Storytelling Passes the Productivity Test Part 2 of 10

This is our 2nd blog of our blog series Storytelling passes the Productivity Test. In our first blog we wrote about the importance of Knowledge sharing via stories

This blog is focussed on vision statement and its relationship with productivity

What are vision statements?

A vision statement says what the organization wishes to be like in some years’ time. It’s usually drawn up by senior management, in an effort to take the thinking beyond day-to-day activity in a clear, memorable way.

For instance, when Jack Welch took over as chairman of General Electric in 1979 , he described a simple future state that he believed was essential for GE’s success: ” We will be  #1 or #2 ” in each sector where the company chose to compete

However, my 15 years of corporate experience informs me – Visions are nothing but beautiful statements on walls and websites.

Don’t believe me?

Ask yourself what is the vision of your organisation? I am sure the majority of you don’t know.

The sad bit though is that the vision statements don’t not get crafted by rotating a magic wand. We spend significant amount of time in coming up with them. They are a fundamental part of strategic plan and every effort is made to ensure that they provide purpose but

Arguably more ineffective time is spent

in strategic planning exercises than in

any other areas of corporate activities 

– Beinhocker and Kaplan, 2002

So, we can conclude that the time spent in coming up with a  vision statement  and then not achieving the desired outcome makes this entire process highly unproductive

So, what can we do ?

Brush Fonts

Let’s look at 2 of the most successful vision stories

Winston Churchill’s :” we shall fight on the beaches ,” and Martin Luther King Jr,’s “I have a dream.”

What is the secret of their success ?

The very obvious thing is that they were both stories shared versus statements distributed. The 2 other key things that made this delivery work were

1.Paint Evocative Future Pictures 

Churchill did not tell this story in a conventional story format but he paints these scenes in a future that people aspire to and this doesn’t have to be a series of events like a conventional story. He paints a picture of British people resisting Nazis to the death, fighting them by land, by sea , by air and so on. Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr says, ” I have a dream that one day four children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

There is no specific story here but an evocative language which motivates the desired change. They key is to paint aspirational future in variety of places.

You can do this exercise to give this method a go

What is your company’s vision?

What are 2 things that change if you achieve that vision?


Who are the people whose lives change when you achieve the vision?


Now paint a future picture of better life of these people.

2. Lack of specificity

Both the stories do not have specific plans and incidents on how to achieve the desired state and that is the strength of these stories. These states are far in future and no one can predict what the future is. Hence, too much specification will lead to disbelief.

You never craft a vision story to get it 100% right.

You always craft it to motivate people to expend

their energies towards what we consider to

be right at that point 

Lets bring this back to productivity and see  the difference in delivering a vision statement versus a vision story

Scenario 1: I have a great vision statement stuck on the wall

Scenario 2: I have a great vision  STORY that lacks specificity but is highly evocative and I will orally deliver it. 

Which scenario do you think moves people to expend their energies in towards the vision? Our answer is pretty clear if we look at Winston Churchill’s :” We shall fight on the beaches ,” and Martin Luther King Jr,’s “I have a dream .” vision stories. They are till today the most successful examples of vision stories that moved people.

In summary, vision statements must be covered in to a vision story. The vision story must be evocative and non specific. The evocative and non specific visions story must be delivered orally. If you have done this, you have moved people. Isn’t that what productivity is  all about?


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"I attended your story telling course some time back. And I've enjoyed keeping up my knowledge with your blog. You may not have realised however, that the Whole of Government is implementing Internet Seperation. Hence I'm not able to access the links to read your articles. Could I suggest including a QR code in your emails so that I can use my mobile to scan it and gain immediate access to the article? It would be most helpful"