Where’s your concept car?

Do you have a vision for where you are going?

It occurred to me a few years ago that most of the teams I was working with were missing a clean vision.  They had many “projects”.  They all had “vision statements” in their plans.  They had “objectives”, “strategies”, “prototypes” and all of the other stuff that goes into good planning.  But most were missing the ultimate destination in a form that would allow them to share a clear and unified understanding of exactly where they were all trying to go.

Expressing your vision in a way others can understand it allows them to rally, inspire the right thinking, and make the right choices along the way to realize it.

This got me thinking about the automotive industry and the “concept car”.  These are real and functioning manifestations of a vision.  They are not just built to excite consumers at auto shows.  Rather, they are destinations that force the company to think about exactly what the future looks like: in a way they can physically explore it, understand it, test it, find problems and solutions for it, and ensure the right choices are made in the boardroom to enable the company to realize it.  Perhaps most importantly, building your concept car allows you to think outside of your own manufacturing constraints, so that you can focus on what consumers actually want and what you would have to be able to build (vs. what you can build today that they “might like”).

Example:  It’s hard to imagine Apple could have gotten to any of their products without a very clear, real and functioning prototype of what they wanted at the beginning of the process.  It’s also hard to believe Apple would try so hard to innovate if they owned production facilities that couldn’t make a completely different product next year.  They have a fully functioning vision at the start, and then design the business around getting it to consumers.  It’s obvious for engineers, so why do so many marketers miss it?

We need more “concept cars” in our thinking.

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