Why I’ve dropped the phrase, “strategic vision”
Every once in a while you hear something that changes your entire way of approaching a topic. It’s a powerful moment.
I recently had such an experience watching a video of Jensen Huang speaking to a group of students at Stanford Technology Ventures Program. Huang is the cofounder of NVDIA, a Silicon Valley company that went from start up in the 1990s to a current market valuation of over $10 Billion.
You can see the video yourself at this link http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2221 and click on the first of the lecturettes.
Visions Are Elitist
Mr. Huang was discussing the concept of a vision statement. He reveals,
I like to use the word “perspective” because it makes it possible for anyone to have one. When you say vision, it feels like only a few selected visionaries of the world can have one. But everyone has a perspective and that’s in fact all visions means.
For me, this points to the solution to many strategy-execution problems. Having a perspective means that the ideas and direction are open to discussion, inviting more people into the discussion to contribute their perspectives. Importantly, it avoids the elitist nature of many vision statements.
Having Perspective Allows for Coherence
Huang explains that his company was founded on a perspective that was contrarian to the prevailing 1993 view about the role of personal computers as desktop and office automation tools.
Our perspective was that this particular device was going to be unique in the sense that it has the ability to run programs. And what if we gave it the benefit of running through 3D graphics programs? So that you could explore new worlds, play games – you know play games. And so we started a company and the business plan basically read something like this, “We’re going to take technology that was available only in the most expensive workstations. We’re going to try to make it, reinvent the technology, and make it inexpensive,” and the killer app was video games.
Huang took his idea to venture capitalists who responded that there was no video game market, so people don’t start companies to play games. Even Huang’s parents couldn’t understand his idea,
I remember calling my mom and telling her that I’m going to start this company and she says, “What do you guys do?” I said, “We built this things called 3D graphics chips and people would use them to play games. And she said, “Why don’t you go get a job?”
Huang had a different perspective because grew up in the video game generation and embraced the entertainment value of video games. He could imagine how could be a very large market and a very large industry. For a lot of the people that were older, that sensibility didn’t exist. Huang explains, “at the time our common sense was unique.”
Coherence is a key to strategy. It means that things make sense; there is an internal logic and consistency to the story. NVIDA’s success has been stellar, and it came from good strategy. That good strategy was the application of commonsense which was both unique and correct.
Are you going to join me in changing the question from “What is Your Vision?” to “What is Your Perspective?”