“He who has a why can beat almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

This often quoted message is an important reminder for business people and investors, particularly when we analyse the quality of the management team in a corporation.

I like to look for a higher purpose driving people, managers and corporations. This is something beyond the usual material things, such as ‘putting shareholder interests first’, or ‘corporate citizenship’. The X Factor that drives long standing businesses rests in a mission, a purpose that can create great social and economic change.

Today, we see another wave of crowed tech companies. This is not (yet) dissimilar form the 1990s and the usual wave we tend to see every 15 to 20 years. The magic is never in the technology in my view. The magic in the enterprise and its people is the why- the purpose that is bigger than itself. Something that can carry the organisation, its founders and staff for the long term. A vision or mission that can sustain its people through the inevitable challenges business and competition necessarily throw up.

I say ‘necessarily’ because competition is a great conduit for excellence, persistence and helping the cream to rise to the top. If success was easy, this would not propel us towards innovation, and finding a mission which empowers.

I often find there are two clear mindsets. Those who first focus on the how, and those who first focus on the why. The emphasis is on the word ‘first’. In my view, vision precedes method. If we let the how limit, reduce or circumscribe the why, then we sell us and our organisation short.

Nietzsche’s message is timeless. It is squarely addressed at both the visionaries, the dreamers, as well as the critics and naysayers. Naturally, vision must, in time, marry with method. However, we cannot stifle the human spirit and innovation. Visions are infinite, while methods are finite. Perhaps ‘the art in it’ rests not in the battle of vision and method, but in their creative alignment. This thinking is sure to continue to drive innovative organisations and enlightened thinkers well into the remainder of this century.

By Lee Spano, Creatness International www.creatness.com

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