4 mins

The inanity of much talk about vision and purpose

By Steve Cook

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This is a slightly frustrated reaction to some posts and comments I have seen recently. Apologies in advance for the rant.

Once again, there is a lot of talk amongst brand, marketing, sales and business practitioners, coaches and consultants about vision versus purpose, strategy versus culture, planning versus implementation, brand versus… well, everything. In almost all cases, these fundamental truths and credos are discussed in very limiting, fixed ways, as ‘things’ rather than as amorphous and essential principles – they have become tick boxes to prove that you have done stuff. Well, I think its time to end these debates and move on to something more important.

How about, as practitioners and advisors, we spend more time being visionary rather than debating what ‘a’ vision should be. Let’s wake up in the morning with a sense of purpose for the day ahead and a determination to change the ways organisations think about themselves, their work and their contribution- rather than trying to write vacuous purpose statements to define ‘a’ purpose. How about we think strategically rather than trying to shoehorn a passing nod to strategy into organisations that only want tactical fixes and short term outcomes.

If we cannot move beyond the limited and limiting ways that vision, purpose etc. are talked and thought about, let’s go even further and simply ban these words from our language. They get in the way of meaningful discourse and progress. I don’t really care anymore about the words I just care passionately about what sits behind them. All of these words are, in reality, feelings – good honest human feelings. They are not things to be ‘done’, they are senses to be felt shared and expanded. Then they can have real value. 

Having done that, let us turn our incredible, collective, human minds to creating the ideas and discourse that might actually lead to something important rather than wasting these valuable assets in pointless debate, points scoring and masturbation.

There are few certainties in our world right now and for the foreseeable future. Change? For sure but to what? Collaboration? Certainly but with who? Contribution? Absolutely but how and where? Society? Yeah but what does that even mean? The end of the consumer age? Maybe but what are we if not consumers? Oh yes, Citizens? Right on.

There is fascinating and profoundly progressive thinking going on into all this, often with purpose at the core. We need to be part of these conversations rather than engaging in ones about the difference between vision and purpose. We must be better than that.

The sad reality is that as these vital and expansive subjects are being re-defined and are gaining real importance, the very people who should have them front and centre of their universe are busily sitting in the corner and playing with words. 

Original article posted on LinkedIn here

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