The External Empowered Vision


It captures our imagination, fills us with a sense of wonder, and gives language to what we see the world becoming.  

And, when you think about the people who have vision, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos may come to mind — people who seem to be building products ahead of their time. Or you may think about Bill Gates, or others who understand where our world is moving (in both good and bad ways) and are working to build a more just, equitable world. 

Most of you reading this have vision, and probably even call yourself a “visionary.” You’re someone who understands and can picture what might happen to us down the road, and you’re building products and services that fulfill the way you see the world is unfolding.

Yet, there is an opportunity for most visionaries. 

Today, many visionaries are only building products and services focused on how the world is evolving as they know it today, and many company’s visions are largely focused on their own success. 

For instance, think about Ford’s vision statement: “To become the world’s most trusted company, designing smart vehicles for a smart world.” 

Effectively Ford’s vision is for smart vehicles to hit the streets, and that they are successful when they’ve become the most trusted company to consumers.

If you read this, it doesn’t really inspire, for two main reasons. First, the emphasis of Ford’s vision is internal, or self-focused (to become the most trusted company), rather than emphasizing what they will do to create trust within their customers. And second, Ford is building products aligned with where the world is already going (i.e., smart vehicles for a smart world).

And therein lies the opportunity for all of us — to create visions that inspire by focusing on impact beyond ourselves and create a world different from where the world is already evolving. 

Over the next month at GAN, alongside you, we’re going to dig into building visions that actually do what a vision is supposed to do: capture our imagination, fill us with a sense of wonder, and give language to what we see the world becoming.  

In order to do this, we need to craft visions that are externally-focused and empowered. 

An External Vision

An external vision focuses on the success and flourishing of all humankind. Yet, many vision statements today seem to be internally-focused.

For example, look at McDonalds’ vision — “To move with velocity to drive profitable growth and become an even better McDonald’s serving more customers delicious food each day around the world.”

Or Southwest Airlines’ — “To become the world’s most loved, most efficient, and most profitable airline.”

Or Berkshire Hathaway’s — “Our vision is to be the provider of choice in our communities for comprehensive real estate and financial solutions.”

These are all vision statements from very successful companies. Yet, if you are on the outside of the company do any of these really inspire you?

In contrast, take a look at vision statements like LinkedIn’s — “To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.”

Or IKEA’s— “Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people.”

You can feel the difference. Both LinkedIn and IKEA’s vision statements look externally. And because of that, you feel like they care about you, the consumer. And, most likely, they are probably going to build products and services where they fulfill that goal.

Creating an externally-focused vision has great outcomes as well. First, it creates a win/win between the company and the consumer. In the case of LinkedIn, their success is your success. If you have additional economic opportunity, you and LinkedIn both win.

Secondly, it actually changes something beyond the company’s bottom line. In the case of Southwest (who I love but think they can work on their vision statement a bit), they don’t include anything about what they are bringing to the world. Rather, their vision is to be loved, efficient, and profitable. It would be like going into a marriage and saying that “my goal in marrying you is so that you love me well and we’re able to make a ton of money efficiently.” In contrast, IKEA’s vision statement openly describes how they hope to create a better life for most people. Being efficient and profitable is part of how they will achieve this, but their vision begins by looking outside their own personal gain. 

An external vision creates a world where all humankind may flourish.

An Empowered Vision

The second way to build a powerful vision statement is by creating what we’re calling the “empowered vision.” It differs from the disempowered vision in one way — it has a different starting point.

An empowered vision is active, identifying the type of world we want to work towards. It begins by asking what kind of world we want to have that’s different from what we see today. In contrast, a disempowered vision begins by perceiving where the world is already going today and hopping on board. A “disempowered” vision will probably become a reality whether or not you’re doing the work you’re doing today.  

To understand this concept, think about GM, the car company in the United States. Their vision is to build “a future of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, and [they] have committed [themselves] to leading the way toward this future.”

In many ways, that is a great vision. And it’s also where the world is currently evolving. Meaning, the technology at most car companies out there is working towards zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. Look at Volvo — they have an initiative called “Aiming for Zero”,  in which their “aim is that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.” 

A disempowered vision is not inherently bad. It’s great to build a company from any place of vision. Led by vision, GM and Volvo are creating a safer and more sustainable world. 

GAN has learned about disempowered vision first-hand. Today, GAN’s vision is that startups all over the world would have the resources they need to create and grow powerful businesses wherever they call home. Yet, this is where the world is currently going. Many organizations in the industry share a similar vision.  And even if startups are equipped to grow, the founders and employees of those companies could still be living suboptimal lives. We’re exploring what it would look like to envision a world that’s different and better than the trajectory we’re on now. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of vision statements that are empowered. Both AirBnb and Patagonia invite us into a new way of being and thinking.

AirBnb’s vision is to “tap into the universal human yearning to belong—the desire to feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for who you are, no matter where you might be.” Their vision is that all people would feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for who they are, no matter where they might be. In many ways, this is a new paradigm. 

Patagonia’s vision is that “a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet.” This vision is inherently empowered by thinking about ways to make the world regenerative and better than we found it. 

It takes hard work and thoughtfulness to create an empowered vision, but the potential payoff for our world is huge. An empowered vision invites us into the process of building and becoming something new.

Creating An Externally Empowered Vision

The goal is to find the sweet spot found in the upper right quadrant — a place where we imagine what the world could become as a result of human flourishing.

At GAN, we’re personally reimagining how our work can create thriving people in communities all over the world, thriving companies, and thriving cities. We see that, even amidst incredible efficiencies, great products, and a large amount of wealth, there is still unhappiness, brokenness, and deep conflict. The world needs more whole people, people who are operating in ways that are additive and equitable, which in turn will help the world be a much more sustainable place to do business and live lives where we are healthy and satisfied.  We’re injecting a new vision for what the world can uniquely become that’s new and different from where we’re heading today. 

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to dig into all of these concepts more, and we’d love for you to join us. We’ll be interviewing startups, corporations, accelerators, and studios — as well as posing questions on this blog.

To get us started, I have two questions for you that will help all of us create visions, either for our companies or for ourselves:

  1. What kind of world do we want to have that’s different from what we see today?
  2. What is keeping the world you hope for from becoming a reality?

I’m excited to explore this idea of an externally empowered vision with you.