Manage by the Imagination

On rare occasions I am fortunate enough to read an article that stimulates my thinking to such an extent that it gives rise to a creative idea that, in turn, morphs into something quite wonderful. That’s what happened with an article in the Harvard Business Review written by Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The title of the article was “Management by Imagination.”

His premise is simple. Management has the penchant for managing by metrics and measurement because there is the misguided feeling that when something is measured, you have the illusion of controlling it. The downside is that when you attempt to create something different in the future by measuring the past, you become a prisoner of your own thinking and create a future that is remarkably similar to the past. “For the measurement types,” Martin writes, “the world is a brutal place, full of nasty surprises that are impossible to predict. And, a world with only metric and measurement is exhausting, boring and a death to creative thinking.

For the imagination types – the abduction logicians – the world is expansive and the possibilities are endless. Think Walt Disney or the creator of the Blackberry, Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research in Motion.

The challenge is that management and leadership are still in the throws of measurement. There is a simple reason for this. The past two years of fear and uncertainty have had a severe impact on optimism. We are suffering from what I can only describe as an “organizational hangover” which blurs the lens of our perception.

We need to employ the imagination and shift our thinking from fear towards one of opportunity, optimism and growth or even a balanced mindset that will allow leadership and management to judge and decide upon opportunities fairly, rationally, clearly and wisely.

Mindsets are powerful things and influence all our decisions. Never have the stakes been higher to insure that managers and senior executives are seeing their options and opportunities as well as the risk and potential through clear glasses. We need to have an organizational “reboot” and to me, learning about the power of imagination and how to direct the imagination to creating a future of possibility is mandatory. As the humorist Mark Twin said, “You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.”