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  • Margaret Page

Creating a vision or solving problems? What’s the difference?

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

In my 30 years as a business owner and community leader, I’ve often seen people set a goal or a target and call it a vision. Sometimes, fixing a problem is confused for vision. Although modern leaders need both problem-solving skills and visioning skills, the two are very different.

Visioning is from the future to today. Problem solving is from today to tomorrow.

Problem solving or creating a vision?

A vision is a vivid mental image of the place you want your organization to be. It creates a new future by working backwards from a fixed point six months, a year, or even five or 10 or 20 years from now.

Sometimes, the vision you have for the future may seem to have almost nothing to do with how your organization functions today: 20 years ago, who would have thought that an online bookstore called Amazon would be the greatest deliverer of goods and information in the world? The answer is Jeff Bezos, of course. He started with his ultimate goal and worked backward to the easiest point of entry to that future.

Problem solving, on the other hand, examines ways to course-correct current constraints to allow greater flow in the future. Figuring out how to deliver books directly to consumers wasn’t Amazon’s vision, for example, but solving that problem did open up new supply chain possibilities for the company’s ultimate goal.

So how can you problem solve while working toward an overall vision?

Start with blue-sky thinking to create your vision. To do this, you need to become a futurist: What will the world be like in 10 years? What will your country be like, your city, your organization? Spool out ahead and don’t be afraid to think big — this is not the time to put limitations on yourself.

From there, you can begin to problem solve by brainstorming solutions. What practical problems and tasks need to be addressed now to achieve your vision? How about five years from now or 10? These solutions become your milestones on your path toward your envisioned future.

Right now, the future is uncertain and even scary. But your ability to envision one — no matter what it holds — is the key to unlocking potential. You may have a lot of problem solving to do along the way, but by keeping your gaze forward you can create a brave new world of opportunity.


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