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05/28/2014

7 Characteristics of a Visionary

While many waft eloquently about being a visionary, too few have the guts to actually embody the term. Walking the walk is easier said than done.

Why is it important? Today, nine out of 10 companies are stuck. Growth has slowed and they are unable to make progress at the intersection of operating margin and inventory turns. Getting unstuck requires new thinking. It is dependent on outside-in processes. Today, our processes are inside out and mired in layers of continuous improvement programs. We are trying to optimize yesterday’s processes. The traditional processes are about supply, not about demand. In a time when it’s possible to know our shoppers, better serve our consumers and translate demand with new forms of analytics, companies are still investing in same old, same old.

So, here is my challenge. Stand up! Know your shopper. Serve your consumer and deliver greater value for your company. Here are my seven rules of thumb for becoming a true consumer goods visionary:

No. 1 They take chances. For example, consumer goods companies that have performed the best with the use of downstream data display higher levels of perspiration and motivation. But, these projects go nowhere without inspiration.

No. 2 They don’t ask if there is a ROI. True visionaries know that they are traveling down unknown paths and that there is no known outcome. They take the chance. They are an early adopter. They don’t waste the breath to ask if there is a return on investment.

No. 3 They are good partners. Visionaries are excellent partners with the technology provider. Visionaries know that they are both going down an unknown path. They learn together. They have big ears and little mouths. They are always listening.

No. 4 They are open. Visionaries sell the project as innovation and do not over-hype or over-promise on the dream. The minute that over-promises start to happen, the dream starts to die.

No. 5 They fall forward. Not everything is successful. When visionaries fail, they admit that the experiment did not work, sharing their insights and lessons learned along the way to hopefully avoid the same mistake twice. Visionaries talk as easily about success as failure.

No. 6 They admit what they do not know and ask for help. They have little time for hero worship. They instead focus their energy, efforts and attention the task at hand.

No. 7 They work outside of traditional boxes. Visionaries do not let traditional software boxes or functional processes define or limit the task at hand. Instead, they imagine what’s possible. They understand that a company cannot get to where it wants to go through continuous process improvement programs.