SEP 30, 2015

(4-5 minute read by Kevin Sandlin)


We’ve provided a high level summary of the Vista Brand Roadmap(SM), and delved deeply into Step 1 of 6. Now that we’ve established that foundation - the snapshot of where the brand is exactly today - we are ready to move on to Step 2. It is in this phase of the Roadmap that the great vision of the leadership team either comes out naturally, or is brought out through creative exercises to unleash the thinking of the Guiding Coalition.

Step 2 of the Vista Brand Roadmap determines the answer to one question: Who do you want to be?

Words matter, and the wording of this question is not without intent. “Who do you want to be?” The key word is “want”, not can or might or may or wish or think, but WANT. In the beginning there was an organizational vision. Is that still alive today? Is it still relevant? What did the founding leadership want to create?

Who’s crazy now?

Bill Gates didn’t ever dream of having a small computer software company that met the needs of a single market segment. No, he boldly stated that his goal was to have a computer on every desk. In the late 1970s that was indeed an audacious goal. And yet that vision has come true and then some and then some. How many “computer” devices does the average American own today?

It sounded crazy then. Many people asked the question, “what would an individual do with a computer?” Now they sound crazy. Step 2 is about hosting that important forward-looking conversation of "sounding crazy" by looking years into the future and dreaming of what could possibly be. What are our most audacious goals, dreams, visions? That’s the idea of Step 2: dream big.

Why is dreaming big important? Because in the field where dreams, inspiration, and the future lives are the seeds of innovation and betterment and value creation. On a day-to-day basis, it's easy to get caught up in the drudgery of emails, meetings, and incremental progress. Dreaming big is the fertile territory where so many benefits spring from, needing to be nurtured, captured and analyzed. The next great product grows here. A better culture grows here. Customer evangelism grows here. Organizational health grows here. Clarity grows here. 

Unlock your brains!

The challenge is that most people, in their day-to-day work function and established routine, aren't asked to "dream big". They’ve not flexed that muscle for so long that they need specific coaching to keep on saying, “what if? but what if? and what if?” Such is usually the biggest obstacle in Step 2: inspiring people to dream big again.

To knock down that barrier, we engage the leadership teams into different exercises that get them out of that normal routine, both physically and mentally, freeing their minds to unlock their audacious thinking. Here is an example of those exercises.

  1. We assign each of the two groups a 3-minute task: The Paper Clip Challenge. Write as many things can you think of that a paper clip could be used to do other than clipping paper. Not what’s the best idea or the most creative or the most outlandish, but rather a contest to generate a quantity of ideas in a short period of time. The team that generates the most ideas - good or bad - wins that exercise. 

Exercises like these loosen up the team members and allow them permission and freedom and energy to think bigger than they are used to thinking every day. Once the leadership team is thinking and dreaming big, we address certain pre-determined themes that the organization needs to address. 


What we call “futurecasting” sessions are critical for any culture to do something that might be considered a “breakthrough.” These sessions are usually considered the most valuable activities to help someone innovate, create something anew, something breakthrough. It is here in these futurecasting sessions that we uncover themes, ideas, and opportunities for the organization to realize a better future and for all of the company’s products, services, and experiences to be better.

Working closely with the leadership teams, we identify 4-5 themes, and then spend 4-5 hours per theme, with 5-7 people per team. Each team tackles a different theme that the brand wants to address completely. Perhaps it's growth, innovations, customer experience, pre-IPO activities - just to name a few.

The Vista team helps tailor these “theme teams” who are made up of some of the leadership team, and people that possess “unofficial power”, meaning they are bright and full of ideas, and people in the organization naturally look to them for leadership. They don’t have big, official titles, and aren't as wed to the organization’s “sacred cows.” These unofficial leaders blended with leadership help unlock the greatness of the organizational thinking.

Rules of Engagement

There is another key element, and that’s the structure around this futurecasting collaboration. There is little to no friction in this stage, because there is no wrong answers when we’re dreaming. We ask everyone to defer judgement on every idea, so all conversations are open. Imagine a conversation in which every idea, no matter how crazy, was accepted and added to the list of possibilities!

Also, the teams are very carefully chosen, and we intentionally avoid the “naysayers”. It is critical to have the open, free, and safe conversations. So we protect the futurecasting teams from personalities that tend to shoot down ideas first, and then ask questions later. That’s ok. If someone struggles with that, they can simply observe with no comments.

Finally, there are the “rules of the road,” which we borrow from David Kelley's team at IDEO. Those rules are as follows:

  1. build on the ideas of others
  2. defer judgement
  3. one conversation at a time
  4. encourage wild ideas
  5. stay focused on the topic

Step 2 is all about the future:the creative exercises, team choices, and rules of the road all work to help unlock great ideas from the culture that are designed to solve challenges, make products better, make the organization more valuable, and spur the company into new era of growth.