Our version of Olympic Gold
The CornerStone Dynamics (CSD) vision statement matters. We often read it at the beginning of team meetings. If we need guidance or direction, we review it. It matters to us. This vision statement is what we do and why we do it. It’s our long-range and constant.
Vision statements should take a long-term outlook that embodies the highest values and aspirations of an individual or an organization. It needs to inspire people to reach for what could be and to rise above their fears and preoccupations with current reality. We believe ours does just that.
There are really only two emotions that can inspire people: fear and love. If your corporate vision can’t inspire love (or at least related feelings like loyalty, pride or affection), I don’t think it will stand the test of time. Perhaps this sounds simplistic… but I really believe being simplistic is a good move when you’re talking about vision. If your ideas get too complicated, they’re at risk of becoming fuzzier and less clear. Simplicity is easier to communicate and remember than complexity.
Why our vision statement works
Let’s take a look at my own corporate visual vision statement. It’s simple but dynamic.
As you see, it is grounded with two blocks of text, as well as eight keystone words: what I refer to as our Core Beliefs.
Very likely, one of the first things you will notice is that the text is not laid out in straight lines. Everything is placed on purpose to reinforce the message. The top and bottom statements are arcs that mirror one another, embracing and containing the core of the business. The bottom is the grounding: who we are and wish to be and become.
The top is the “how”: what we do in order to get there. When you put them together, the two arcs suggest a circle in motion, which implies the turning of a wheel, a continual cycle of forward motion and reinforcement of our goals, ideals and values. The most natural way to read this statement is not from the top down, but from the bottom up. The lower statement grounds up; the upper one lets us fly.
Our core beliefs
In between, at the central base area of the statement, are eight important words, in solid block letters. These are the concepts that we want to inform every action we take as a business, every project we undertake, and every step along the way. These are our Core Beliefs:
- VALUE—To provide real and measurable value to clients who are equally engaged in the process.
- SERVICE—To provide the best service by being proactive and achieving excellence, every time.
- EFFICIENCY—To live and breathe efficiency and always be effective in our approach.
- COLLABORATION—To work as a team with our clients, understanding their challenges and delivering the best solutions.
- INTEGRITY—To always act with honesty and professionalism.
- COMMUNITY—To have a sense of responsibility and a contribution to society that defines our existence.
- HARMONY—To maintain and foster a happy, healthy life and work relationship.
- FUN—To enjoy the process and celebrate successes in our mutual journey.
In the course of my work, I actually make decisions based on the values. For instance, they help me identify the right people to associate with in my work, and they guide the overall direction of the company in terms of the types of projects we undertake.
But the words only transmit part of the overall message. In fact, when you first see my Visual Vision Statement, probably the first thing you will notice is the tree in the centre. Here you have a strong tree in its mature adult state. It’s very strong and very deeply rooted, so it speaks to the stability and power of the company.
Why a tree?
But with a tree there’s also life and growth; there’s an opportunity to give many things to many people. A tree can offer a home to a bird or a squirrel. As a living, organic thing, the tree can provide oxygen for us all. It can nurture; it can shelter. But it can also be flexible; the tree changes with the times whenever change is needed. Even when life is more or less stable, it adapts to every season.
The tree has the ability to renew itself. If it were to be ravaged by fire, part of the tree might die, but there are trees that can come back to life even after they’ve sustained terrible damage. If you’ve ever pruned a branch off a tree, at the end of the season you probably noticed new growth sprouting from the cut (which may have been frustrating if you were hoping to eliminate that branch!)
I chose the tree as my company’s central symbol, because to me it’s an amazing life form that provides so much – shade, oxygen, home, nutrients – it protects, it’s beautiful to look at… in every way, a tree is such a wonderful analogy for life, with its complex balance between beauty, simplicity, needs and wants and desires.
The branches of the tree are shown as a part of arcs reaching upwards, with the company logo nestled in between as if they were a pair of nurturing arms. Within the Cornerstone logo you have two additional elements: the caterpillar and the butterfly. At first glance, you think ‘Wow! That’s unusual; that’s not very corporate.” But you will instantly understand that some sort of transformation is going on here.
There are beams of colour radiating out from the central zone. The colour of these light beams represents the energy that pours out of that process of transformation. If you are reading from the bottom up, the last element you’ll come to when you finally read the top begins with the words “CSD transforms companies’ ways of working and people’s lives…” The connection with the simple little caterpillar becomes clear.