How to turn visionary thinking into breakthrough results

Long ago, Thomas Edison observed, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

I was again reminded of that as I began to read Lead from the Future in which Mark Johnson and Josh Suskewicz share their thoughts about how to turn visionary thinking into breakthrough results. “At the highest level, our future-back approach is relatively simple:  setting aside your assumptions about the way things work today, think carefully about your destination — your organization’s target end state in the future — and then develop and implement a step-by-step plan to get there.”

What does future-back thinking and planning require? Effective leadership of the process when exploring and envisioning, then translating that vision into a long-term strategy, walking it back to the present in the form of concrete initiatives.

“There are a lot of good books that zero in on the key attributes of successful leaders…but what distinguishes them most is their capacity for learning. They are curious about everything and, in the spirit of the ancient philosopher Socrates, they also know what they don’t know. They are humble and good listeners (because it helps them to learn) and good stewards, in that they put their organizations’ long-term interests above their own. They are comfortable with ambiguity, able to make connections and recognize patterns in noise, and willing to go beyond facts and work off the hypotheticals if that will bring them closer to what they need to know.”

Lead from the Future will be published by Harvard Business Review Press (April 14, 2020).


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