Are You Ready to Be a Visionary?

This is part eleven of 13 in the Experience Design 101 series. For links to all the articles in this series, click here.

Not much happens without a dream.

And for something great to happen,

There must be a great dream.”

—Robert K. Greenleaf, former Director of Management Research for AT&T (from his book Servant Leadership, 1977)

In an affectionate biographical spot on Turner Classic Movies, Gary Cooper’s daughter Maria Cooper Janis says that her father knew what the public expected of his work. “Just make me the hero,” he told writer Niven Busch, “and everything will be fine.” Cooper clearly had the Vision to see the whole arc of his career pretty early on, and it gave his film roles a cohesive feeling that contributed to his stardom. We know what to expect when we think of classic film stars such as Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Cooper. Far from seeing this as typecasting, they saw it as part of maintaining a strong connection with their audience.

Cooper’s Model for Business Development

Call it Cooper’s model for business development. In part five we talked about crafting a Vision statement and finding your Purpose. With your research and planning backing you up, now envision how you want your company’s future to arc. Concentrate on that arc to connect with your audience of customers and prospects. As Stephen Covey wrote, “… [in] business…. the extent to which you begin with the end in mind often determines whether or not you are able to create a successful enterprise.” Write out every aspect of this arc. When you get typecast by the public, you don’t want to be surprised. You want to be able to point to your Vision and know that you’ve been typecast as the leaders in what you provide, because you aimed for it with Pinpoint precision and carefully made it happen.

In your business, this precise aim will guide your actions (Does this activity or offshoot fit with our Vision?) and provide benchmarks (Are we reaching the market we’ve Pinpointed? Are we providing the ideal solution that creates great Customer Experience?). Gary Cooper may have known what he was aiming for, but some of his quirky early roles show it took some time for him to align his strengths and goals, with the road he was on.

A Visionary Leader

“Me? A Visionary leader?” you say. Many owners of smaller businesses are initially uncomfortable in this role. Here’s where your planning pays off: A clearly defined and executed Vision is the hook that gets you, your staff, your customers, and prospective customers excited about and involved in your success. A Pinpointed definition and direction for your firm creates loyal fans, and makes introducing yourself and your business easier. When you take on the responsibility of being a Visionary for your firm, you’ll share your secret instead of “prospecting” or “networking,” knowing that you have a unique offering of value to others.

Your enthusiasm can make Visionaries of others, too: Think of Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos, with their infectious energy and unshakeable belief in helping customers with their offerings. Their devotees preach about Apple and Amazon as fervently as any Gary Cooper fan ever told a friend, “You’ve got to go see Sergeant York. What an experience!”

The Best Customer Experience

Ready? Be a Visionary. It’s an adventure in left-side-of-the-brain planning and right-side creativity. Having that Vision in place is a lot less risky than running a company, gambling your future, without the end in mind. Pinpoint your goals, your strengths, your customers’ needs, and your ability to deliver. Position your firm to align with your Vision across all aspects of customer experience, and get your customers saying, “You’ve got to try this new company. They were so focused on getting me what I needed. They’re the best at what they do, and it’s a great experience dealing with them.”


Quien no se aventura, no pasa la mar.”

—Proverb [“He who has no adventures, cannot cross the sea.”]

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


Next up in the series: Part Twelve: How to put Experience Design to work, today: 11 Tips

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