There is a Japanese proverb that addresses the issue of action or, as we would put it today, Execution: “A vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
We all know imaginative people who have great ideas about how things should be and a solid understanding of how things actually are. Since they know the starting line as well as the finish, they are able to clearly mark the surest route. Yet we also know people who tend to focus only on one or the other. They are more likely to get lost along the route. Those with a meaningful vision for the future can move the organization very far ahead. Those with a realistic understanding of the present rarely struggle as they line others up for the journey.
When I asked John Thompson, the very successful former executive at IBM, former chairman, CEO, and president of Symantec, and now CEO of Virtual Instruments, what advice he would give aspiring innovators, he expressed a sentiment very similar to this Japanese proverb. He told me that he would recommend first that they never stop dreaming. Then, he said he would tell them, “Innovation is about dreams, but don't ever assume that just because you have great dreams, they will happen automatically. You have got to be focused on the execution part, too. People who dream big and execute well are the most successful people in this industry, no question about it.”
Effective innovators know that they—or their teams—need the right mix of skills to ...