Is this a mission I see before me?
Vision is a bit like sex. The less we have it the more we talk
about it. No corporate handout or public service briefing is complete
without a section entitled "Our Vision". But don't expect
to find anything that approximates prophetic insight or a highly
Institutions flag up their vision in order to endow the banal with
a dose of meaning. So what is BT's stated "Vision"? The
aspiration to "get close to customers". Barclays Bank's
vision is to build a "world-class organisation". "Our
vision is to be a leading supplier of energy," declares Centrica.
For the BBC it is to "excel at the creation, marketing and
selling of brands".
These are not visions to behold. They have little to do with a
leap in imagination. That is why these days everybody appears to
possess the capacity for vision.
A real visionary like Jules Verne could transcend the limitations
of his time and see the outlines of the future. Today we appear
to inhabit a vision-free public world where recycled business plans
are promoted as specimens of creative thinking. With so much meaningless
rhetoric surrounding this issue it is not surprising that the first
President George Bush was moved to dismiss what he called "the
vision thing". At least his unconscious acknowledgement of
the absence of inspired ideas has the merit of honest philistinism.
Of course publicity-conscious corporations do not have a monopoly
on peddling visions. In medieval times, charlatan hustlers did a
brisk trade in visions. But their visions had class. A statue dripping
blood or a NHS mission statement? I know which one I would choose.
published on The First Post, 5 April 2006