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spike bullet April 1998 - Vision: Expanding Your Thinking

Vision - What is it?
Why is vision important?
Tips for developing vision and expanding thinking
Exchanging "Either/Or" Thinking for "And"
Internet Resources, articles and books  

Vision: What is it?

Vision means seeing beyond the obvious - seeing the unseen - a trait sometimes used to describe leaders and entrepreneurs.

Webster's Dictionary defines vision:

1a. Something seen in a dream, trance or ecstasy; b. An object of imagination; c. A manifestation to the senses of something immaterial.

2a. The act or power of imagination; b(1). Mode of seeing or conceiving; b(2). Unusual discernment or foresight; c. Direct mystical awareness of the supernatural, usually in visible form.

3a. The act or power of seeing; sight.

Where does vision come from? For some people, it is an inborn trait. They have always seen things that others cannot see. Others learn to broaden their perspective, to question the obvious, to reach beyond where they are, to follow a dream. They see a vision of what can be, of possibilities beyond the status quo. And, having seen the vision, they head straight for it ! They follow their vision in spite of obstacles or non-believers.

Vision can be learned. The only requirement is a strong desire to want to learn, coupled with a strong desire to grow and expand beyond where you are.

Vision: Why is it important?

Without people who can imagine a better world, a better product, a better company or a better way of doing things, we would be stuck forever in the same place. Visionaries exist in every walk of life, in every industry, in every state and every country. Sometimes, they become famous or well-known because their vision leads to commercial success. Other times, they are a person responsible for strategic planning, marketing or productive development within a company and rarely become known for their invaluable contributions.

Forward-thinking companies nurture their visionaries and provide the environment to keep their imagination flowing freely. Companies that easily come to mind include: 3M, Xerox, Microsoft, Kingston Technologies, Intel, Oracle, Compaq, Southwest Airlines, The Walt Disney Company, Turner Broadcasting, Yahoo, Amazon Books. Others that had vision at one time, but have lost their ability to continue their vision successfully include Apple, AST and Digital. Other companies that were trail-blazers in their early days have disappeared altogether (Aston-Tate, Gateway, Kaypro). Small, successful entrepreneurial companies are filled with visionaries. When companies grow and become more successful, there is tremendous pressure to become "more corporate" (translated, means to become more bureaucratic). Bureaucracy destroys visionary creativity and greatly restricts people who need freedom to see things differently. When that happens, companies may stumble and falter (Apple, AST, Aston-Tate), lose their direction or lose the people who could keep the vision alive.

Notice that many of the companies mentioned are in the high-technology industries. These industries are fairly new, where visionaries like to congregate. Older, more stable industries like manufacturing or banking are less attractive to visionaries, although there are still people in those industries who are thinking outside the box and creating new visions of where they want to be.

Developing Vision - Can it be Learned?

Changing your thinking is the first step to learning vision. Many people falter when trying to take this very first step. They are so locked into their habitual patterns, they can not even imagine how to begin.

We suggest that the first step is to do as many different things as possible today and for the next week. Some specific examples of doing things differently (to get started):

  • Drive to work using a different route each day and drive home a different route in the afternoon than in the morning.
  • Eat lunch in a different place each day.
  • Try food that you have never tried before.
  • Invite people that are not in your "usual" lunch bunch.
  • Go shopping in a different store than you usually do.
  • Go to a different movie theater or rent something from a different place than usual.
  • Buy a few books that are totally different from your normal pattern and actually read them. (We highly recommend Running from Safety and Atlas Shrugged).
  • Watch a television program that you have never seen before.
  • Rearrange the furniture in your office or a room in your house.
  • Buy some clothes that you would have never chosen before (different color, style or material).
  • Go to a store and buy something completely childish - for yourself. And then play with it!
  • Go the library and look up a subject that you think is really strange or weird. Find a way to learn something from it that will help you break your existing thought patterns.
  • Try changing a few of your regular habits - start or stop work at a different time, take an afternoon off and go play (a movie, golfing, a ball game, the beach).
  • If you always write formal letters, try writing a hand-written note to someone. If you never include charts or graphs in your memos, add some color charts to spice up the documents.
  • If you always let your secretary answer your calls, try answering the phone yourself.
  • If you never let salespeople into your office, let those that call this week have an appointment. See what you can learn from them that will help you see things differently.
  • Enlist the support of your family and friends. Let them know that you are trying to change some of your patterns and learn to think differently. Many of them will help you or let you know when you are stuck in old patterns.
  • When dealing with charts, pictures or visual things, turn them upside down or sideways. See what new ideas you get from that perspective.
  • Talk to children - your own or someone else's. Ask them what ideas they have for any problem you may be facing. Really listen to their response.
  • If you normally solve problems by thinking, try drawing your problem and pictures of several possible solutions
  • Do something different that is not on our list.

After a week of doing things differently, you should be able to realize that you have learned something new or that you are beginning to see things a bit differently. To keep improving your ability to break out of your habitual box, consciously try new things, especially when you are feeling frustrated because imagination isn't coming to you. Notice the sense of exhilaration and excitement that you feel when you are about to do something very different than you have done before.

Even when dealing with routine tasks and responsibilities, see if you can find a way to see the situation or the challenge differently. Ask yourself, "if I could look at this from a different perspective, what better things might I see that I could use?"

A few tips from the book, If it ain't broke . . . BREAK IT!:

  • Dreams are goals with wings (leadership by vision)
  • Try easy (speed kills creativity and innovation, speed sabotages teamwork and communication)
  • Playing it safe is dangerous (take risks, break rules, challenge convention)
  • Think like a beginner (out of the mouths of babes . . . )
  • There is no such thing as a "finished" product (treat your product as if it's alive and it will stay that way)
  • Take risks, not chances (if you don't make waves, you'll drown)
  • Plan on changing your plans (trust the unexpected)
  • Don't look where you don't want to go (visualize - look where you want to go)
  • Small changes leads to big rewards (change what you do, change where you do it, change how you do it).

The Popcorn Report has very detailed instructions on learning how to see trends. In describing the trends she sees Faith Popcorn writes, "What these trends do is expand your vision - so you can see more clearly how the future is going to feel and to look. And how your business can profit from this unique perspective of the future . . . The corporate world will have to change its priorities, and reward different strengths. The status that an MBA held for marketers in the '80s will be replaced by the status of the new MBS (Master of Business Soul). Guaranteed to be good through the year 2000. And beyond."

Some practical ways to use expanded thinking:

  1. Think beyond a current project or something you are working on. When it succeeds, what is the next logical step? And the one beyond that? For example, you are developing a new software product or a new widget. When it is released into the market, try to imagine what its buyers will do with it. What new improvements might be useful in the next year? What other spin-off opportunities might be available? Who will be your next competitor? How might they improve upon your product/widget? What if the project fails? What is failure and what might you learn from it if you played out the failure in your mind ahead of time? What might you do now to prevent a possible failure later? What benefit or learning might come from failure?
  2. Think about an upcoming meeting. Who will be there? Who might show up that is not invited. What might happen during the meeting that is unexpected? What is the agenda and what issues will people raise about those topics? What new topics might be added? How will you handle those? What is the next logical step following the meeting? And, the next step after that? Expand your thinking to what might happen in several different scenarios and follow those courses out a few steps. Write them down, create charts/graphs or draw pictures if that helps.
  3. Think about a relationship situation (friend, family, partner, business associate) that you will be dealing with in the near future. If you are planning an event, what might go wrong? What unexpected things might happen and how will you deal with them? How will the others) deal with it? What follow-up might happen? And, what might happen after that? If the "situation" is one that is troublesome, use the same techniques to develop several possible outcomes and follow each of those outcomes forward a few steps and think about multiple possible courses of action or resolution.

For each of the above examples, think ahead a few months and try to imagine how the project, widget or relationship/situation might evolve. Think back a few months to some previous challenges that you had. Did you accurately predict what is happening today? Did something seem hopeless then, when in fact it did work itself out? Or, did you think everything was just fine, and disaster struck?

Can you imagine any benefit from using your mind, your intuition or your creativity to pre-play possible events, situations or outcomes in advance and be better prepared?

If you can pay attention and improve your ability to move forward in time, you can develop a greatly expanded ability to create your own vision. By better preparation, you can actually change the course of your future now, rather than just "going with the flow" and letting life happen to you.

You will still have unexpected events occur, no matter how much time you spend trying to become a visionary. The difference is that when unexpected events do occur, you are not so rattled that you lose your own focus. You can say, "That was just a little detour on my road and I'm still on my own planned course." Or, you can say, "I have already thought about that possibility and I'm prepared to deal with it."

Exchanging "Either/Or" thinking for "And"

Creating a vision that is lasting, worthy of sharing with others and their efforts, requires a new manner of thinking. The human intellect, a finite and limited tool, is incapable of this on its own. At best it comes up with the old thoughts, merely restated in a different way, rehashing what it knows. The human mind can only collect knowledge, which are facts, devoid of wisdom, truth or love. How do we have a new thought and therefore, create something fresh and good? How do we create a wise and inspiring vision that quickens others as well?

The journey of life is coming to be a master of your thought and your thought processes. It is a continuing method of throwing out that which is no longer useful and opening to that which is yet unknown - giving up the old for the new. It is a process of willful intention to imbue your knowledge with wisdom - to spiritualize your intellect - to regenerate your mortal mind. This is the process of change; it is also the process of dying; it is also the process of evolution.

Either we change or we go extinct is not true, for any change is not necessarily wise or good. The truth is either we change and evolve or we go extinct. These two points are critical: both the "and" concept and the evolution idea. Wisdom is inherent in evolution, as a wise change supports all life and is good for all.

All humans invariably use the default thinking of what I refer to as, "either/or." "Either we do this or we can do that." The limitation of only two choices comes from the body of knowledge we have.

Think about this for just a minute. How many times a day in a million insignificant applications does your mind give you only two choices? When my son was small, he would come home with a tale of trouble at school, and so I'd ask what happened. He'd give me his account, "He did this, then I did that."

His immature assumption was that he had only one course of action open to him and so that was what he did. I'd say, "Honey, try to think of at least five other choices you could have made." He'd look blankly for awhile, screw up his little face and slowly stretch himself gradually creating other possibilities. He had automatically done what he knew to do. The instant he realized other options that he didn't like, his mind would dismiss them as even viable. He especially didn't like the ones such as walk away or turn the other cheek, which required a higher consciousness and spiritual maturity - those that required him to evolve.

Man is endowed with two things above all other of God's creations: the ability to reflect and the attribute of will. How we use these, indeed if we use these, is paramount to whether we evolve ourselves first individually, and then, of course, our creations: business, society or government - or we go extinct.

When we give up that which no longer serves us: old beliefs (It's the way it is; everyone does it) and erroneous knowledge (the world is flat), we usually find ourselves in a mental void of not knowing what comes next. The old map makers would have said, "The world ends here." I call this living in the ambiguity, for the Universe is Infinite. It is here in that seemingly empty, silent Void where all is potential; all is possible, and all is yet to be discovered, known and understood, then made manifest.

By our will and intention to casting off our limited either/or thinking, we move into "and" thinking, thus allowing ourselves to move into the Great Void. We give our willing permission and invite the Infinite to move through us, to inspire us with something the world has not yet seen.

This is, indeed, a courageous and humbling act: admitting that what I know is useless, powerless and uninspired. Imagine a bargaining session between management and labor when it gets to that inevitable point of human ultimatum: either this or that!

Now imagine that the parties involved are agreed to this: "We don't know - yet. You want this and we need that.

These are ideas that have never lived in the same sentence before, but we are going to allow that there is a new synthesis for these together, even though we don't now know what it might look like." At this point, the Infinite is invited into the equation.

Human mind is open to spiritualization. Now solutions that could never have been conceived of by limited human intellect come forth. Some call these miracles. I call this our divine inheritance, of course. For this is who we really are. We are divinity in the flesh, charged with bringing the Divine Mind into every area of our mortal existence. In earth as it is in heaven. In physical manifestation as it is in our consciousness.

You can't put new furniture into a room that is already full. If you want to have a new vision, you must have a new thought. In order to have a new thought; you must be willing to scrupulously clean your mental house of the old, useless clutter. You must even be willing to leave it empty for a time, allowing for the new to come in.

The way is through humbly admitting that your human, unspiritualized intellect can produce nothing new or lasting apart from your Godself. You must take it through the process of regeneration - spiritualizing your intellect with Divine Intelligence.

This is the process of abandoning our limiting either/or thinking for the unlimited "and" thinking. The process of changing how you think allows for the old to die and the new to be born. It is literally a daily, moment to moment practice of conscious application in every context. And it only happens when you willingly and intentionally choose to do it - exchange your human intellect for spiritual intelligence. This is spiritual maturity.

This is becoming a Master capable of creating visions that quicken, inspire and enliven all.

� Kathy Kirk 1998

Kathy Kirk is the author of The Young Woman and the Restaurant: A Parable of Practical Humaneness, available by request. Used by Ken Blanchard at Cornell in his course Leadership for the '90's as the final exam. Ken also wrote the forward to her book.

Kathy is a graduate of Cornell University School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration, gives lectures on Humaneness: Practical Spirituality, and seminars on Seminars: Alchemy of Humanness (businesses) and Remembering Who You Really Are (personal)

She can be reached at Kathy Kirk (kathylkirk [at] or by phone at (619) 445-0972.

Thanks, Kathy, for contributing this article!

book graphic  Books  -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon. 

  • Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand (originally written in 1957).  Publisher: Signet; (September 1996) ISBN: 0451191145
  • Creativity Games for Trainers. Robert Epstein, McGraw-Hill, 1995. ISBN: 0070213631
  • If it ain't broke . . . BREAK IT! and other Unconventional Wisdom for a Changing Business World. Robert Kriegel and Louis Patler, Warner Books 1992  ISBN: 0446393592
  • Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Richard Bach, Dell Publishing, 1997 ISBN: 0440204887 
  • Journey of Awakening: A Meditator's Guidebook. Ram Dass, Bantam Books; Reissue edition (July 1990) ISBN: 0553285726
  • Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, John Naisbit, Warner Books; (February 1984) ASIN: 0446356816
  • Megatrends 2000. John Naisbit and Patricia Aburdene, Avon; Reissue edition (January 1991) ISBN: 0380704374
  • Megatrends for Women. Patricia Aburdene, Random House Value Publishing; (September 1994) ISBN: 0517131803
  • Running From Safety: An Adventure of the Spirit. Richard Bach, William Delta; (December 1995) ISBN: 0385315287 
  • The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure. James Redfield, Warner Books; (November 1997) ISBN: 0446671002
  • The Popcorn Report. Faith Popcorn, HarperBusiness; Reprint edition (September 1992) ISBN: 0887305946 
  • The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision. James Redfield, Warner Books; (December 1998) ISBN: 0446674575
  • Any book or art by M. C. Escher, The Master of Illusion

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