A striking through line between ambitious and successful technological programs from SpaceX to PARC (and before that, ARPA computing) is that they were organized either explicitly or implicitly around a precise vision of the future.^1 Through separate mechanisms, these precise visions are both correlated to the success of ambitious projects and help cause that success.
The causal relationship between precise visions and success is the more intuitive one. Precise visions act as a coordinating mechanism that enables a large group of people to agree on what things they are working towards and perhaps more importantly what they are not working towards. Any compelling vision will generate action, but if it’s imprecise that action won’t be coordinated and energy will quickly dissipate. ::Need a good visual analogy here - school of fish doesn’t cut it because they’re all locally coordinated, maybe rowers?:: Additionally, if people can imagine the specific actions that they can do now in order to move towards the vision, it’s much easier to do. By way of contrast, most visions are abstract and fuzzy, which leads to reactions along the lines of “somebody should do something!” “Pass a law!” Or “boy it sure would be nice if…” Legibility enables action
The non-causal correlation is less intuitive. I suspect that precise visions are a filter for programs that are more likely to be successful. You could almost think of the vision like a test against reality. Do we understand the thing well enough to execute on it? If not, it’s less likely to be feasible. It may need much more prework. This litmus test doesn’t limit you to just incremental changes either - As we may think painted a precise vision of a system that was a massive paradigm shift from anything
^1: I want to acknowledge up-front that ‘vision’ and ‘visionary’ has become a grossly overloaded Suitcase Handle Word. Unfortunately, it is also the correct word for what I’m talking about. I tried out ‘crisp picture’ or ‘shared goal’ but they just don’t work. It’s also hard to define in a non-circular manner from the content of this note. So hopefully this note serves to sufficiently discriminate precise visions from the casual use of the word.