Tom Emison, in his talk at the Traust Executive Roundtable this past Thursday, touched on how companies need vision, but also need it to be measurable. It’s the same reason why too many companies don’t include, or even think to include, tech leadership in their decision-making inner circle—they might be able to visualize how to use technology, but they struggle to make it measurable, make it realizable.
Now, you’ve heard of SpaceX, Amazon, Uber and Google right? You might have read their mission statements at some point. The good ol’ reliable mission statement. Every company (hopefully) has one, and they can actually yield great insight into companies’ thought processes. There’s an incredible amount of information on how to successfully craft a mission statement. “Include goals, make it last a lifetime, state what you do, make it concise, make it thorough,” etc…
The list goes on. So what do the world’s most innovative companies’ mission statements look like and how can any company emulate them?
Let’s revisit those four companies. SpaceX, Amazon, Uber and Google are not tech companies. SpaceX is an aerospace company, Amazon is a retail company, Uber is a transportation company, and Google is an information services company.
To understand this difference, let’s take a look at each of 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 go back and, as best we can, 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 this boiled down version. 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 another search engine. But they didn’t just make another way to do anything, they changed the way we think about doing something.
The reason you think of SpaceX, Amazon, Uber and Google as technology companies, is because all four of these companies 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 leveraged technology to create reusable rockets. Now they’re going to mars.
Amazon wanted to be a retail company, but they also wanted to facilitate customer discovery. So they leveraged technology to revolutionize how people shop online. Amazon just overtook Google as the method people initially use to search for retail items. They are so ubiquitous with retail, 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 leveraged technology to completely 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 organized information and make it useful. So they leveraged 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.
That greatness doesn’t come from their adoption of technology. Anyone can find the next tech (see: IoT, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, etc…). What that greatness comes from is an absolute and unyielding commitment to technology as the medium to achieve an evolving mission.
In layman’s terms? All four of those companies don’t see technology as something they need for their business. They see technology as their business. It is what enables a reusable rocket company to plan on interplanetary travel, it is what enables a retail company to use drones to deliver packages, it is what enables a transportation company to invest in autonomous freight, and it is what enables a search-engine 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. Sometimes only one of those three, and sometimes all of them. What your mission statement doesn’t normally reflect is how you can do those things. For too many companies, that how isn’t focused. It’s long-winded. It’s different depending on who you ask in the leadership of the company.
No matter if you’re a construction company, a manufacturing company, a utilities company, a retail company, literally any company—the technological revolution can unlock your mission statement. When technology is your key, it opens endless opportunities.
Your mission statement may be okay, it may be good and it may even be great. However, many companies wonder how they can get a step ahead of the competition. How they can make themselves a little bit different; a little bit better. The answer is this: ask what your company does and wants to do, and then go to your technology leadership and ask them “how can you take me there?”
Trust us, they’ll have an idea or two.