The Fuzzy Space Between Vision and Focus

Far too often, somewhere between the visions we conjure and the stuff necessary to realize our game-changing dreams, the magnificent work of the imagination becomes blurry and unrecognizable.

You know the drill. There is buy-in for a vision; goals and objectives are identified; planning completed and resources have been ear-marked.  Then something insidious happens: it comes disguised as a too-good-to-pass-up “opportunity” that demands immediate attention, or (often the case) as an even bigger, better manifestation of the original vision. And once this vicious cycle is set in motion the grandest of visions is almost always relegated to dreams of what might have been.

When it comes to focus, it is an unfortunate and problematic catch-22 that many entrepreneurs, innovators and yes, marketers, by nature see opportunity at every turn. For the glass-half-full leader, the reality is that conceiving a vision plays to a strength; maintaining focus often accentuates weakness.

Add to this the fact that in today’s marketplace good ideas are rarely enough to carry the day, and you’ve spelled Trouble (with a capital “T”) for many endeavors. Better mousetraps and newer/faster/more cost effective solutions are conceived on a regular basis. The few that make it to the market and win are either the byproduct of tenacious focus or pure luck. Ether one is good, but only one is conducive to planning.

One of the most creative and innovative business leaders I know is plagued by his vision.  So grand is his ability to picture what might be, that he is never short of ideas.  But his perspective seems to render him incapable of focusing long enough to nurture an idea to fruition. By contrast, some of history’s grandest breakthroughs are the almost coincidental byproduct of focus  I frequently wonder about the impact my friend’s vision might have, were he able to focus long enough to execute a strategy.

Implicit in the idea of “strategy” is the reality of focus. It will cover a multitude of problems. It allows for alignment corrections and compensation for aspects of an original vision that might have been “off”. But lose focus in today’s market and course corrections are often impossible. Your target is likely to disappear.

So, if focus wins, how do you fight through blurry (or double) vision?  Here are four ideas.

Do your due-diligence on the front end.  Know your market.  Even if you don’t have an R&D budget, find a way to test your idea and marketing strategy.  Customer surveys and focus groups are great tools here. And, in case you’re still wondering, social media puts instant feedback within reach of any venture.

Know the metrics. How much does your vision cost?  How much is it worth?  At what point does it begin producing ROI? What percentage of your budget is earmarked for marketing?  The numbers provide essential perspective.

Establish a timetable, identifying critical intersections.  No business or marketing plan is good enough to be open-ended.  A plan of action should include a calendar that specifies appropriate dates for evaluation and strategic “tweaks.”  Establish these at the outset, and it’s much easier to avoid playing “hunches.”

Practice saying “NO.” Whether marketing a company, product, or idea, the critical measure of focus is the ability to say “no” to distractions disguised as opportunities.  There will be plenty.  Stay the course, execute your plan.  Chasing multiple opportunities is reactive.  And a reactive strategy almost always concedes leadership and market share to the competition. Credit to a friend and colleague here; Allen Fuqua (@A_Fuqua on Twitter) says, “if you never say ‘no’ you have no strategy.”

There are a number of understandable reasons for the blurring that exists between vision and focus.  For many businesses it is as simple as the fact that a single leader is responsible for both tasks, while the perspective required for each is unique.  So, for all charged with both tasks, separate hats — or more appropriately, goggles — may be the order of the day.

Eric Fletcher

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