Vision must inspire and mobilize people to create the future

Vision or the “image of the future we seek to create” is vital not only for the enterprise but also for aggregate industries and aspiring nations in providing direction, mobilizing people and driving growth. Nelson Mandela achieved his vision of a South Africa free from segregation and Barack Obama persists in driving his healthcare and Wall Street reforms together with a changed approach to foreign relations in his quest for a new America that protects and cares for its citizens.  In Sri Lanka, our apparel and tourism industries have bought into shared visions of what we could be and where we want to go and have taken steps which include ethical manufacture, eco-friendly operations and exclusive boutique hotels that our western customers demand, in pursuit of the vision.

How do Sri Lankan companies stack up when it comes to being truly visionary and what does it take to stand out on this count? The importance of painting and driving an inspiring Vision, has probably received less attention than it should in the rough and tumble of day-to-day business management. True, many companies have spent a lot of time and effort in writing up Vision Statements but many of them are less than inspirational, and remain as embellishments for corporate profiles and websites.

Corporate Vision is best generated by entrepreneurs and insightful business leaders who drive it from the top down in pursuit of their dreams. It requires the ability to spot trends and leverage opportunities while being committed to innovation, breaking new ground and sailing the ‘blue oceans’. Richard Branson, who uses his charisma to the fullest in driving his Virgin brand in a multiciplity of fields and pursuing his wildest dreams of commercial space travel, and Steve Jobs, who pursues his vision to ‘Think Different’ and create cool stuff that not only looks good but rides on aspirations and lifestyles as they do on technology, continue to amaze us with their on-going innovations and successes.

Sri Lanka has its share of business leaders who have led the transformation of their companies by responding to consumer trends, or international opportunities, or simply producing the good things they thought Sri Lankan consumers should enjoy. The best way to spot the visionary ones is to take those on LMD’s list and see where they were before and what they have now created. Family businesses and colonial companies have been transformed to meet the ethos, lifestyles and aspirations of today’s Sri Lankan consumer.

Vision is of the greatest importance for a company’s managers and employees, who have to believe, achieve and live the dream. Equally, effective communication of an inspiring and credible Vision plays a vital role in obtaining the consent of people for business transformations as it is for winning elections. The low voter turnout at the recent general elections indicates that Sri Lanka’s citizens were less than inspired by the Visions of any of the parties, despite the slogans and surreal visions of a first-world Sri Lanka that the TV commercials gave us a few months earlier. While the Idiri Dekma promises economic transformation, this can best be achieved if it is built less from the centre and more through inclusiveness and participation from all sectors public, private, NGO and civil society.

This brings me to my final point – that LMD should now put the spotlight on the last two mentioned sectors by creating a listing of the Most Respected NGOs/CSOs whose vital contribution to nation building has been overshadowed by our preoccupation with the business sector. My Vision for Sri Lanka is not only of an country measured by GNP growth but one that has achieved economic development with equitability and inclusiveness, bringing wide participation and distribution of wealth across all segments.

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