Friday, July 9, 2010

The Art in the Vision

Once in a great while you end up in the right place and at the right time in the flowing river of people, companies, and technologies, where you are able to offer a Vision. You know something about a specific technology that your employer can leverage to a competitive advantage. This presents both amazing opportunities and complex personal challenges.

On the one hand, the impetus to share and promote your vision is intense. You know in your heart that it has great value, and if you don't take action on it then after a while it will lose its competitive advantage. At the same time though sharing it puts you in an awkward position with your peers. They may resent what they interpret as your self-important viewpoint, or they may simply be jealous of the attention you receive for your ideas.

Is there a way for you to proceed that doesn't get you laughed out of town? The key to this is actually twofold: first comes the "progressive reveal," and second comes the retained ever-expanding ballast.

To accomplish progressive-reveal you need to explain enough of your idea to the highest person in your company that would logically support you, at a level of detail to convince the listener that this is something you can achieve. You don't want to give away the whole tamale -- don't explain the "how", just the "what." Then assume the responsibility to make it happen. In return get a firm commitment from the person in charge; you will be progressively revealing more of the "how" as the project proceeds.

Once you actually unfold your idea into reality you will need to expand some "ballast." The ballast is the counterweight that keeps control of the idea's implementation from floating away from you, and prevents the debt the company owes you from sinking your soul. The method to accomplish this varies, but generally always remember that "control" provides the compensation for the actuarial value that you create.

Of course there is a managerial "flip side" to this process as well: how to create an environment that allows your most savvy employees to instantiate their visions, but that is a topic for a later post.