Imagination & Ingenuity: How To Create A Self-Sufficient Organization for 2020 and Beyond

Zeus Jones
Feb 11, 2020 · 4 min read

Prepare for a revolution of your own making.

Prepare For The Revolution

We are in the early stages of the next revolution in business — with implications as big as those of the industrial and digital revolutions. The rules for success will change fundamentally, as will the skills needed to compete and grow. What is needed to compete in business has changed significantly because the world has changed significantly. The velocity of technological, cultural and infrastructural change is outpacing most businesses’ ability to adapt. The kind of fundamental reinvention and disruption that used to happen every few decades is now an annual — or even semi-annual — event. Business have to cultivate an entirely new set of capabilities than were needed in the past.

Cultivate Imagination & Ingenuity

Previous shifts in business happened because of changes in how resources, assets and infrastructure were owned and controlled. The next revolution will be led not by those with the most assets, but by those who use their assets most creatively and inventively. This is going to mean a big mindset shift for most businesses and businesspeople — a new way of thinking, acting and working. One we are already seeing take hold in the most successful businesses today.

At the heart of this mindset shift is a new capability — I&I — that combines two important skills:

We’re trained to think that the value in creativity and imagination is in finding novel solutions to problems, but a lot of times the real value is in defining the problem in a more ambitious way. Imagination is about looking forward into the future and seeing opportunities before others do. After all, we can’t control the past, but we can always have a hand in shaping the future. The most successful businesses envision a better world and define their role in making that better world a reality.

2. Ingenuity — the ability to invent new ways of applying assets, people and processes to solve new problems.

Once we’ve envisioned one or more possible futures, we need to figure out how to start down the path toward making that future a reality. This skill is based on the ability to look broadly at the assets at your disposal, use them differently and accurately assess what assets will be needed in the future. Again, no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy — but being able to align assets against possible futures is what ingenuity is all about.

Imagination & Ingenuity Are Already Changing Business

We see these capabilities coming to life already at companies like Netflix that are rooted not just in technology, but in Imagination and Ingenuity at all levels. They saw very early on that the combination of content, digital infrastructure and user data could completely transform television and disrupt the advertiser-supported model — something few believed could happen. Their solution was to use current tech (DVDs at the time) and current distribution (mail) to build a member base and collect user data that could help them deliver personalized on-demand content once the technology caught up to their vision. The Netflix example shows that envisioning possible futures and plotting trajectories enables businesses to succeed in the present at the same time they are preparing for an even more successful future.

This was a perfect example of creative recombination of assets around a possible future, and it showed that the companies who will win won’t always the biggest or the ones with the most assets — they will be the ones who can operate today while simultaneously working toward tomorrow — and use their assets most creatively.I&I isn’t a new department, or the domain of a thin layer of leadership. It must be built into the fabric of an organization — everything it thinks and does.

I&I can’t be bought, it has to be cultivated, nurtured and practiced daily. The organizations that are leading today make it an expectation rather than an exception. Most importantly, it can and must be developed from within — consultants and interlopers can’t magically give an organization this capability.

Get Help

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a role for partners in helping businesses bring I&I into the core of what they do. But those partners need to operate in a way that empowers organizations from within rather than preying on their lack of internal confidence. I&I can be taught, but only through practice.

One method for doing this is a process we call Trajectory Thinking — which involves people at all levels in envisioning possible futures and finding opportunities in them.

Invest In Yourself

Above all, I&I is about recognizing the untapped potential within your org. Rather than starting by analyzing what you can’t do, start by imagining what you could do. Once embedded at the core of a business, I&I is a limitless, self-renewing resource — imagination and ingenuity breed more imagination and ingenuity. So investing in it is an investment in the future potential of any business.

Uncommon Wisdom

Thoughts and explorations from Zeus Jones.

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