Shared Vision and Stone Soup

Peter Senge wrote about shared vision in The Fifth Discipline. This is much different from a vision that a top-down manager delivers to her employees without participation. All that manager will get is compliance from her team. It is the kind of vision that is easily forgotten and few on the team will be excited and motivated to see it succeed. Senge recommends that we create a vision together in much the same way as the stranger and the villagers in the story of stone soup. The leader starts the process with a vision–a framework to get started–and presents it to the team. If the team members can get behind the vision, they start to add to it, build on it, make it their own.¬† When it is shared, everyone contributes and everyone enjoys the rewards.

The Senge’s idea of a shared vision is brought to life in the story of stone soup. In the story, a stranger arrives in a village in the dead of winter. It is bitterly cold and no one has much. She goes to the center of the village, sets down a pot, stokes a fire under it, and adds water to the pot. Then she adds a special ingredient: a single stone. That stranger stirs the pot and comments that if his stone soup only had a carrot or a slice of onion, it would be fantastic. One villager runs back to her house and returns with a carrot. Another finds an onion. The stranger continues to suggest ingredients until finally, everyone has contributed to the soup and it is delicious.

Creating a vision like this takes time and space to discuss ideas with a representative group of participants. The best sessions I have had with my staff revolved around our big ideas. What makes our library  and our institution special? What have we seen elsewhere that has inspired us? Encouraging all ideas to be welcome and needed is important. When everyone has contributed something to the session, we have succeeded.