I’ve written a number of times about the importance empathy, passion, and fostering a sense of shared purpose plays in our ability to succeed through our collective efforts, ideas that are normally considered too touchy-feely or soft to be of any practical benefit in the business world. Then again, in light of the rising tide of employee disengagement, the ability to empathize and communicate a shared sense of purpose is becoming ever more critical to an organization’s long-term health and viability.
But what about dreams? Could our dreams also help to push the boundaries of what’s known and familiar in order to ensure our collective success and growth? It’s an thought that came to mind after talking with my friend Whitney Johnson about her new book “Dare, Dream, Do”.
In most cases, any thoughts or discussions about the role dreams play in today’s business world tend to focus more on innovation and creativity; of how dreams of making a better product/service or learning to see the world differently has lead to so many of the breakthrough innovations that have changed and shaped the world we live in today.
Outside of inventing the next big thing, most of us tend to relegate dreaming as a skill needed only by the creative types, while the rest of us focus more on viewing the world through a pragmatic and practical lens.
But I would submit that our collective ability to dream shouldn’t be viewed as the exclusive domain of the creative and visionary types amongst us; that we shouldn’t limit our understanding of dreams to simply being about such quaint notions as winning the lottery or travelling around the world.
Rather, just like our passions, it’s important that we recognize that our dreams serve as both our inspiration and our drive to continue despite the long odds. Why else, after all, would so many people buy lottery tickets despite knowing the slim chances they have to win? It’s not simply the win they’re after, but what that win would mean for their lives in terms of giving them the opportunities they might not otherwise have.
We’ve all read time and again the mountains of research demonstrating that our ability to be motivated by financial rewards is finite, and how our ability to tap into that inner drive to persevere and succeed relies more on connecting our actions to something which provides a sense of purpose and meaning.
But if we don’t dream of what if – of what truly matters to us – how can we possibly reach this renewable source of determination and drive?
And if organizations and their leaders don’t create an environment or culture where the dreams of those they lead are recognized and understood, how can we create that necessary shift from focusing on what we do to why we do it in order to foster that sense of inner purpose which can fuel our employees to press ahead despite the challenges before them?
Again, let’s be clear not to confuse wishful thinking with the ability to use our imagination and passion to discover new approaches, understandings or realities about the changes going on around us.
Our ability to dream is the key to shifting from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance because we see potential where others see risk or even loss. After all, none of us dream within boundaries or limitations; but rather of what it would be like to move beyond these perceived restrictions.
Granted, sometimes these dreams can simply be flights of fancy. Then again, if we consider some of humanity’s most respected and admired achievements – the building of the Giza Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, sending a man to the moon – so many of them were dismissed as being unattainable, beyond our abilities and even absurd to consider.
And yet, the leaders who were behind these dreams didn’t concern themselves with the dismissive remarks of their contemporaries because they not only believed in their dreams, but because they understood the importance of transferring their dreams into the collective consciousness of those they lead.
In so doing, it was no longer merely the dream of one person, but of a group that shared a common goal and shared purpose. These leaders understood the power of dreams to not only bring people on board, but to getting them to make that leap of faith in the pursuit of taking that long-shot.
Don’t wait if you have a dream and say you’ll do it one day. Attack it immediately.”
– Explorer and environmental leader Robert Swan, the first person to walk to the North and South Poles.
The simple truth is that the world is changing and it’s becoming clear with each passing day that aiming for ‘good enough’ is no longer enough to succeed and thrive in today’s global market. It’s no longer enough to help create products or services that people want to use or continue to use. It’s no longer enough to ensure you attract and retain the key talent your organization needs to grow and evolve. And it’s no longer enough to ensure your organization’s survival in the years ahead.
Today’s world demands that leaders not only instill creativity and innovation, but that they reach out to tap into the dreams of those they lead to discover that common thread with which to connect their collective efforts around a common purpose that doesn’t simply engage their employees, but empowers them to feel like what they do matters.
Passion, empathy, and dreams are no longer words we should look upon as being the ideals of wishful thinking and what ifs, but as the necessary tools we’ll need to not only help our organization move forward towards reaching our shared goals, but to demonstrating to those we serve why it is we do what we do.