Asking for the impossible

Big, new ideas do not emerge from incrementalism and virtually never materialize in conventional business settings. That’s the central idea of “Dream On: The Art of Strategic Imagination,” a piece Howell Malham Jr. wrote for the business journal Leader to Leader.

“The imagination stage of strategic development is neither analysis nor synthesis – it is seeing and thinking in the subjunctive in order to discover that which has yet to be known: a pre-reality.

“Unsurprisingly, this is a fundamentally different process – different from  every other stage of development, and it requires different kinds of people in the room. Not planners and analysts, who come armed to the teeth with data, and who—to be fair—are not expected or required to imagine beyond the latest infographics on customers ‘most likely’ or ‘least likely.’

“Ask yourself: ‘Where and when does that kind of thinking happen now in my world?’ Odds are you’re investing in incremental innovation: refining existing principles, processes, and products, not transforming or, even bolder, transcending them. And that’s okay. New and improved dishwasher soap is a much safer bet than designing a universe where nothing ever gets dirty. But strategic imagination begins by asking for the impossible.”