Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison
I remember reading about Walt Disney a couple of years ago … before it became the well-oiled machine it is today … before the theme parks … before the empire.
The reality is that any prosperity Walt Disney had been enjoying relative to the animated film business he had masterminded in the 1920s/30s began to erode during World War II due to the time and labor-intensive nature of the work. His business was beginning to fail.
Disney could not have foreseen that the war would last 6 years, but he did acknowledge that he couldn’t keep travelling the same path and expect the same successful results. He envisioned something different … something few others understood … something bigger than merely film as the basis for family entertainment.
I once heard something to the effect that if you want people to build you a boat, don’t just give them the plans and materials, make them yearn for the sea! I have to imagine that this was a strategy Disney utilized as he sought out investors for the construction of an theme park the likes of which the world had never known. He didn’t just sell them on yet another amusement park … he made them yearn for the magical, all encompassing experience that came with it! This vision drove Disney, and still describes the essence of the culture at Disney … “the most magical place on earth.”
As a product management leader, you’ll be most effective when your actions are aligned under the banner of an all consuming vision … something that either clearly speaks to the needs/pains of the marketplace, or imagines an even better way of doing something the market has never thought of before (think Ford and the first car … at that time, the typical person wouldn’t have said they needed a car, they would have said they needed more/better horses).
Sometimes the top down vision will exist based upon the strategy of the company … sometimes it will need to originate from the bottom up when entering new segments or markets. But don’t stop with just establishing the vision … make everyone around you yearn for the sea … and but to the opening quote from Edison, you also need to make sure you have the plan in place to get the boat built!