Vision, Not Goals

25 researchers for 5 years.

That’s how long it took them to invent the following:

  • The Personal Computer 

  • The GUI (Graphical User Interface)

  • Word processing / Desktop publishing

  • Object-Oriented Programming (OOP)

  • The Laser Printer

  • Postscript Fonts

  • Ethernet

  • Peer-peer Client/Server Computing

  • 50% of the Internet (50% ARPA)

I’ve been a little obsessed with Alan Kay and Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) lately, the team of merry researchers that literally invented the future in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.

Investment in PARC: $10M — $12M/year in today’s dollars.

Return on Investment: $35 Trillion dollars.

As Bill Gates has said, he and Steve Jobs essentially broke into PARC, stole their ideas to create Microsoft and Apple.

So yeah, they made an impact.

This doesn’t usually happen. It isn’t supposed to happen. It hasn’t happened since.

How did they achieve so much, so rapidly, with modest investment? The reasons are manifold (see this from Alan for his top 16) but near top of the list is “Vision, not Goals”.

“Computers are destined to become interactive intellectual amplifiers for everyone universally networked worldwide.”
 — J.C.R. Licklider aka “Lick”

This is obvious today. But it was incredibly visionary in 1962, decades before personal computing or the Internet.

This “Cosmic and Romantic” Vision (as Alan describes it) from Lick was all the group had to work on, all they needed. The vision made it clear this was destiny, it was bigger than any of them.

And they did it, invented the future, without any defined goals.


Goals are about zooming in. Goals happen on a schedule. Goals are logical.

Vision is about zooming out. Vision isn’t on a schedule. Vision is intuitive.

Goals are more Science. Vision is more Art.

Goals are linear/deterministic progression. Vision is a quantum leap into the future.

Want to lose weight, grow revenue, build/launch a product? Define those goals.

Want to build an extraordinary life, or create something extraordinary / novel in your work/business? Take a cue from the trailblazers at PARC.

Scrap those goals, craft a “Cosmic and Romantic” Vision and go claim your destiny.

Have a wonderful weekend,
-Amit


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