Vision and Focus

Posted On: 2017-05-24

By Mark

Whenever I have the chance to do so, I try to understand why one system works and another doesn't. One area that I find myself examining quite a bit is the process of organizing and motivating people: leadership. While I wouldn't say that there are a particular set of requisite features for good leadership (doing so would be overly reductive) I often find that one particular trait, Vision, is something that either is not present at all, or is not uniformly shared.

Vision, when used in the context of a leader, could be basically described as a deep understanding of "why". If, for example, a leader is trying to organize a team to clear land so that a bridge can be built, the vision is not the clearing of the land (the "how"), nor the bridge itself (the "what"), but rather the joy of reuiniting with loved ones on the far side of the river. Vision is critically important: it creates room for alternative ideas (such as using a boat to cross the river), as well as the range of information that can be relevant for pruning those alternatives (such as the knowledge that there are thousands of people that need to benefit from reuniting with their loved ones). Sharing the vision is critical for making sure that the solution that is implemented is able to produce the desired results. In the extreme case where the vision is not shared at all, people will often focus on the wrong details (such as clearing land) and end up doing things that have little to do with the desired goal (such as clearing out all the trees in the entire forest.)

Vision also plays a key role in motivation. It has been said (and written) that Purpose is crucial for motivating a workforce. When the leader and the workforce both share the same vision, their common purpose will motivate them to achieve the same goals. Furthermore, those that do not share the vision (or those that do not care about the vision) will often have difficulty working effectively and communicating with teammates, superiors, or subordinates.

Although, as I mentioned earlier, this is something I have observed in many other groups, I recently realized that, even when working on my personal projects, Vision is critically important. Recently, my lack of vision for my projects has undermined my ability to stay focused on any particular project. While I have chipped away at various "what" projects (learning new game engines, fundamentals of procedural sound and music, various mechanical prototypes), I haven't known why I was working on them (other than to simply achieve the specific goal).

Looking back on it, working on my bi-weekly projects helped me realize my goal of proving to myself that I could create games. The vision of myself finding satisfaction just in the act of creating was enough to push me to keep working at it. Now that I am confident that I can, I find myself at a loss for what next to focus on. Even when I have a spark of an idea that I want to pursue, it is still just the what, not the why, and it inevitably fades.

Though this is actively preventing me from making meaningful progress, simply recognizing it is a significant step forward. Previously, I had tried to find new "what"s (scheduled updates, ambitions of selling games, making a specific game, etc) to fill in my motivational gaps. It seems I have been looking in the wrong place.

Thank you,