Rare but incredibly effective, a visionary approach empowers a firm to create or recreate an industry with some degree of predictability by seeing an opportunity and pursuing it single-mindedly. Being first confers the advantage of superior size that comes with being ahead of rivals and allows a firm to set industry standards, influence customer preferences, develop a superior cost position, and determine the direction for an entire market. Even though visionary approaches are most frequently associated with entrepreneurial start-ups, large firms increasingly need to familiarize themselves with the approach as well.
Deploy a visionary strategy when there is an opportunity to create or recreate an industry—when a firm sees the outcome as predictable and the environment as malleable, even if others don't share that vision. Visionary circumstances can arise when a firm spots an emerging megatrend before someone else sees or acts on it, when technological change opens up the possibility to reshape an industry, or when unaddressed customer dissatisfaction with the dominant offering creates the possibility of a new market.
Timing is critical: successful visionary firms capitalize on gaps—among the emergence of an opportunity, the recognition and acceptance of an idea, and the reaction by established players—by envisaging, building, and persisting. First, envisage an opportunity by tapping into a megatrend early, applying a new technology, or addressing customer dissatisfaction or a latent need. Second, be the first to build a company and a product that realize this vision. Finally, persist in pursuing a fixed goal while being flexible about the means to overcome unforeseen obstacles.
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