The definitive business advent calendar: 10 December – Vision without execution is delusion

Entrepreneurs are driven by many goals, but if there is one thing they share it is the importance of inspiration. Additionally, the confidence and optimism felt by SME bosses was proven true when the American Express Business Barometer suggested 92 per cent of business owners were “very happy” with their companies even when they hit a rough patch.

Just ask Elizabetta Camilleri, founder of SalesGossip. One of her most quoted sayings is that nothing compares to managing a startup. She said of running her business: “This is ten times more difficult but 100 times more rewarding.”

But, of course, to reap the benefits some hefty work needs to be done. It comes as no surprise then that her favourite quote is from Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

This was echoed by Steve Case, CEO of Revolution, in the New York Times.

Case said: “Having a vision is really important – but the execution part of Edison’s quote is really important, too. Having a good idea is not enough. You’ve got to figure out some way to balance that and complement that with great execution, which ultimately is people and priorities and things like that. You have to strike the right balance. If you have those together, I think anything is possible. If you don’t have both of them working together in a complementary, cohesive way, you’re not going to be successful.”

Even for organisations that have a clear sense of why they exist or the beliefs that define the firm’s very existence, the challenge still exists of, “Okay. Now that I know that, how do I implement it?”

When we’re clear on the why, the strategic decisions that we can make become simpler.

“Take Steve Jobs for example, he believed that technology should seamlessly integrate into our lives and that we shouldn’t have to change the way we live our lives to fit technology,” said leadership author Simon Sinek. “Technology should fit how we live. This is the reason why simplicity mattered. This is the reason why design mattered. This thing that he believed was so important that it drove all of his decisions. It set their strategy. It also is what allowed for all the innovation.

“There is a wonderful story that is told, how Jobs and some of his senior executives went to Xerox, PARC in the early 80s and were shown something that Xerox had developed called the graphic user interface. The problem was, Jobs, with his vision of seamlessly integrating technology into our lives, sees this graphic user interface and sees it as a much better way to getting to his vision. So, he says to his executives, ‘We have to invest in this graphic user interface thing.’ And his executives say to him, ‘Jobs, if we invest in this, we’re gonna blow up our own business.’ To which he replies, ‘Better we should blow it up than someone else.’ And that decision became the Macintosh.”

It just comes to show that when we’re clear in our why, the strategic directions that we choose becomes so self-evident even if they are expensive. There’s nothing efficient about innovation. Innovation is the application of technology to solve problems, but you have to know which problem you’re setting out to solve.

It’s clearly evident that the UK’s bosses have embraced such a mind-set, and with vision and inspiration at the heart of most businesses, it’s no wonder that they feel that the reward of their efforts is worth it.

As Camilleri put it: “Running a business is ten times more difficult but 100 times more rewarding.”

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