Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Visioning: More Than Meets the Eye

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Visioning: More Than Meets the Eye

Article excerpt

Visioning: More Than Meets the Eye

Most good managers have the ability to analyze information and solve problems logically. But another kind of skill is just as important: the ability to create a vision of the future and lead others toward it.

Having a vision of an ideal future helps us provide balance and order in our lives - and in our organizations - enabling us to survive outside pressures and radical change. Visioning is a way of preparing the mind for whatever may come along. If we do not have a vision, we may not recognize the opportunities that can lead us to our ideal future.

With rational analysis, the reasons why something won't work are already in the mind. We all know from experience how and why something cannot be done. John Center, speaking in 1989 at the World Future Society's Sixth General Assembly, noted that forecasts about the future are usually inaccurate, because they are based on simple extrapolation of historical data. He said forecasts that emphasize "critical" current issues are shortsighted. The future is not always a creature of the past.

Visioning is a process that enables us to put aside reason temporarily and look beyond the present to the future as we would like it to be. "It can't be done" is irrelevant; we can't make that judgment about something we have not invented yet. How to turn a vision into reality is something that happens after the vision is created.

The visioning process is valuable in building a team or group, starting or revitalizing a business, or creating a life purpose that fits deeply with a person's ideals.

The recent past is filled with examples of visions. Some examples are of human rights and national purpose (Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and John Kennedy's admonition, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country"). Others are from the business world (Fred Smith's slogan for Federal Express, "absolutely positively overnight," and Paul Hawken's "legendary customer service" in his book, Growing a Business)

Eliminating distractions

Visioning may not be a cognitive, rational process, but it is a skill that can be learned, usually in a workshop setting with a help of a trained facilitator.

The first - and most important - step in helping people use visioning is to remove anything that will interfere with the visioning process.

Some interferences are internal. Most of us have been chastised for "daydreaming." We've also had our ideas edited by helpful others: "How are you going to do that?" "Where will you get the money?" "That's too idealistic." We begin to internalize such comments and wind up editing ourselves even more harshly.

Another kind of mental interference is the habit of doing two or three things at the same time. When we are busy planning and doing at the same time, it is impossible to reach a deep enough inner state to consider our highest ideals. We can also block ourselves by judging and analyzing, skills that may have been highly rewarded in the past.

Internal physical interference can include our responses to noises around us, to tension in our bodies, or to discomfort from heat or cold or light. We may also be "turned off" by a leader who uses hackneyed techniques that sound like poor hypnotism. Hypnotism may be useful for changing behavior, but it is not a part of visioning. Relaxing is the last thing we want to do when we're working to create a vision.

External interferences can include conflicts among participants or between participants and facilitator, jarring language, and physical locations that are filled with interruptions.

In order to prepare for visioning or thinking on a deep level, we need to eliminate as many interferences as possible. The ideal state for visioning is one of comfort and physical and mental clarity. Visions come from the use of all of our faculties while we are in a state of quiet alertness. …

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