horizon vision building shiftschool


\ hə-ˈrī-zᵊn \


What is a horizon and why is it better than building a vision? Normally, we think of a horizon as the apparent junction of earth and sky. Secondarily, we then think of a horizon as a range of perception or experience. In the sense of “a limited horizon” or “expanding a horizon”. And isn’t transformation about expanding the horizons of the imaginable?

The dictionary also teaches us that horizon can also be used when we want to describe something we might attain in the future. Something we would normally describe as a vision. But visions have been the subject of much deception. They are often only the lowest common denominator, where in fact big, bold steps would be required. Soft-boiled, smoothly ironed and carefully sanded off verbalizations that don’t signify anything. Soulless grammar on glossy websites does not move people.

But wouldn’t we rather need rougher edges and unconventional thinking to really change things?

The time to preserve the status quo is over. Instead we need to create a holistic picture that considers the interests of all. Short-sighted problem solving will eventually lead to mediocrity and vague promises lack the aspiration to really, really change something.

Most “Vision Building” encapsulates the Now, extrapolating what we have now into a future version of this very present. However, black swans laugh at our data collections of the past. When we imagine future states we need to take into account that the future future is even less predictable than before (It probably never was even if we always wanted to make ourselves believe this.)

It‘s close to impossible to build future scenarios in VUCA environments and it‘s even harder to condense uncertainty into a compelling statement. This is why we need a different approach when we need to decide which road to take.

No one has a crystal ball. But everybody can tell a story of how we want our future to look like. We can start from scratch, leave all the complexity aside, and describe how we imagine the result of transformation. In a detailed and descriptive manner. This description does not provide a clear answer, but defines a direction. A cardinal point where to start the journey.


It is highly unlikely to reach the future state that we have imagined before. We might not even get close. But it provides direction that everybody can follow. We might even fail and get wet. But eventually the journey takes us to some other, better place.

In order to get going, we need a place to start and a direction to head to. Goals lead us to the impression that we want to achieve, with a horizon we know that this is never possible. But we know where to set sail and then we feel liberated to rethink things independently of outdated convictions.


  • Expressive Leadership
    the art of forming unity by means of storytelling
  • Directive Purpose
    the craft of shaping legacy, ideas and business into a meaningful whole
  • Predictive Re-Creation
    the ability of detecting trends and imagining possible future scenarios

HORIZON is the second dimension in the SHAPE® Framework. In case you have missed the first dimension you might also look up Sovereignty. 

Open the FLEXICON and discover more key principles of transformation.

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