How do you define your vision and core ideology (purpose and values)?

When my cofounder and I started Dream See Do, one of the first things we did was to define our vision and values. It has been a vital part of our business ever since, and a key contributor to our growth and wellbeing as a company. There were not a lot of simple, clear, and helpful resources about this topic several years back, so we dipped into the Harvard Business Review (HBR) archives (at the suggestion of one of our early advisors) and read a fantastic article entitled: ‘Building Your Company’s Vision’. It was a bit humorous (in 2013) to read stories about some of the companies in 1996, a time right before the first dot com bust, but the insights and tips were timeless. Ever heard of the term: BHAG? The authors of this article, Collins and Porras coined that phrase: Big Hairy Audacious Goals, another (more awesome) way to define one’s vision.

If you are in the business of empowering some type of human transformation, we believe that it is hyper critical to firmly tone your own vision, purpose and values before you can ever make the impact you intend to bring to this planet. Every business should ideally walk through this process in the early days in their business, and continue to intentionally check in on and refine these core philosophies — but particularly in fields of human and social impact. Doing so will help you drive your strategic priorities, stay true to your core values as you hire new team members, galvanize that team around your vision and help you navigate challenging decisions along the way. So how can you effectively craft your vision, purpose, and values? It takes some work and time, but there are a few key things you can do to begin.

Understand what it is
Collins and Porras believed that vision can be best described as one’s ‘core ideology and envisioned future’. The ‘core ideology could be further broken down into purpose and values’. This article focuses on the Purpose Statement. To ensure we stay on the same page of operational definitions, I’ll note that some folks use the terms, ‘vision or mission statements’ for a very similar concept. Stay tuned for follow-up articles about company values.

“A well-conceived vision consists of two major components: core ideology and envisioned future. Core ideology, the yin in our scheme, defines what we stand for and why we exist. Yin is unchanging and complements yang, the envisioned future. The envisioned future is what we aspire to become, to achieve, to create something that will require significant change and progress to attain.” — Collins and Porras

Keep things simple and clear
It’s easy to get stuck in the weeds when trying to write and articulate one’s vision. There are often so many things we want to accomplish and people we want to help. But it’s super important that we hone in on language that can be easily understood by your clients, users of your products/services, investors, media, etc. An industry colleague told me years ago that you should be able to share your vision and purpose with a 5 year old, so that they can understand it. Now this may be a stretch depending on the work you do (and the vocabulary of the 5 year old) but the point is well taken. As the HBR article referenced above spells out, a purpose statement should be broad in scope, yet succinct in language. It’s a 30,000 foot view of what you want to do, who you want to impact, and how. Our current purpose statement is: “To unlock human potential in individuals, organizations and the world, by activating connection, support and transformation through online learning communities.”

Socialize with your team
In order for a purpose to be understood and embraced, it is important that the leaders of any organization share it with their team, early and often. This can be through large team meeting, retreats and workshops, or through small one-on-one conversations or team retrospectives. Staying connected to the purpose of the company, galvanizes the team around that purpose. We also believe it’s important to periodically garner feedback and insights about the company purpose and values from your team. This enables people to feel totally vested in the vision of the company, and aligned to its purpose. This leads to more committed and happy employees, and in turn to stronger morale, culture and retention of key talent. If you do not have a ‘team’ like my cofounder and I experienced for several years, find thought partners, advisors, and allies. Seek out people that care about your purpose and want to help you along the way. Even as we have grown our team, we have retained this important practice, and it’s been invaluable to our growth and maturity as a company.

You vision will evolve over time
Like anything in life, our perspective shifts, grows, and matures over time. You may have the same general desires over a 5–10 year period, but your lens will inevitably rotate (at least a bit). If you continue to approach your vision with intention and grounding, this can lead to profound learnings about how to hone your true purpose and values. Our vision statement has definitely evolved over the last 5 years. What you start with may not be the same thing you land on several years in. Most likely, it will have a similar tone and feel, especially if you tap into what your heart(s) and mind(s) truly desire. Here are a couple of our initial vision statements to see how they have grown over time: 1) To help people convert their passions and interests into both sustainable educational and career decisions and fulfilling life outcomes. and 2) To connect people to learn together as communities and make the world more resilient and giving. Though our intention to help people in areas of personal and professional transformation has not changed, our original purpose statement was more narrow and focused on one particular area. Since then we have broadened our vision, while making our language more concise and powerful, one iteration at a time.

What is your vision for your work and impact on the world? Have you begun to articulate it?

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Originally published at