The importance of looking forward

It may be tricky to quantify the value of a better shared future image, but it's easy to spot the lethargy that accompanies an organisation that lacks one.

No matter whether it's a family, a community or a business - people's spirits are best served when they are looking forward to something.

To hold an inspiring aspirational image of a desirable future state of being in mind is the primary driver of motivation that gets people to act.

Without this 'looking forward to something' state; minds tend to wander to the past (the domain of pointless reminiscence), or are distracted by the present, that will probably look less desirable than selected pleasurable pictures of what has already been.

But the importance of lifting one's head up from the present and purposefully crafting a desirable vision of what could lie ahead in the future is what keeps people motivate to keep striving for improvement.

Without it businesses and people get lost in the thick present and lose motivation to grow.

It has always however amazed us as to how terribly most businesses squander the opportunity to share a motivating vision of what there is to look forward to. The majority of so-called vision and mission statements are utter nonsense and frankly insult the intelligence of the people who are coerced to read them.

It may be tricky to quantify the value of a better shared future image, but it's easy to spot the lethargy that accompanies an organisation that lacks one.

Getting real about what your aspirations are for the future of your business is time well invested. Not stopping until what you have is so tantalisingly inspiring and real that it seems to magically ignite spontaneous action is the aim.

Crafting an image of a future state that everyone looks forward to living, is the work of true transformational leadership. And an intangible asset that could literally be worth everything to a business.


This is how according to HBR, Ørsted - the Danish energy producer used an aspirational idea to transform their business.

Historically, the company derived 85% of its energy from fossil fuels, with only a meager 15% from sustainable sources. The leadership resolved to flip this ratio entirely, aiming for 85% of its energy to come from renewables like wind and solar.
Initially, Ørsted lacked a concrete plan to achieve this ambitious objective. There were no existing benchmarks to study, nor industry best practices to emulate — Ørsted ‘s goal surpassed anything seen in the sector before. This bold ambition compelled everyone within the company to confront harsh realities about its business model, including the urgent need to address climate change and the finite nature of fossil fuel resources, and reshape its business portfolio.
Henrik Poulsen, who served as Ørsted ‘s CEO from 2012 to 2020, leveraged this bold ambition to rally a workforce initially skeptical of such monumental change, inspiring them to embrace creative solutions. The company sold off its oil and gas business, phased-out the use of coal for power generation, and acquired Deepwater Wind and other assets to expand its position in offshore wind.  Ørsted set a timeline of 30 years to achieve its goal, yet remarkably accomplished it in just a decade.


A New Model for Continuous Transformation
Traditionally, transformation efforts are organized as programs with a defined beginning and end. Rooted in a change model popularized by German American psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1950s, this approach involves three stages: “unfreeze, change, and refreeze.” Although it is effective for discrete projects like implementing a new payroll system, this model falls short in today’s dynamic business environment. The continuous evolution of the external landscape demands ongoing business transformation, with no room for pausing, refreezing, and stepping away. This article describes the three key strategies needed to support continuous transformation: adopt an agile mindset, use aspirations to continuously challenge and stretch the organization, and build transformation into the company’s operating rhythm.