The world is changing. Science is moving on. We are learning more and more about how the brain works and what truly motivates people. Vision Statements have to keep up, too.
Here are three considerations Iâve wrestled with recently when contributing to Vision Statements:
- Present or future tense
The current literature available still says to put the Vision in the present tense, âWe are XYZâ, as if itâs already happened. The scientific reason behind this is that when the brain hears the same message again and again, it begins to believe it. Itâs scarily close to brainwashing, but for a good cause (right?). They call it neuroplasticity â the more you hear/say/think the Vision Statement, the more the nerve cells in the brain are connecting to each other, breaking the long-term relationship with your negative thoughts and literally re-wiring to the Visionary beliefs (Senay et al, 2010).
However, I see it on everyoneâs face, every time. The rolling of the eyes and the complete and total lack of belief (even after the millionth time of hearing it). Why? Because itâs not true (yet!). Thereâs been lots of criticisms in the world of personal developmentâs use of Affirmations for this same reason. Some people (maybe even most) immediately think (if not say) to themselves, âthatâs not trueâ, more than likely followed by a flood of different thoughts, images, memories that back up why it isnât true (enough that outweigh the positive effects of repeatability).
This conflict uses up energy and creates a lot of tension The end result is that the negative beliefs becomes stronger (Senay et al, 2010).
However, whatâs the alternative? Say the Vision statement in the future tense? âWe will be XYZâ. That same brain science that says if you hear things again and again you will believe it, then you will always believe that âsomedayâ, just beyond your reach, sometime in the future you will be XYZ, just not today, because that is what is being repeated.
- Use of Stories
In times of change, a Vision Statement, might not cut it anymore, drowned out in a sea of corporate messages about values, responsibility and sacrifice. After a while it all sounds the same â a distant murmur coming from senior managers trying to drum up support for some such thing or another. Sometimes invoking the defensive practise of âIf I wait it out, maybe it will disappearâ¦â.
In lieu of a Vision Statement, research suggests a story would be more effective in persuading people to buy-in and get motivated (Green & Brock, 2000). Â Beverly Kaye (1997) describes stories as âdevices for creating and maintaining a widespread understanding of the subtle cultural and political realities underlying a specific organisationâs life.â
A really good Vision story can motivate employees to achieve more than they ever thought possible by using words and images that transport them from where they are today into some place in the future (Rick, 2012). It has to be a good story though. One that people can relate to, that touches them emotionally and intellectually. Unless youâve got a really good, authentic story to tell, it can be worse than not having one at all.
- Use of questions
Finally, the latest line of thinking about how the brain works, suggests telling someone to do something differently is a lot less effective than asking. Questions are powerful because they probe for answers. They remind us of the resources we have and they activate our curiosity. All that is required is a simple tweak â a question versus a statement (Senay et al, 2010)
Once the brain hears a question, it goes into overdrive to find an answer. Ever forget someoneâs name when telling a story and ask, âwhat was that guyâs name?â and then start finishing the story without that detail? Then halfway through you remember, âit was Jim, that was his name!â Thatâs because you asked the question. And although your conscious mind moved on to finish the story, the subconscious mind heard your question and kept working on it until it found the right neural pathway that lead to the answer! The subconscious mind is fantastic at coming up with answers and creative solutions.
What if we donât give everyone the answer in the Vision Statement or even persuade them through a compelling story, but asked a lot of questions, instead? Things like âwhat would it take to get us to XYZ?â, âhow is what weâre doing now getting us to XYZ?â, âwhat if we were already XYZ, what would that look like/be like?â
What are your modernday considerations when putting together a Vision Statement / Story / Questions / or combination?
Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2000). The Role of Transportation in the Persuasiveness of Public Narratives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(5), 701-721.
Kaye, Beverly (1997) Up Is Not The Only Way. Consulting Psychologies Press.
Senay, I., AlbarracÃn, D., & Noguchi, K. (2010). Motivating Goal-Directed Behavior Through Introspective Self-Talk: The Role of the Interrogative Form of Simple Future Tense.Â Psychological ScienceÂ 21(4), 499-504.
http://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/strategy/communicate-the-vision-through-storytelling/. 2012.COMMUNICATE THE VISION THROUGH STORYTELLING. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/strategy/communicate-the-vision-through-storytelling/. [Accessed 7 September 2016].