On the 6th July 2005, the day that the 2012 Olympic Games were awarded to London, in competition against Paris, there was an explosion of joy in the United Kingdom. The next day was 7/7 and the explosion was in the London underground: from the heights of exuberance to the depths of anxiety.
Once the harrowing story of the bomb had been absorbed, a shaken Britain could once again return to its contemplation of the Olympic Games. By this time, there was a feeling of anti-climax. Discussions heated around the controversial costs of the games. Inevitably, the initial estimates were perceived as being insufficient.
Parliamentary committees and new reviews focused on the problem. Questions were asked about the way estimates had been devised and which assumptions had been used. As the arguments churned around, I had the feeling that the country had lost sight of the big picture. It was as if there was no vision.
It’s not at all surprising. According to the way the bid had been presented to the Olympic selection committee by Sebastian Coe and the London Olympic Organising Committee team, “London 2012’s ambition is to create a Games for everyone, where everyone is invited to take part, join in and enjoy the most exciting event in the world.”And the message in England was about the regeneration of London’s East End: “It will accelerate the most extensive transformation seen in London for more than a century.”
But people at home in England had another idea. The principle rival to London’s bid was Paris. It never takes more than a "Beat the French" objective to stir up the spirit of the English, and once attained to raise their spirits. However, once the Games had been won, that was it. "The French conquered: what next?" "Now we actually have to do the games!" And oh, there’s that cosmopolitan and participative thing as well. And then the bomb attack.
If you don’t have an adequate vision, then any discussions are going to converge around the costs. There’s no shared intention about the project, no agreement about which parts of the project are most important, about the priorities, the risks, the constraints, the opportunities. In other words, are the games to be about London essentially, or about Britain? Are young people to be encouraged, or regions, or particular sports, or ethic minorities? Where are investments to be made? What are the priorities? If no vision, then no purpose.
In order to get back to where they were on the 5th July 2005, the London Olympic team had to get back to their vision and to proclaim it loud and clear, why the games are important and what that means for every participant and every community in the United Kingdom. To articulate a vision statement, think about what really matters and then say it over and over again. One thing about a vision statement is that it has to be repeated in order to resonate. It should be authentic, as if it comes from the heart. That is because it encapsulates something of real importance for the people involved.
The vision statement should be unique and distinctive. It should resonate in terms of people's inner aspirations, not weak and tepid, beyond what everyone else is doing, inclusive and not distant. It’s not just “we’ll please our stakeholders”, but “we’ll change the world all together”.
For two most iconic visions that captured the spirit of their time, try in Youtube:
"I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." And "1984 apple macintosh commercial". In fact advertisements can be very good at working on "vision".
Some vision statements are clearly expressed and remembered, “A PC on every desk” (Microsoft), others are implicit, “We’ll make work fun” (Apple). They are statements of intent and give a reason to exist. A vision is what binds people together and makes what they do seem truly worthwhile. A vision sets a project on the right track.