Sunday, June 17, 2012

Vision * Execution = Results

Steve Jobs * Steve Wozniak = Apple 1977

100% Vision * 0% Execution = 0 Results

0% Vision * 100% Execution = 0 Results

Leave it to LUCIMA to convert photography into a mathematical equation :)

A while ago when I was getting my MBA, I was giving a presentation on something strategy or business-oriented. During the presentation, I noticed that I had the attention of the entire class. I could feel that the audience was engaged and I knew that the content of the presentation was well received. In fact, the audience was so engaged that I could be telling complete lies and I think they'd totally buy it.

Fast-forward several years. I remember teaching some clients how to use our company's accounting software. The clients had to sit through a 3 hour - 100 page Powerpoint presentation that was thick as mud. There was just too much content to cover gracefully within 3 hours. The end result was that the audience was bored to death. Perhaps it was my fault, but I couldn't get through those slides fast enough with enough entertainment for the audience. It didn't matter that the content was good because without the attention of the audience, it was all moot.

I realized that delivering presentations could be broken down into 2 important variables. Delivery + Content = Transfer of Knowledge. Having one without the other is useless. If you have amazing delivery but no content, your audience is well-entertained but learns nothing. If you have amazing content but horrendous delivery, your audience will pass out and hear none of your valuable teachings. Good transfer of knowledge requires a good combination of delivery and content.

Just like good photography.

For an image to be "successful" it needs to have two important components. Vision and Execution. The image must aspire to something. It must be interesting. It must evoke emotions. And in order to accomplish those goals the artist/photographer must conjure something visionary. I think this is what made [fill in the blank with your favorite famous photographer], legendary. They were visionaries first and photographers second.

The second portion is equally important. Execution. Having a vision but not executing on that vision is like having an idea for a great invention but never actually doing anything about it. That's why there is no "market" for ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone has ideas. But bringing them to life, ah that's beauty in motion. Logistics, problem-solving, teamwork, resource management, etc. are all part of this art. Because without execution, you'd still be marveling at how cool it'd be to do an underwater shoot but never actually getting wet.

Most photographers have one but not the other. I know lots of photographers that have great ideas and are true visionaries but have no ability to execute those visions. Perhaps their goals are too lofty? Perhaps they lack the technical skill. But what these photographers don't lack is the inspiration and willingness to create from nothing.

And I know lots of photographers that are technically sound but lack the ability to create anything inspiring. These photographers lament their lack of inspiration and how they get bored easily. They think in terms of physics, math, and logic. They are so left-brain dominant that they can't imagine anything that hasn't already been created. But they're amazing at executing on someone else's image and can be paid well to do so.

Amazing photographers combine both vision and execution so that they may set themselves apart from the rest of their peers. These photographers stand the test of time and tend to reinvent themselves over and over again. Basically they push their own envelopes. They are "market makers" and not "market followers". They come up with their own ideas and then they realize those ideas and then they move on to their next project. They are usually internally driven but well-aware of their competition and the overall market so that they don't alienate themselves from their audience. They are a gifted hybrid of the left-brain and the right-brain. Commanding respect from both an artistic aspect as well as a technical aspect. To these photographers you'll never say, "It was a great idea, but poorly executed" or "It was flawlessly executed yet boring idea". To these photographers you usually wind up saying, "Damn". Or "Wow". Because you're visually impressed but also emotionally moved.

Of course the $100,000 question is, "How does one become both a great visionary and a great executioner?". I'm going to suggest that to some degree, you either are or you're not. You can train a monkey to throw darts, but you can't train it to do regression analysis. Everyone is limited in his/her abilities.

The key is to play to your strengths. And find someone else to play to your weaknesses.

If you know you're better at one thing and not the other, don't spend all day trying to makeup for the weakness. Because at best you'll just be average at that weakness. And it'll take you years to just be average. Instead, you should cultivate your strength; that which you're already gifted in. Push that gift to the limit. Be the best at that part of the puzzle. Then find someone equally amazing at the other part of the puzzle which you lack. Together you'll be unstoppable. Don't be a jack of all trades. Be the best at 1 very specific thing. That's all that matters. But find someone talented in the skill-sets where you are weak and let them be your eyes and ears so you're aren't deaf and blind.

Perhaps the fallacy is that you have to do it all yourself. We look at the Avedons of the world and think to ourselves that they're such amazing one-man shows. When in fact, Dick worked with an amazing printer to bring his visions to life. He couldn't have done it all alone. What we often forget is that greatness is seldom accomplished alone. It's synergy. It's why the team is greater than the sum of the parts. We remember Steve Jobs for creating amazing products such as the iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. But we often forget to credit Steve Wozniak and the amazing engineers for putting up with Steve Jobs' antics while he was at Apple's helm. After all Jobs was not an engineer. He was a visionary. And a damn good one.

So while I originally created this post to demonstrate how important it was to have both vision and execution, my message has now shifted. Yes, it's important to have both vision and execution. But don't have to do it all by yourself.


  1. How awesome is this..thank you always open my mind to new important things about my agree with you 100%..I love this part..ou should cultivate your strength; that which you're already gifted in. Push that gift to the limit. Be the best at that part of the puzzle. Then find someone equally amazing at the other part of the puzzle which you lack. Together you'll be unstoppable

  2. Great to read about strenghtbased thinking and organising things. In my professional work as a coach - consultant I work through the appreciative eye (appreciate what is and what works) and use your best sources (talents of yourself and talents within others) to execute the dreams.

  3. Fantastic post! This has alleviated a load off my shoulders... I'd love to find a helping hand with the more left brain technical aspects