The Power Of Seeing

'Can You See What You Are Building' by Richard Shrapnel

If an architect were to tell you they are designing what will become a global icon without any clear concept or image in their mind, you would think they are mad. But every day, business leaders seek to build great businesses without any image of what they are really trying to build in their mind.


Active Knowledge Questions:

Take a pencil in your hand now and sketch an image of the business you are seeking to build. How clear is that image? And does everyone in your business share that same image?


The Power of Seeing

We’ve all heard about the power of storytelling. Of being able to relate experiences to an audience so they can see and feel what you are describing. It is a skill that leaders have been encouraged to develop and master to communicate more effectively.

But there is a greater power in seeing it with your own eyes. The words become more real. You can touch it, mould it, craft it and explore what it can become. You can share that image with others with greater intensity and clarity, and entice them into building your vision with you.

But this greater power lies in picking up a pencil and being able to sketch that image, no matter how rough, with your own hand. Holding a pencil in your hand and connecting it with paper can be the key to unlocking a potential within that you did not know still existed.

We actually don’t consciously know most of what is held in our mind. There is deep knowledge and experiences that we have stored over our years of life that have been forgotten. They are locked away in the recesses of our mind and covered by the stress and tensions of modern life and business. In imagining and seeing what your business can be you want to tap into this hidden wisdom.

By using your hands to explore questions and opportunities and to explore the world, you can begin to open these recesses and to release a wisdom you had all but forgotten. Using your hands is a very primal way through which your brain constructs its own knowledge of the world. Picking things up, holding them and wondering what they are all about is a profoundly human thing to do.

Using your hands can allow you to unleash creative energies, modes of thought, and ways of seeing things that you may have forgotten were within.

Pick up your pencil, roll it your fingers, chew on its end, and stick it behind your ear, as you consider what you want your business to be. This tactile connection between hand and mind and thoughts will yield a powerful response.

Now for a reality check, many of us are not very good artists. I wish I could draw well but I am pretty hopeless. I tend to sketch as best as I can and then write short expressions around that image to make clear the traits I am drawing. The purpose is to connect with my subconscious and to draw out all the hidden inspiration. It’s not to produce a print-ready image. That can come later and be done by professionals if you wish.

Lifting The Ceiling To Your Success

The image you hold of your business, and yourself for that matter, creates the ceiling to how successful it and you can be. It’s a subconscious barrier that you cannot break – but you can rewrite it.

As you strive to achieve in business and life, your subconscious is constantly asking questions to test the authenticity of actions:

  • Is this my business?
  • Is this me?
  • Is this what we do?
  • Are we really this good?

If the answer is ‘yes,’ your actions are reinforced and all is good. But if the answer is ‘no’ then your inbuilt safety switch kicks in, your subconscious says, ‘No, we are not this successful, this cannot work, we should fail’, and therefore you do.

Reimagining your business and your personal role in it can become the key to achieving the success that has always eluded you and your business.

You want to develop a new image of what is possible and the goals you are going to achieve. To make this new image real you will need to transfer it from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind. You will want to imprint this new image in your subconscious and overwrite the old image that has been holding you back. It will become the new basis of who your business and you are.

You will craft and describe this new image, what you are going to do and change to bring it about, the compelling reasons of why it will happen and your plan to achieve it. And the most effective way of imprinting this new image and commitment in your subconscious is by writing it out by hand, time and time again.

Taking your pencil in your hand and reimaging who you are and what your business is imprints this image on your subconscious. And the more often you do it, the stronger that image will become.

Caution, it does not have the same effect if you use a computer and pen to sketch the image. Go basic and find that pencil and paper and apply the pencil to the paper with a sharpener and rubber close by. And keep all those screwed up pieces of paper as you progressively refine and work your image.

As an important point, I find that this exercise often creates the strategic business plan and growth strategy for the business in a very clear and powerful way. It focuses clearly on what you want your business to become, what you need to achieve it and inspires the passion to make it happen.

The Core Elements Of Your Image

There are many ways that you can draw an image of your business and the best way to approach it is to see what happens when you tap into your subconscious and begin to sketch. When you take the pencil in your hand and begin to draw, write out words and play with our thoughts, simply see what happens. But do not cop out and just write a few paragraphs like you are dictating a memorandum. This is an image, with maybe a few descriptive words.

Richard Shrapnel's 'Competitive Engine' Chart
Richard Shrapnel’s ‘Competitive Engine’.


l’ve seen leaders draw an image of a person to reflect what their business looks like, others have drawn more process-based or mechanical diagrams, and others missed their calling and should have been artists.

In crafting the image of your business, l believe that you are drawing out the elements of your competitive engine and your organisational design.

Considering each of these elements may help you find a starting point:

  • Competitive Engine: Your competitive engine reflects the interaction of a range of agents that determine how strongly your business will be able to compete in its chosen marketplace. As such, it is important that your image reflects these aspects of your business. The engine includes:
    • The purpose for which your business exists.
    • The leadership of that business (how it will be led).
    • The relationship that the leadership team will build with employees and others involved in delivering its value.
    • The vision that will be created to excite and entice everyone involved in the business.
    • The culture of the business (its personality and traits).
    • The customer focus (including their needs and the value delivered).
    • The key capabilities of the business to deliver on that value.
    • The competitive strategy being the competitive posture of the business.
    • The rewards that will be offered to fuel everyone in the business.
  • Organisational Design: The organisational design of your business is how you will structure and connect all the various activities in your business to deliver the customer value that you have promised.

What Are You Building?

The task at hand is for you to personally draw, with a pencil, paper and your own hand, an image of the business you are going to build.


Richard Shrapnel's 'Creating Undefeatable Business Strategies' chart
Richard Shrapnel’s ‘Creating Undefeatable Business Strategies’.


As you do this you are:

  • Crafting your story through seeing what you are building.
  • Tapping into your locked away experiences, insights and wisdom to bring it all to bear on this focused task.
  • Overwriting any ceilings to your success that may be hidden away in your subconscious.
  • Reinforcing a new image of what your business is and what it is capable of achieving.
  • Likely crafting your competitive strategy as you progress and your growth plan for the next few years.
  • Lifting your passions to the surface and visualising them.
  • Creating a powerful tool to energise your entire business.


This is not a task to be delegated, it can’t be. This is you reimaging your business and everything it can be. But this approach can be adopted by every one of your leaders as they take your inspirations and image and apply them through to their areas of responsibility.


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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel