As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon I am reminded about the value of having a vision.  An audacious, challenging and seemingly impossible vision to land a man on the moon.  A vision that inspired a generation of individuals to make it happen and change how we see our world.  Literally and figuratively.

There were several factors that contributed to this vision including a commitment to expand our knowledge of the universe, fierce competition to be the first, and a desire to show that anything is possible.  It took ingenuity, grit and determination.

It may seem like a walk in the park for many of you too young to remember but to put it in context – you have more computing power in your phone than they had to put a man on the moon.

Everything was new.  It all had to be developed, tested and reworked until they got it right.  Along the way there were plenty of failures and false starts.  There were financial constraints, political issues, and a skeptical public seeing hunger and homelessness as higher priorities.

Sound familiar.  It should. As intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs you face similar issues every day. You see a problem, an opportunity, or injustice that needs to be addressed.  You are eager to explore all the options, push the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior, experiment and test your hypothesis, and take responsibility for your actions.

But…it all starts with a vision.  An idea that bubbles up, percolates in your mind and becomes an obsession that you can’t let go. No matter how fuzzy or unclear it may be at the start you are convinced that it is viable, and you set out to fill in the blanks, find data to support you, money to fund you and people who believe you.  Yet it is not as simple as that.

You may think you have what it takes to drive your idea through to implementation, but it is everyone else that you encounter along the way that will need convincing.  It isn’t about you, it’s about them. It’s about how they think and act.  They may intellectually understand your vision but not see the nuances that turn it into something of value.  They may not understand the benefits that can result from your idea.  The progress your idea can make in moving an issue forward toward a bigger and better solution.  Neither of you will truly understand the impact of an idea until you are past it.

It’s more than a vision.  It’s the value and benefit that derives from your idea.

Think of all the things that came from NASA and the Apollo program. According to Saiskia Otto, here are a few of those things.

  1. CAT scanner: this cancer-detecting technology was first used to find imperfections in space components.
  2. Computer microchip: modern microchips descend from integrated circuits used in the Apollo Guidance Computer.
  3. Cordless tools: power drills and vacuum cleaners use technology designed to drill for moon samples.
  4. Ear thermometer: a camera-like lens that detects infrared energy we feel as heat was originally used to monitor the birth of stars.
  5. Freeze-dried food: this reduces food weight and increases shelf life without sacrificing nutritional value.
  6. Insulation: home insulation uses reflective material that protects spacecraft from radiation.
  7. Invisible braces: teeth-straightening is less embarrassing thanks to transparent ceramic brace brackets made from spacecraft materials.
  8. Joystick: this computer gaming device was first used on the Apollo Lunar Rover.
  9. Memory foam: created for aircraft seats to soften landing, this foam, which returns to its original shape, is found in mattresses and shock absorbing helmets.
  10. Satellite television: technology used to fix errors in spacecraft signals helps reduce scrambled pictures and sound in satellite television signals.
  11. Scratch resistant lenses: astronaut helmet visor coating makes our spectacles ten times more scratch resistant.
  12. Shoe insoles: athletic shoe companies adapted space boot designs to lessen impact by adding spring and ventilation.
  13. Smoke detector: Nasa invented the first adjustable smoke detector with sensitivity levels to prevent false alarms.
  14. Swimsuit: Nasa used the same principles that reduce drag in space to help create the world’s fastest swimsuit for Speedo, rejected by some professionals for giving an unfair advantage.
  15. Water filter: domestic versions borrow a technique Nasa pioneered to kill bacteria in water taken into space.

All of these are things that we take for granted today but they were developed in support of a vision, an idea to put a man on the moon.  It took imagination and a deep exploration of the unknown.  It captured the hearts and minds of a whole generation of people who believed that “no dream was impossible.”

Millions of people began to believe that it was possible.  That translated into more support, further funding and a stronger commitment.  Things needed to keep that vision alive.

Today, it has become increasingly clear that we are facing a myriad of social, environmental and economic problems that can only be addressed by individuals that have a vision, a better way forward. That’s why intrapreneurs are needed more than ever.  They see a better, brighter future than exists today.  They want a world that can support and sustain future generations.  They believe that everyone should benefit from advances in technology.  That there should be programs to empower the poor and disadvantaged.  That we need to find ways to protect our environment…and so much more.

Intrapreneurs not only think that anything is possible they take steps that put their words into action.  They test their hypothesis, experiment intelligently and learn from their success and failure. They are resilient, persistent and determined to find a way. They leverage what they’ve got, not what they think they need.  They take responsibility for their actions.

Intrapreneurs are committed to making a difference but they often fail to understand the differences that exist between those that see their vision and those that don’t.  What do they see, what do they think, what do they believe and what stops them from embracing your vision?

As intrapreneurs and social intrapreneurs your worst enemy can be yourself.  You may think you know who you are, what you think and how you act, but according to a research study at Harvard only 15% of individuals are self-aware.  That means that you need to understand who you are at the core – not only how you think but what you do.

Only then will you be able to understand the other side – those that don’t see your vision, accept your premise or buy into your approach.

It’s not about being capable it’s about being capable to deal with everyone else that does not see what you see, believe what you believe or see anyway to get from here to there.  That’s why we suggest that you take the time to explore exactly who you are, so you can understand how to move your idea forward.

It’s all about closing the gap between what you see and what you want everyone else to see.  That’s how you turn a vision into reality.

The moon landing was a vision that became a reality when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon and said those famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

What’s your vision and what steps must you take to achieve it?

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