In his talk at the Traust Executive Roundtable, Tom Emison discussed how companies need a vision that is measurable. Too many companies, Tom says, don’t include their technology leaders in their decision-making inner circle. And while the rest of the executive team might be able to visualize how to use technology, they often struggle to make it measurable and realizable.
Let’s take SpaceX, Amazon, Uber, and Google — some of the world’s most innovative companies — as examples. You might have read their mission statements at some point. The good ol’ reliable mission statement. Every company (hopefully) has one, and they can yield great insight into a company’s thought processes. If you read enough business books, you’ll find plenty of information on how to craft a successful mission statement. “Include goals;” “make it last a lifetime;” “state what you do;” “make it concise;” “make it thorough.” The list goes on and on.
A Mission Statement that Matters
So, what do the mission statements of our sample companies look like? And how can any company emulate them?
Let’s revisit those four companies. SpaceX, Amazon, Uber, and Google are not really tech companies. SpaceX is an aerospace company. Amazon is a retail company. Uber is a transportation company. And Google is an information services company. But each of them uses technology to achieve their goals. To understand this difference, let’s look first at their mission statements.
- SpaceX: SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.
- Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.
- Uber: Transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere, for everyone.
- Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Now, let’s simplify what each company does in as few words as possible.
- SpaceX creates space vehicles.
- Amazon creates customers.
- Uber creates transportation.
- Google creates information.
These four companies could have stayed with these boiled down versions. SpaceX could have been another company that creates rocket technology. Amazon could have created another online shopping experience. Uber could have created another way to transport people and things. Google could have created just another search engine. But none of them just made another way to do something, they changed the way we think about doing those things.
Differentiate with Technology
The reason you think of SpaceX, Amazon, Uber, and Google as technology companies is because all four are among the best in the world at leveraging technology to differentiate themselves.
SpaceX wanted to be an aerospace company, but they also wanted to enable people to live on other planets. So, they used technology to create reusable rockets. Now they’re going to Mars.
Amazon wanted to be a retail company, but they also wanted to simplify customer discovery. So, they used technology to revolutionize how people shop online. Amazon just overtook Google as the tool people use to start their search for retail items. They are so ubiquitous with retail that people use them as a pseudo-search engine.
Uber wanted to be a transportation company, but they also wanted to provide reliable and accessible transportation. So, they used technology to change the way we think about cars and drivers. Now, they’re going to be leading the charge into autonomous freight.
Google wanted to be an information services company, but they also wanted to take the information and make it useful. So, they used technology to revolutionize the way we interact with information. Now they’re shooting WiFi into the sky.
The best part about all these companies? They didn’t stop there. They continue to seek out new technology. They continue to find new ways to use developing technology to further their mission. And they continue to lead their industries and enter or disrupt others.
Technology Unlocks Your Mission Statement
That greatness doesn’t come from their adoption of technology. Anyone can find the next technology (see: IoT, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, etc.). That greatness comes from an unyielding commitment to technology as the medium to achieve an evolving mission.
In layman’s terms, these companies don’t see technology as something they need to run their businesses. Rather, they see technology as their business. This distinction is what enables a reusable rocket company to plan on interplanetary travel. It’s what enables a retail company to use drones to deliver packages. It’s what enables a transportation company to invest in autonomous freight. And It’s what enables a search engine company to invest in driverless cars and internet balloons.
Your mission statement reflects what you do, who you do it for, and why you do it. What your mission statement doesn’t normally reflect is how you do those things. For too many companies, unfortunately, that how isn’t very focused. And it’s different depending on who you ask in the company’s leadership.
No matter if you’re a construction company, a manufacturing company, a utility, a retailer, or literally any other type of company, digital transformation can unlock your mission statement. When technology is your key, it opens endless opportunities.
Your mission statement may be great, but you probably still wonder how to get ahead of your competition. How can you make your company different — and better. The answer is this: ask what your company does and wants to do. Then go to your technology leadership and ask, “How can you take us there?”
Trust us, they’ll have an idea or two.