A vision is an image of the future we are committed to creating. A vision is not about reality in the sense of something that exists. It is about creating something that does not exist.

Visions are most powerful when they reflect deeper values and purpose. Collins and Porras point out that organizations that clearly link their values to their vision in ways that motivate their workers and align company efforts, outperform their competitors. Visions raise people’s personal aspirations and provide a focus for collective activities. They create a clear and often bigger picture of ‘where we are going’ that makes day-to-day activities more meaningful. When people have a clear sense of direction, they can be given more freedom to act independently and creatively.

While scenarios are 'futures for the head' that help us think systematically about future possibilities, visions are 'futures for the heart.'  A living vision—as opposed to merely words on paper—is something that people share, feel deeply about, believe is possible, and commit themselves to achieving because it is highly desirable. Vision deals with the ultimate questions facing every individual, group and organization—questions about purpose, meaning, direction, and reasons for existence.

Development process

The process of developing a vision needs to be adjusted to the organization and its people. The first step in a visioning process is selecting the core group of participants. The group needs to include representation from key constituencies and a diverse group of leaders. However, the group needs to be small enough to create consensus and a shared sense of commitment.

Visions sessions

Visions can be developed during one session (e.g. a retreat meeting of one or two days), or over several shorter meetings. The components for the vision session include:

  • 1.

    Understanding potential futures (considering trends and scenarios, in relation to the organization’s or community’s history)

  • 2.

    Getting into 'aspiring space' (often by using a 'legacy exercise' that leads to reflection on values, success, and what the person would be proud of)

  • 3.

    Developing a shared vision

  • 4.

    Developing audacious goals

  • 5.

    Identifying next steps