Heidi Ettanen // May 21 2018

Co-creating a Vision

Heidi Ettanen

Manager Service Design

Whether it is building something new, or renewing something existing, the developing process needs a clear established vision of what is to be built. A vision’s purpose is to provide motivation and facilitate effective collaboration so that ideas will come to life.

Look at the hero picture above. Now imagine that you are the person sharing the vision internally in your organization. You want to be that central person playing the guitar: you want your team to gather around the vision. This might sound easy, but it’s not simple. Let’s take a look on the following examples:

Situation A: The work that was done to summarize and establish business goals, product development ideas and a future vision is a 100 page document stored somewhere on the Drive that no one has actually read. Only the people who were at the final presentation are some what aware of the result.

Situation B: You sit in business unit A and have a marvelous idea on how to develop the digital presence to meet your goals. Your budget on the other hand is too small to tackle it all, so you try to inspire other units on board your vision. Your colleague on business unit B has a much bigger budget this year, but has decided to invest on a platform that seems unable to serve your goals in any way. Business unit C keeps trying to get both A and B to a meeting to discuss the future of their efforts, but no one at A or B finds time to prioritize this meeting as it isn’t directly connected to their own goals… and the meeting gets  postponed indefinitely.

Situation C: Your organization has competing visions attached to different business areas and no established cross discipline channel for aligning them. Anything cross discipline can easily be judged as unrealistic, so people keep cozy in their own silos instead of raising the gaze to the horizon.

These situations highlight some of the reasons why gathering corporate people around a vision like a storyteller gathers listeners around a bonfire is not so easy.


Visualize the vision:

As a designer I try to create and share inspiration in everything I do. I consider it my duty to use methods that engage people, so that the future product vision will be owned and well rooted within the organization from the very first steps into a project. Let’s see how we could build a vision that brings ideas to life:

Engaging and inspiring the people around you

What makes people inspired? I’d say the biggest single thing influencing inspiration and motivation is to be included. Bringing people together from the silos to work as a team in order to align their needs and goals. Facilitating this process means to take advantage of different co-creation methods, brainstorming, innovating and ultimately also sketching solutions together with design professionals.

The first step towards a visualized vision is to involve the organization, the users and design professionals to co-creation workshops, where they as a team will work together towards the vision.

Realistic but woven into usable long term goals

A vision by definition is something a little out there, big dreams. This means it should not be restricted by the company’s current resources or current ways of working: a vision is not meant to be just feasible. This doesn’t however mean the vision should be unrealistic. Before starting to craft a vision for your product, your business and user goals should be revisited and made measurable, this will reassure that the base of the vision is realistic and achievable. It’s also good to remember that realistic is something that people believe in. Co-creation methods are ideal in enhancing motivation among participants but they are also good in eliminating the least popular, or least believable ideas from making it through the iteration rounds.

Second step is giving the vision a believable, realistic frame: when can we achieve this? So give your vision a timetable, like vision 2025, it will allow you to start planning a roadmap to achieve it.

Understandable to many and easily shared

A 100 page document on a Drive is easy to share, but time consuming to understand, let alone present. People tend to understand visual clues much quicker than text. If we are talking about a new or an existing digital service for instance, a sketched out concept of how it could work will deliver the message much faster than an excel list of functions and features that needs to be included in the service.

Low fidelity sketches have the advantage that they are likely to engage more people. It is easy to comment and ask questions when it’s still on the “drawing board”. This way the vision does not become something carved in stone, which no digital service today can be: users expect the services to change according to their evolving needs.

What I’m talking about is a visual “map”, showing concept level sketches of where the product is heading. Showing how and what the product could be, making content, functionalities, technical dependencies as well as the various connections to other services and use scenarios visible and thus quickly understandable to people from many different backgrounds.

vision map

Thirdly you don’t want to involve people and then summarize all their ideas in to a document that takes hours to read through. Make your co-created vision visual. Work the sketches into a presentable map, that people can gather around to.

To summarize, a co-created visualized vision increases your changes to be that main character in the picture, telling the story inside your organization. Stay tuned for more posts on the topic!