In praise of the positive power of visualisation

Listen to any elite athlete talk about achieving peak performance and you can bet the mortgage that visualisation is mentioned somewhere as one of the critical techniques.

In fact don’t even listen. Just watch. Watch someone like Amy Williams – Britain’s first woman in 58 years to win individual gold at a Winter Olympics – standing at the top of the skeleton bob run, and you know exactly what’s going on behind the crash helmet. She’s imagining pushing off for the perfect start, that first corner…

And I decided today that I was going to channel that same thinking to visualise the success of my current project.

You see, one of the big downsides about being something of an idealist is that you have to know when to rein in your enthusiasm – when it’s time to park your well-intentioned evangelism at the door and assume the mantle of Mr Pragmatic Head.

And nowhere is that more true than here in Saudi.

Some examples are obvious. For example, extolling the virtues of renewable energy in one of the world’s most oil-rich nations is likely to be an exercise in futility!

Others, though, are much more subtle.

For example, the uninitiated might look at the current paradigm of corporate responsibility here – essentially “CSR = charitable giving” (period!) – and make the assumption that the thinking just isn’t as advanced here as elsewhere.

Not true. (At least not entirely.)

It is far more a function of cultural traditions and religious duty that places massively greater emphasis on giving to those less fortunate than oneself. Indeed, the notion that a company might benefit commercially from taking a more systemic view of sustainability, and incorporating it into core business strategy, is almost a little distasteful.

So there’s an incredibly fine balance to be struck when talking about “materiality” and linking the company’s success with serving a higher social purpose – ensuring that the primary motivation is understood as contributing to the greater good of society.

And, ultimately, there’s a similarly fine balance to be struck between proposing something that is sufficiently new and different to achieve meaningful advantage (which is, after all, the goal of the project) and, at the same time, being sufficiently respectful of past activities and those cultural traditions.

I was beginning to question whether we were getting that balance right, and here’s where the visualisation comes in.

The litmus test?

Simple. I just imagined myself as the CEO, standing on the big stage several months from now, proudly launching our new strategy. What would he be saying?

Hardly revolutionary thinking, I know, but extremely helpful. ‘Cause, you know what…

I reckon we’re bang on!


5 thoughts on “In praise of the positive power of visualisation

  1. Sean Trainor

    Powerful stuff indeed Dan.
    Again not new, but visualising the contrast between success and failure is also effective, especially when using familiar media. 1 tactic I’ve deployed in the past is to mock up a business newspaper’s lead article on “Company X fails to achieve Y because of Z”
    n contrast with mock up of “Company A shows best practice in B that has lead to C”
    Helps if you include the CEO’s picture.


  2. Alan Lane

    Interesting stuff Dan. Try reading The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    What are you up to in Saudi Arabia; I have been there and it is a very fascinating country. We have met at IABC UK+EME meetings.

    Alan Lane


  3. Dan Gray Post author

    Hi Alan – long time no see, great to hear from you.

    I’m 3 weeks in to what is set to be a 9 month project in Riyadh, helping a major Saudi company to formulate and implement a new CR strategy.

    And so far (aside from slightly iffy accommodation, whilst I wait to see if I can secure a spot on a compound) I’m absolutely loving it. The culture is fascinating, the hospitality incredible, and the food fantastic (my waistband is expanding by the day!)

    Would love to hear more about your experiences out here. Any hints and tips on how to make the most of my sojourn would be very gratefully received!


  4. Indy

    Hey Dan – Maybe you can find some local colleagues/contacts to comment, but to me there’s always seemed to be a strong connection between your ideas about prosperity from sustainable thinking, Umair Haque’s “Betterness is good business” and the concept of Islam as life in service of Allah.


    1. Dan Gray Post author

      Nice idea, Indy, and thanks for the reminder to check out Umair’s latest ( for anyone who’s interested), which I’ve just forwarded round to a bunch of my colleagues here.

      Rather like our efforts on the CommScrum, his tendency towards the hyperbolic may not be everyone’s cup of tea but, personally, I love his passion, conviction and knack for the telling phrase.

      “So you made a profit — yawn — but did you actually have an impact?” Love it!



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