next year, they become more famous for their ethical missteps. In the latter half of the book, he focuses exclusively on the development of a visionary, providing activities and case studies that seek to draw out the qualities of a visionary in the reader. The book ends with an appendix which includes a Myers-Briggs type of assessment and inventory.
Is Anticipate Worth Your Time?
Anticipate is probably best for executives and higher level staff who have the task of developing and implementing a company’s vision and mission statement. The language in the book is a bit more formal than your typical marketing book and features more detailed case studies.
If you are someone who likes to really dig into a case study, there are plenty within the book. The book also focuses heavily on the psychology, on understanding the why and how behind a strategy. If you are someone who loves to explore your personality and the role it plays in planning your businesses’ future, this book will definitely be for you. If you would rather get a straightforward, step-by-step guide to fill-in-the blank vision statement and vision plan, this book may not be for you.
About the Author
Robert-Jan de Jong is a speaker, author, and consultant who works with senior & executive-level staff. His book will be available in January 2015 and is ready for pre-order on Amazon. This review is based on a electronic galley of the book.