Is it Compelling?

If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Four vision lessons from ancient cultures

In business, the ability to create a vision and story for a company (or any enterprise involving a group) has a huge impact on whether people will get behind it - whether they will invest their time, support, effort and passion for its success.

Many of the business leaders I have spoken to find gaps between their vision and the activity within the business. Staff, are often unaware of the vision, or uninspired by it. Does your company vision inspire (breathe life into) you and your team?  

In ancient times the vision and story of a community were shared verbally. People were so infused by them, that they could recall and retell the stories which held their community together. The stories provided the "glue" that gave people a sense of belonging and purpose. To do that a vision/story must be compelling. It must speak to us at many levels.

Ancient and enduring stories all contain some key ingredients. They are fantastic building blocks when crafting company vision:


  1. History - A sense of where we have come from, and the importance of the links between past, present and future. During a leadership workshop last year the "founding fathers" of the company verbally shared the story of how the company came into being, why it was created, what was important to them at the time, what endures today. Their team was riveted and energised by the sharing of the history.
  2. Connection - A reason to connect with each other, with the "place" that holds us, and with the resources we use. Many indigenous stories tell how the group came into being and describe the importance of their relationship to each other, other groups and the land. They tell of who the heroes are and how to emulate their success. Capturing this element in a company story gives people a reason to become a team, to forge a culture together.
  3. Morality - Strong values about how we should act, why we should act that way and the consequence of not acting that way.
  4. Action/navigation - A call to action in the here and now, coupled with a sense of self responsibility to take that action. The great stories of old contain the way to get to places. Around Australia, stories combined the elements above with clear landmarks and maps enabling people to move thought the country safely - even if they had never been there before. A great company vision will provide guidance about the way forward, and how to recognise that people are on track.

Next time you hear a story that really grabs your attention, be it from a book, a movie, or word of mouth, have a look for these elements.

How many of them are present in your company (or team) vision? If some are are missing find ways to create them and them share them widely!