When creating a vision, the future is a critical component. An effective vision that is well framed (see here), and focused (see here), allows people to see the possibility for themselves. They can make commitments and take actions toward that future along the way.
A future vision is usually inspirational and moves people toward it in a compelling way. Years ago, when Steve Jobs was asked about what drove him, he said it worked differently for him. He said that he could see the future so clearly that it just pulled him along.
It takes work.
Although many leaders don’t think they are visionary, it’s a muscle that everyone can exercise. Often, it’s not taking the time to evaluate and look at the possibilities that restrict a leader from delving into a visionary future. They are stuck in the moment and don’t take time to think. They don’t step out on the balcony away from the fray and truly consider a different perspective. A balcony affords the viewer the ability to see over the people in front of them. It provides a large overview of the stage so the leader can step away from the fray and see what’s really happening within their team or organization.
Bill Gates still takes time away from his day-to-day activities and retreats to a cabin for a week. He brings a bag full of books to read. He exposes his mind to ideas that open new ways of thinking about what’s to come. And, in this way, he’s ahead of his contemporaries – starting with the data he consumes (even if we disregard his intellect and superior comprehension).
So, the first step to envisioning the future is to look at the information you are absorbing. Is it all spreadsheets and data points about today? These often aren’t even about today. They are lag indicators about what happened yesterday. Are you reading about new ideas on what the future could hold? This can come from areas outside of your industry or profession. And, this inspiration doesn’t have to all come from reading. Some of the biggest leaps of invention and vision come from diverging from mainstream. Thinking and assimilating concepts from other areas like the arts, culture, and science fiction can have a great impact on defining your future.
You get what you see.
Exposure can also come from surrounding yourself with people who are conceptual thinkers. Ideas are a dime a dozen; there are plenty of them out there. A true leader can corral those ideas into usable forms to begin to influence others to follow that path.
If you feel like you struggle with seeing a vision of the future, evaluate if you are surroundings. Are you around the best data and in the best environment to do so? Then, realize the time you take to absorb that data and delve into that environment. It is an investment that will pay off if you put your time energy and resources into it.