Dreams and dreaming may seem like an unlikely topic for an article related to business. Actually, and instead, it is or should be a critical element in the daily activities of every leader whether in business, public service or in the church. It should be in the curriculum of every business development programme offered by every institution that purports to promote good leadership and/or entrepreneurship.
If you examine the genesis of almost any significant human activity, inevitably you will find that it started with a dream of some individual who was provoked to dream of change by inequity of some kind. (Look at what Nelson Mandela did for his dream of a free, united, non-racist, non-sexist South Africa at peace with itself.)
Or a dream of what could be if some way could be found to make life better or easier for many. (How about the production line approach to building cars by Henry Ford?
Or a dream to build something of significance that results in a game changer of much bigger proportions than originally envisaged. (Think about the ramifications of Bill Gates and the Microsoft behemoth.)
The three examples above are the results of dreams of the leaders of those movements. There are countless other examples that we could look at, but these three suffice to illustrate just how important it is to dream of a different future. So often when you speak to leaders of a variety of enterprises, it is sad how many of them have visions that stretch very little beyond the month, or quarter or year.
At the political level, politicians worry only about their term of office, and give very little thought to the long-term consequences of their decisions and actions.
In the boardrooms of listed companies, it is little better because of the pressure of quarterly reports, annual general meetings, and the need to produce ever-improving and unrelenting returns to shareholders.
In the non-profit sector, the individuals driving these organisations are often energised by a passion for their cause with little thought to the long term sustainability of their enterprise.
None of these are, in and of themselves, necessarily bad. However none of them reflects the importance of dreaming big and dreaming long.
The power of dreams have two important requirements to be deemed successful: 1) Dreams must have a long term base and 2) they have to be effectively and passionately communicated. Both of these requirements were most potently fulfilled in Dr Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.
How does one begin effective dreaming?
Firstly, it is important to put all current constraints out of the picture.
So once you have created a clean sheet you need to imagine what would be possible, and even what may on the surface appear to be the impossible; what would the ideal or perfect situation be in the long term? Long term is well beyond five years. A big dream needs to time to be realised. Extending your thinking beyond the normal time horizon enables to imagine a new picture; not just a variant of the current picture; one not encumbered by the current problems, constraints and difficulties.
It is then essential to paint this picture of the future in vivid colours; colours that stir the blood and with sound effects that set the blood charging.
Once this is done then the job is to plan back from the future and search of the first accessible, achievable steps that make the impossible dream seem excitingly reachable.
It is these dreams of a different better future that will mobilise people to contemplate a new future. All revolutions, all new products, all new ideas have started this way.
What can you do that makes a difference?
It will start with a dream…..
Image via kickofjoy.com