Vision Videos: Theories of a Believable Future

18 May 2013

We can’t see the future, yet we’re forced keep up with change at an ever-increasing rate. To guide their decisions, businesses develop visions about the world as it will be, or a theories of a believable future.

As Clayton Christensen reminds us in The Innovator’s Solution, theory is what helps us confront the future:

What brings predictability to any field is a body of well-research theory — contingent statements of what causes what and why. Executives often discount the value of management theory because it is associated with the word theoretical, which connotes impractical. But theory is consummately practical…It is the absence of conscious, trustworthy theories of cause and effect that makes success in building new businesses seem random (p. 12).

Corporate vision videos are a genre of film that express a company’s theory about tomorrow. These aren’t science fiction or fantasy, but instead grounded in reality. The videos show a systematic look at a possible future — a theory of cause and effect.

What’s more, vision videos are not specifications of a product or solution. Sure, technology is usually highlighted in the storyline. But vision videos ultimately show the impact of a new technology on people and their lives. They describe new customer value and how the world will be better.

Corporate vision videos date back to the 1940s.  Companies in many industries have spent a great deal of time and money creating such videos. The intent is to demonstrate a concrete hypothesis of tomorrow that not only drives initiatives and investments, but also provides inspiration.

Vision videos provide a common view that teams can rally around. Writing about the value of having a common vision, UX expert Jared Spool says:

Visions act like a flag stuck into the sand somewhere on the horizon. The team can clearly see the flag, yet it’s far enough away that they won’t reach it any time soon. Because the flag is clearly visible, the team knows if every step they take brings them closer or farther away. If the flag weren’t visible, the team wouldn’t know and could wander off in an undesirable direction.

This is the real value of corporate vision videos: providing a path to follow.

VISION VIDEOS

Below is a collection of public vision videos, listed in chronological order from the oldest to the newest. The year indicates the date the video was filmed, not the year in the future it was projected to have taken place.

General Motors’ “To New Horizons” (1940)

Filmed in 1940, this video tells the story of the transport in the future of 1960. This film has a very long intro before getting to the “future vision” part at around 9:00 minute mark.

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The Monsanto House of the Future (1957)


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Philco-Ford “1999 A.D.” (1967)

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5Mir98dsIs&feature=relmfu

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHlDmJn6u4E&feature=relmfu
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Apple, ”The Knowledge Navigator” (1987)


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SUN Microsystems, “Starfire” (1993)


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Adaptive Path, “Aurora (Web browser) Concept Video”(2009)

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Nokia (2009)


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Microsoft, “Productivity Vision Video” (2010)


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TAT, “Future of Screen Technology” (2010)


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Google Glass (2012)

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2 Responses to “Vision Videos: Theories of a Believable Future”


  1. Hi Jim, thanks for the post. I’ve linked back from http://mprove.de/script/04/chi/video.html and http://mprove.de/script/06/foxp2/visionvideos.html

    The director’s cut of Starfire is available e.g. at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9OKcKisUrY
    BTW_ It was me getting permission from Sun to release the video to the public domain.


  2. […] via Vision Videos: Theories of a Believable Future | Experiencing Information. […]


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