What makes business visionaries “tick”?

In his book Eight Steps Ahead: What Separates Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us, published by Portfolio/Penguin (2011), Erik Calonius reveals what makes visionaries tick and how they develop their extraordinary powers.  We learn, for example,

• How Steve Jobs used intuition to guide him from the Apple I to the Mac, and on to the iPhone and iPad

• How a block of wood and a chopstick helped Jeff Hawkins develop the first PalmPilot

•  Why John Lennon took a nap before writing “In My Life”

• How Richard Branson had the insight to trademark “Virgin Galactic Airways” in the early 1990’s, when private spaceflight was still science fiction

• Why Richard Feynman made breakthroughs in quantum mechanics by imagining he was an electron

What do they and other business visionaries share in common? Here are five key points:

1. They “find something that the rest of us have been missing” and later describe as “obvious”…but we didn’t see it before.

2. They “share a willingness to suffer and struggle for their dreams.” As Anders Ericsson’s research on peak performance reveals, they are not only willing to commit 10,000 (0r more) hours to whatever must be learned, mastered, etc. to achieve the results they seek.

3. They “see” in great detail what does not as yet exist or at least is not as yet visible to others. For example, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) saw the Pieta and David; everyone else only saw two huge blocks of granite.

4. They “get out into the world and experience things, and from that shape their ideas.” For example, George de Mestral in Colombier, near Lausanne, Switzerland, who took long walks with his dog in the woods each day and grew weary of removing burrs from its hair. In 1941, he envisioned what we now know as Velcro, a hock-and-loop fastener inspired by the burr’s interaction with hair.

5. Their drive to see their dreams fulfilled “exceeds rational behavior…in fact, it defines what a visionary is” but their enthusiasm, passion, and determination are usually contagious. They are driven to make something better…hopefully, MUCH better. Steve Jobs concedes without apology that he is only interested in “insanely great ideas.”

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