In the past year, I have personally experienced the power “visioning” concept. I’m not referring to company vision statements or what they teach you in MBA or other professional development programs. I’m speaking about the power of cultivating an idea or concept for which you have strong convictions; being able to visualize it in your mind; and ultimately, the ability to communicate that version to others in an understandable way so they will rally around your vision. The most influential people are great storytellers with a powerful vision that they can communicate in a manner that makes others want to become advocates for their ideas.
While perusing a gift at Disney recently, I came across this mug. I love the profound image of vision portrayed with Walt Disney standing on the bare ground of what would be the Disney castle with an overlay of the castle as built today.
Powerful influencers like Walt Disney are visionaries that see an image in their mind, have mastered the art of communicating their vision and have harnessed their inner strength to ensure they and others bring it to fruition. While not everyone has a vision that equates to a $130 billion company, learning to cultivate and share a vision is a skill that can be practiced and improved to make our work more successful. Here are 5 steps to help you do so:
What is your “why” for your passion project? What excites you about it? If you selected it, what drew you to it? Find what fuels you to work on the project and focus on it. Then communicate your passion for the project regularly with others. A few years ago, I began to reach a point where I wanted to try something new. A mentor from the Women in STEM group encouraged me to write an inventory list of all the tasks I did in my current role, whether big or small. She encouraged me to mark the ones that gave me a sense of pride and were areas of strength for me. I used that list to help me search for opportunities in the company where I could perform more of those tasks. Fueled by the image of working on tasks I was passionate about gave me the drive and clarity to keep moving forward until I found a role that I loved!
Folks in my industry (software development) have begun to utilize "vision" when composing the requirements for updating or creating products. We call these "user journeys" or "user stories." Instead of a long document on product objectives and features, we’ve shifted to writing stories from the perspective of our end-user. The real power that comes from focusing on who the user in the story is and what their goals are. Knowing who the story is about helps us develop a more effective product. Using a story format also helps our designers and developers think more creatively about how to solve problems instead of robotically checking off a list of requirements. They too can see the vision in the story and picture ways to solve the user’s problems, making both them and the product more effective. Seeing your vision as a story is a great way to see how it could look from beginning to end, including all of the plot twists, villains, and heroes (a.k.a you!).
I would not have gotten through this past year as a product manager without sketching. To be clear, I am not an artist by any means (unless you count stick figures as art). Sketching is an effective way to translate the vision in your head. When my manager and I don’t see eye to eye, we end up going to the whiteboard. When I’m wrestling with a concept that I am trying to understand, I go to my whiteboard and sketch it all out. People, especially those that are visual learners, can immediately gain improved understanding with a simple sketch.
This year, I had a personal vision to enhance the user experience at our User’s conference. It started as a phrase on a Post-It note, “Create a digital, hands-on experience at the user meeting.” Then it became a sketch on a whiteboard of tables, booths, signs and little stick figures of my vision. The vision grew legs after the team collectively rallied around it, and we were able to physically build the sketch by creating mockups and collateral. There was buy-in, excitement and a shared visual to reference.
It is a wonderful feeling to see your vision start to come to life in sketches and mockups, but don’t let the idea sit there in those pages or your head alone! Share it with others. In her new book, Tech Boss Lady, Adriana Gascoigne encourages entrepreneurs with vision, saying “If you’re truly passionate about your start-up [or vision]…, then you should be able to open your mouth and talk about it.” and “When you share yours with an open mind willing to receive feedback–you may be surprised at who extends a hand, a connection, a resource.” Don’t keep your vision a secret! Help it to grow by sharing it and make the right connections by constantly sharing your vision with anyone who will listen.
Formalizing your vision and presenting it can be a daunting task. This thing that you are so passionate about is now on a screen for others to critique. My advice? Don’t let your vision die by presenting slides that are overloaded with text! Presenting a powerful, visual presentation is the key to seeing your vision come to life. Help your audience understand your vision by presenting something that sparks an idea and helps them start to form their picture in their head. Humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so for a memorable presentation, formalize and bring in some of the visuals you sketched.
How do you effectively share your vision with others? What are some tricks you’ve picked up that help you connect your teams to your ideas and goals?
Need ideas on how to make your work more visual to connect with others? The Human-Centered Design (HCD) Institute in Emerson partners with LUMA Institute to provide design thinking tools to help make your work visible and foster shared understanding among teams that I have found very helpful in sharing my vision. Their CEO recently gave a TedTalk on how to sketch anything in the universe; if you are looking to practice sketching out your ideas, for example. If you are interested in learning more about these techniques, members of the Emerson HCD group will be at Emerson Exchange this fall, and I will also be there giving a workshop on Using Design Thinking to Innovate in Engineering.
If you can't make it to Exchange here are two other organizations that I recommend following to learn more about visual communications and concepts, IDEO and Interaction Design.
Want to become a Human-Centered Communicator? Have insights you want to share? Comment below to continue the conversation. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
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