Imagineer: it’s not a profession, it’s a mindset!

1jwmfju8vvg-tom-van-hoogstratenIt was Henry Ford who said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse”. It is like that with Imagineers. Organisations are not aware of this new breed of professionals. Well, let me update you.

Imagineers come in different shapes and sizes. Like in any profession, there are imagineers on junior, medior, senior and executive level. And our professional backgrounds vary. Some of us have a background in business administration; others have a background in the arts, education, financial services, tourism, IT, et cetera.

So, we are all two things: e.g. Business Analyst & Imagineer; Graphic Designer & Imagineer; Marketing Manager & Imagineer; Banker & Imagineer; Teacher & Imagineer; Tourism Expert & Imagineer; Marketing Manager & Imagineer; Architect & Imagineer; Business Consultant & Imagineer; Farmer & Imagineer; Copywriter & Imagineer; HR manager & Imagineer; Customer Service Manager & Imagineer; Client Service Director & Imagineer; CEO & Imagineer; Hotel Manager & Imagineer; et cetera. We are everywhere!

What distinguishes us, is our mindset. So, what we – as Imagineers – bring to the table differs from other professionals, because we see things differently and therefore approach things differently; with different outcomes to boot. Sustainable outcomes that are welcomed and celebrated, mind you, because we design for evolution while using participatory approaches. Through reframing, we reimagine and restory, and create new narratives for brands, organisations, and industries and open up various possibilities for development. Everything seems fluid.

Inspiring examples of what reframing can do for an organisation or industry is the reframing of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. This hospital was reframed from ‘a place to cure sick people’ to ‘a community center for well-being’. By shifting the focus from ‘curing’ to ‘keeping people healthy’ – and taking upon them the role of health coach for the community – a multitude of possible new services opened up. Today the hospital has a wellness center, a greenhouse where they grow their own vegetables, and they offer fitness classes, yoga classes, cooking classes, and much, much more. The services are designed around their patients who they consider their guests. It’s a world of difference.

We are moving from the ‘age of information’ to the ‘age of imagination’ where intuitive and creative thinking are primary creators of economic value. It is important to get a grip on what this means for your brand, organisation or industry.

So, join us in an Imbizo around these topics (dames to be decided). If you’re interested to participate drop us a note, through the website or through email.

Creative Scrum, Kon. Marinelaan 1A, 2251 BA Voorschoten, The Netherlands. Email: banoyi@creativescrum.org. Tel. +31 (0)653363794 or +31 (0)71-7851553.

So, why would you hire an imagineer?

vuurtoren-william-boutEvery week I set out to see how organisations are adapting to the changing environment; whether or not they are picking up on what’s happening out there. That’s why I am particularly interested in vacancies, because they give so much information. They often start out promising, but a few lines into it, I am often disappointed by the ask.

When looking for a change agent is wanted, it often turns out they are asking for people who will help them manage a predestined, top-down change route; notwithstanding the fact that research has overwhelmingly shown us that change efforts fashioned that way have an expiry date. Or when a ‘regular’ manager is wanted, the vacancy often breaths a mechanistic view of organisations, in which performance outcomes are expected based on assumptions of predictability, linearity and an innate cause and effect relationship. I mean no disrespect, but I feel that those organisations are setting themselves up for failure. This is where an imagineer can be helpful!

An imagineer can help you put what is happening in the world around us into perspective and can show you additional ways of seeing. E.g. an imagineer sees your organisation as a complex adaptive system in which order emerges bottom-up through the interactions that take place within your organisation and with the outside world. An imagineer understands that your organisation is self-organising, dynamic and emergent and that as such employees’ behaviour is unpredictable. An imagineer can show you a different type of leadership – e.g. complexity leadership – for facilitating the processes taking place within your organisation. An imagineer understands that the new frame of reference for value creation is the premise that value is co-created and can help your organisation shift the enterprise logic from a goods dominant logic towards a service dominant logic, in which the application of knowledge and skills is the basis for all exchange, and goods are the vehicles for service distribution. Adopting a service dominant logic will enable your organisation to cross the conventional industry borders, to rethink your business model, and by doing so, to create new opportunities for your organisation.

So, if you want to create a space for your organisation to develop by itself, a space for change, you need to hire an imagineer. Not necessarily me, but preferably! But any imagineer will do.

Give me a call, drop me a note, drop by, or invite me to drop by, and we’ll have a chat to see if we can hook up, or what other imagineer(s) I can hook you up with.

(Photo: William Bout)

 

“What the hell is imagineering?!”

website-fieldnotes-bwWhen I learned about the term imagineering, I instinctively understood it had to do with ‘engineering the imagination’. But how, exactly? I had no idea. I embarked on the journey at the Imagineering Academy in Breda, and what a journey it has been.

I dove in with an open mind, eager to learn new things. The way things were done, didn’t cut it anymore; at least not for me. I needed a new perspective. A whole new world opened up to me and to top it off, I learned a thing or two about myself during the journey.

I was among a group of students and professors from different countries – Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia and the Netherlands – mixed in a group of Master students and Executive Master students. People from different backgrounds and age groups had to make it work together; and we did. Although it took some getting used to. I learned to lead in a collaborative fashion and I learned that anybody can lead; who leads depends on the time, space and context.

People would ask me what I was studying, and I would have difficulty explaining it. Especially in the beginning I would fall back to my old ways. I was so used to finding a solution to a problem; it was a reflex. I had to learn to pace myself, to adopt a more reflective stance. It often frustrated me. When I started to get the hang of it, everything changed. Suddenly there was this beautiful new vocabulary, with words like ‘complexity’, ‘emergence’, co-creation, ‘social constructionism’, ‘appreciative’, ‘unpredictability’, ‘chaos’, ‘participatory’, ‘contextual, ‘design-approach’, ‘bottom-up’, and phrases like ‘trust the process’, ‘the solution is in the system’, and ‘words create worlds’. And a toolbox filled with contemporary research and facilitation methods. What really shaped my understanding was the application of the new knowledge. Being sent into the field with fellow imagineers to work with organisations in different contexts, on different continent, was challenging, yet exciting.

Today, when people ask me what Imagineering is, I tell them that imagineering is a complexity-based design approach to meaning making, which is helpful when addressing complex problems that require new order and paradigm shifts. I share my views on the changes that take place in the world around us at relentless speed, and that coping with these changes requires new levels of knowledge, adaptability and abandoning the idea that we can control and manage situations. I add that in chaotic or dynamically changing context, or in situations that need to be built up from scratch, the design approach is highly valuable, because of its reflexive, narrative and entrepreneurial characteristics. And if they still want to know more, I invite them over for a cup of coffee and a chat at the office, where I can show a thing or two.

So, if you want to know more, feel free to drop by at Creative Scrum, drop a note or give me a call.

If you build it, he will come

For whom the title doesn’t ring a bell: it is the catch phrase from the 1989 movie ‘Field of Dreams’, starring Kevin Costner. Long story short: He’s a farmer in Iowa whose property is about to be repossessed by the bank. A voice tells him to fallow his cornfield and build a baseball field instead. The voice reassures him that if he builds it, he will come.

I love that movie, but too often I see how the thinking from the movie is applied to real life, real business. Just recently I read the retail vision for the region Leiden, in which plans are unfolded to restructure and revitalise retail in the region. I commend that. However, gathering from the documents, I feel one important voice is missing. Government, educational institutions, and entrepreneurs worked together to realise this vision, but where was the customer’s voice in all this?

It appears to be a typical if-you-build-it-he-will-come-situation, in which parties with a vested interest decide on what it is that the customer wants, build it and then expect the customer to show up, just because it is there. If you build it, he will come. We also see this approach applied in politics and many other fields.

I desperately feel the need to say: Guys, it was a movie! And mind you, a movie from a quarter of a century ago. This approach might have worked in the 80s and 90s, but today it is a whole different ball game. Things changed in the 21st century and are still changing.

Today, you don’t get to decide what the customer wants. People can and will decide what it is that they want. And people have ways of telling you what they think of your ideas and decisions, and ways of mobilising others.

As Ramaswamy & Gouillart so eloquently put it, customers are too often thought of as passive recipients of processes designed by organisations. Processes that are not optimised for them, and cannot be influenced by them either, leading to mediocre experiences. However, giving customers the latitude to redesign their interactions can change the quality of their experience. Keywords here are: co-creation, collaboration, whole system change, bottom-up.

If you build it that way, he will come.

Give me a call at Creative Scrum or drop by for a chat, if you want to know more.

Reframing indecisiveness

The other day I saw this TEDxBend talk by Emilie Wapnick of April 2015 and it hit home with me. In this inspiring talk Emilie addresses the fact that from childhood onwards we are geared towards choosing a career – that is: one career. This leaves us with feelings of failure when we are unable to find that particular career that we want to stick to. We switch, and switch, and switch. And our feelings of failure grow, fed by the opinions of well-intentioned parents, friends and family members who ask us when we will settle down and make a choice. Enters Emilie.

I love how she positively reframes the issue ‘not wanting to choose’ into an opportunity for exploration by introducing the term ‘multipotentialite’ by which she describes a person with many interests and creative pursuits. It is the same behaviour as described earlier, but thanks to the positive reframing a new narrative is created; a narrative that invites you to yet more explorations and creative pursuits. I feel empowered.

When people ask me what it is that I do, I always had a hard time answering this question, because I didn’t know how to narrow it down into one comprehensive term. I do so many different things as an Imagineer at Creative Scrum. Not because I get easily bored – okay maybe that is a small part of it – but mainly because there are so many things on this earth that I want to be part of. So, I do different things with different people on different days of the week. One day I am consulting, the next day I am working on two start-ups with others. The day after I am doing ethnographic research, and the next day I am workshopping, or working on social innovation projects. To me, this ‘entrepreneurial way of working’ is very gratifying since on a daily basis I work with a bunch of creative people, doing different things. And to top it off, it almost never feels as ‘work’, because I get inspired on a daily basis. I am a multipotentialite, and proud of it.

Restorying our lifes

A while ago I read this enlightening book “Social construction: entering the dialogue” by Gergen & Gergen. It made a lasting impression on me. This book questions perspectives and brings new ones.

Social constructionism was new to me at that time. Since then I have come to know social constructionism as a philosophical approach or a stance that sits very well with me. Social constructionism asserts that there is no objective reality ‘out there’. We construct our world c.q. meaning through our collaborative activities. How we construct it depends on who we are, what we have lived through; our past. And since ‘our past’ differs per person we are bound to construct reality differently. And that is okay. We should all agree on the facts, but we are all entitled to our own values. That is what I particularly like about social constructionism; the fact that it acknowledges individual perspectives. There is not one transcendent ‘truth’, but there is truth within community.

This type of thinking creates so many opportunities for transforming problems and overcoming pain, for if we can construct meaning it also means that we can deconstruct meaning. If bad feelings or pain are the result of bad constructions, and since none of them are ‘true’, then they can be replaced through re-storying. Restorying is such a powerful instrument. When we suffer from a problem, it often has to do with the fact that we constructed a narrative of success for our life. E.g. ‘by the time I am 30 I will have a management position’. The anguish starts somewhere around our 29th birthday, when we realise there’s only one year left to reach that goal. And if at 30 we have not reached that management position we experience failure, and so we suffer. Re-storying helps us to create a new narrative for our life by conceptualising the path of our life in a more livable way.

If you take a minute and think about what this implies, you’ll realise the potential of such a stance. To me it means that the majority of problems are solvable. We just need to change the narrative we have created for ourselves, our organisations, our world.

Seriously?! Are you still building that faster horse?

Every week we stroll through the vacancies to see what is happening out there. We are particularly interested in the vacancies asking for a change agent. And every time we are amazed at the ask in those ads. We mean no disrespect, but we feel that most of those organisations are building that legendary ‘faster horse’. Apparently there are still organisations that believe in the top-down approach when it comes to implementing change? Have they not read the results of the extensive research that has been done on this subject? Don’t they know that approx. 70% of the change efforts fail because of this approach? And are there still change agents with that same mindset, disregarding the fact that we live in different times in which top-down approaches just don’t cut it anymore? As Ramaswamy & Gouillart (2010) so eloquently put it: “As long as we are passive recipients of processes designed by the company, our work experience tends to be mediocre – it’s not optimized for us, and we can’t influence it. But if we’re given the latitude to redesign our interactions, we can change the quality of our experience”. The new frame of reference for value creation is the premise that value is co-created: value co-creation with employees and customers! We’re just saying!

If you feel you’re building that faster horse, give us a call, drop by or drop us a note at Creative Scrum.