How to Keep Imagination Alive under Pressure

2020 has taught us that the idea of “crisis management” requires no explanation right now. For most people, nations and Companies, when COVID-19 hit, the first instincts were to defend against — and later to understand and manage — the disturbance to the status quo. The crisis meant an unpredictable enemy that was to be tamed for the purpose of restoring normality.

To all those waiting for things to return to ‘normal’ I have news for you: we may not be able to return to our familiar pre-crisis reality. Pandemics, wars, and other social crises often create new attitudes, needs, and behaviors, which need to be managed. Instead we need to believe in imagination — the capacity to create, evolve, and exploit mental models of things or situations that don’t yet exist — is the crucial factor in seizing and creating new opportunities, and finding new paths to growth.

Imagination is also one of the hardest things to keep alive under pressure. I take off every Tuesday to imagine what business and life are going to look like in future and what needs to be done. This year that habit has been the hardest to keep. With imagination, we can do better than merely adapting to a new environment — we can thrive by shaping it. To do this, we need to strategize across multiple timescales, each requiring a different style of thinking.

Looking back on how we have kept imagination alive during COVID-19, we have used a three-step process: See and Think, Feel, Change;

1. Carve out time See and think.

Crises place heavy demands on leaders and managers, and it is easy to lose the already slim time we might have for reflection. But we won’t see the big picture, let alone a shapeable picture of the future, unless we stand back and reflect. Every Tuesday 10:00am- 1:00pm we take off time to imagine, review insights and take a deep dive into our business. This has led us to re-evaluate the value we offer to the market, let some clients go and go into spaces like construction to find clients-something we would have never done in the past.

2. Feel.

Seeing and thinking without feeling is like having a nice car but never driving it. ‘Feeling’ in a business sense requires you to live in the future through imagination. After seeing and thinking, let the idea settle down. Test it and only then will you feel its effects. As we were testing some of the ideas, we got in the market we were amazed at how things are different from what we imagined. Case in point; we have a product in organization design that we thought would take us about thirty days to complete but when we rolled it out recently, we found out that we need more time doing it. We felt it.

3. Change.

After seeing, thinking and feeling you need to start creating habits to enable you change depending on what your imagination told you and what you have felt. For us change has been totally abandoning certain segments and going for others.

Let’s keep imagination under pressure alive. Merry Christmas!