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5 things you can do to create a visionary enterprise

From a business perspective, most people would agree that the past year was a real doozy in a lot of ways. As we look ahead into the coming year, and assess the path we traversed in the past 24 or so months, we’ll find things that remain outside of our control, things for which we might plan, and things that we can do right now to start the year with a sense of forward-momentum (and positive momentum, at that). In this article, we’ll look at possible options and approaches for 2003 and beyond.

Rudyard Kipling wrote that one crucial attribute of a successful person is the ability to keep your head about you when those around you are losing their heads, and some are even blaming it on you. His point is not to be underestimated.

So instead of allowing yourself to be carried away by the dastardly events and negativism of the past two years, as emotionally draining as they might have been, you might choose instead to keep your wits about you and focus (and act) in a positive, forward-moving manner. Here are a few steps for beginning your journey:

Take stock of your situation

"There is nothing to fear but fear itself," said Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I agree. Whenever I find myself fearful and anxious, I grab a notepad, flipchart or whiteboard, pens and several of my colleagues if appropriate, and do a thorough check-in on circumstances, resources and possibilities. Free-floating fear is dangerous because we can’t work with it; by untangling the subjects of our fears (in this case, regarding our business or livelihood), we can better know what we’re working with and take action. Do your own check-in with the list that follows:

  1. Articulate your worst-case-scenarios or fears.
    Perhaps you fear that the economy won’t recover, or won’t recover in time for your organization’s survival. Maybe you fear that you’ll lose your financial standing or material assets upon which you base your perceptions of success. Or you may fear that you’ll go bankrupt, or that your traditional customer base will no longer support your business. If you’re an employee, you may fear that you’ll get laid off before all of this is said and done, which raises some of the fears mentioned above. These scenarios may shake your confidence, give you an upset stomach, or have you waking in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts of failure. As fearsome as these scenarios can be, we often over-estimate them and underestimate our ability to deal with even these. One of the best ways to decrease our fears of the ghosts in the closet is to open the closet door and turn on the light.
  2. List assets and contingencies.
    Now that you’ve unmasked your worst-case scenarios, make a list of anything you consider to be one of your assets or resources. What might you still have, or what might you do, if faced with these worst-case options? When in the past do you remember overcoming difficult circumstances and prevailing in the face of challenges that might have seemed insurmountable at the time?
  3. Assess your strengths.
    The assets you listed may be considered strengths, as might less tangible traits. For example, your previous experience at creating opportunities and overcoming challenges or anxiety-provoking circumstances is a strength. Other strengths may be revealed by positive things others have said about you, reasons people have enjoyed working with you, or even those things that you love to do even if you do them for free or as a "value added" in your work. For this part of the exercise, you’ll want to unabashedly accentuate the positive, and sing your own or your group’s praises.

See where you can be of service

Mother Theresa offered very practical advice when she said, "If you want to know how to change the world, pick up a broom." Some wisdom traditions emphasize that "you find yourself when you lose yourself" in service to others, but you don’t have to practice any particular wisdom tradition to know that being of service to others feels good and takes the focus off of your own short-comings. That’s a great start. This exercise isn’t about what’s profitable (though it might come back to you ultimately in that way), but rather how you might help meet community needs. For example, in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, local bookstores found themselves to be important information sources and gathering spaces for neighbors in search of answers or just comfort. While large-scale tragedies magnify such needs for community and mutual support, the needs--and opportunities for service--always exist. Ask yourself how you or your business can be of greater service or can help create a more enriched, positive, supportive community.

Imagine the possibilities

Put your cynicism, criticism and negativity on the shelf for this exercise. Taking a look over the things you’ve listed based on the exercises above, imagine how you can reinvigorate or revitalize current products or services. Who else might benefit from the strengths and assets you’ve listed? Rudyard Kipling wrote that one crucial attribute of a successful person is the ability to keep your head about you when those around you are losing their heads, and some are even blaming it on you. Are there potential customers that you just haven’t considered before only because flush times didn’t require that degree of creative thinking? Are there other ways that you could organize skills, assets and strengths to create new products or services that fit the current and forecasted needs in 2003? What accomplishments would you like to celebrate by the end of this year?

Brainstorm opportunities

Having identified assets, resources, areas of service and a multitude of possibilities, what opportunities might exist for bringing those ideals or concepts into your daily, weekly, monthly and annual activities? What resources and revenues will you need to meet your desired quality of life and sustainability (individual or organizational)? What organizations could benefit from the services or products you provide? How can potential avenues of service be integrated into your way of doing business (or doing your job)? With whom can you create a mutually beneficial partnership to provide your products or services in a way that meets a need, while receiving a fair revenue in return? With whom can you partner or to whom can you turn for trusted advice and a helpful perspective to put the needed resources into place and create the opportunities?

Align your vision with action

Continuing your dialogue started in the exercises above, what action can you take today to begin creating resources and opportunities, and fulfilling this vision of what’s possible? What can you do this week? This month? In the coming quarter?

While you can add other categories and exercises to your list, those above can help give you a start as you launch a new year, and will provide an anchor and resource as you check in each month and quarter to assess your progress, identify new resources and opportunities, or upgrade your goals for the year.