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High Concept Revisted: Aligning Vision with Effort

In an earlier
I discussed high concept and how it can focus an entrepeneur. High
concepts can be utilized in various scopes, from large scale strategy to the
operational goals of individual business units. And they don’t have to be
clever mashups of existing ideas.

In the early 1960’s, President John Kennedy called on the United States to put
a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Aside from any political
implications of this, this dream rallied the development and funding of
science programs, education and technical innovation. Many think this
established the United States’ technical foundation and had numerous benefits
for the country. It also focussed on the dream; would asking for $9
billion for space exploration have been as effective? This high
concept was simple, compelling and served as a simple litmus test for aligning
many efforts.

Many software engineering divisions are plagued by operational problems
that result in quality and maintenance problems. Their group leader could put
forth the following goal: “We should be able to push an application to
production within 8 hours from source code check-in.” Automated testing,
continuous integration and integrating QA upstream are process mechanisms that
could all contribute to this goal. Many may support these ideas, some will not
and others may suggest alternatives. But the high concept can help separate
the goal from implementation, purpose from politics.

High concept is not a panacea; some ideas are non-starters. (I wouldn’t go see
a movie based on “Signorney Weaver, Kevin Bacon and King Kong on the moon” nor
do I think “YouTube on wristwatches” should be funded.) But a simple
compelling vision can be a powerful tool to align the efforts of your
organization, rally enthusiasm and leverage collective brainpower.

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