In this new release, former Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine writer Erik Calonius captures the process of how visionaries conceive, execute and capitalize on new ideas. He identifies four key elements in every visionary's arsenal: intuition, courage, emotional intelligence and luck.
Researching business visionaries such as Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Andy Grove, Shirley Polykoff, Dave Thomas and Edwin Land, Calonius connects the visionary's role with the latest findings of brain research, capturing an array of insights from the intersection of the two.
Brain scientists have discovered that human minds can be greatly improved beyond previously believed limits. In fact, neuroscientists Quartz and Sejnowski write, "The world helped construct your mind's circuits when you were growing up, and it continually reshapes them as you experience new things and call on new skills."
The brain, in other words, is a moldable network of advanced circuitry that learns and grows as we experience life. Our experiences create new synaptic connections, allowing us to change our minds and thus our futures.
This is good news for anyone desiring to grow as a person, since nature plays a less significant role than the proper nurturing of one's mind. According to Calonius, the real difference between dreamers and business visionaries is blood, sweat and tears—or persevering in a worthwhile goal or purpose.
Few people are willing to invest the 10,000 hours needed to become a master in any field, but even if you do, it won't make you a visionary unless you are willing to think uncommonly about the standard presuppositions underlying your profession.
Learning to ask better questions and perceiving the underlying issues differently is key to visionary breakthroughs.
Carlo Rubbia, a world-renowned physicist, said, "Any fundamental advances in our field are made by looking at it with the smile of a child who plays a game."
The ability to question the unquestioned assumptions is the key to this childlike curiosity. Science writer Isaac Asimov wrote, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not Eureka! (I found it!) but, That's funny..."
Visionaries see the world differently, viewing it through the lens of what could be, not what is. It's a skill anyone can develop but few do. It requires a willingness to suspend belief in the ruling paradigm and allow other patterns that are hidden from view to emerge.
Anyone wanting to improve his grasp of what a visionary does and how he does it will benefit from reading this book.
Ten Steps Ahead says both visionaries and non-visionaries have the same mental equipment, but visionaries see the challenges facing them from unique perspectives, applying intuition, courage, emotional intelligence and luck in a disciplined approach to visionary solutions, leaving them ten steps ahead of the crowd.
Hardcover, 241 pages, $25.95;
Portfolio Penguin, 2011.