Raising Up Courageous Imagination™
Aligning Culture Change with Innovation for the Future of Work
by Theo Edmonds, Culture Futurist™ & Strategist | Wellbeing & Creativity Researcher | Artist | Entrepreneur
Today, April 21, 2022, is World Creativity & Innovation Day. There will be lots of stories told today about what creativity is and what it may mean for innovation across every industry and discipline. I hope we will also pause to ask the question posed by artist Raghava KK from the Boma stage in January 2020. Can we live the best story we can tell?
For two years this question has occupied my daily thoughts. What does it even mean to live the best story we can tell? For individuals and organizations, different scientific disciplines suggest two things are required — courage and imagination. Both have individual and cultural dimensions. Aligning the two may well prove to be the key to humanizing the future of work in ways that unlock inclusive innovation while simultaneously improving workforce wellbeing.
I believe the #GreatResignation is really America showing life as a country of ✨✨ #GreatImagination✨✨ But, for creative people with new ideas on how to make the #futureofwork, work for all, how can we better assess whether or not the organizations we will contribute our creativity toward, are organizations with #CourageousImagination? To do this, we must understand how culture shapes innovation. This means that we must first understand each of us is in a co-creation relationship with culture.
When we log into a work network or step into a workplace, each of us brings the story of who we are with us.
Even from our very first days on earth, each of our stories begins shaping and being shaped by culture. For instance, on the morning of November 3, 1969, the postmistress of Puncheon Creek in the rural mountains of Southeastern Kentucky’s Breathitt County was nervous. Her first grandchild, the 8th generation born to this place, was soon to arrive. That night, at 9:30 pm, while I was still wet and crying, U.S. President Richard Nixon addressed the nation on television and radio to announce his plans to end American involvement in the Vietnam War. But just three weeks later, he signed into law the first “draft lottery” to determine which young men would be picked first for military service in Vietnam.
In those intervening three weeks, Sesame Street aired its first episode introducing the world to Kermit the Frog and Big Bird. In New York, Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs was born. Future cannabis enthusiast, Oscar winner, and pitchman Matthew McConaughey entered the scene in Texas. The National Organization for Women (NOW) drew more than 500 feminists to New York City to establish common ground between the radical and moderate wings of the women’s rights movement. Native American activists organized a gathering at San Francisco and began reading a proclamation reclaiming the former site of a federal prison by right of discovery. The University of North Carolina’s Black Student Movement printed the first issue of its newspaper, Black Ink. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tested the first supersonic drone aircraft on a secret reconnaissance mission over China. And, someone in Cape Canaveral, Florida sent Forrest “Frosty” Myers a telegram: “YOUR ON A.O.K. ALL SYSTEMS GO.”
While we don’t know for sure who sent the telegram, we know that the telegram confirmed that the Moon Museum would travel aboard Apollo 12. If true, and there is speculation, Apollo 12 contained the first SPACE ART object: a small ceramic wafer less than one inch in size called the “Moon Museum.” The brainchild of Myers, an artist, the Moon Museum contained miniature drawings by six prominent artists of the day. Unsuccessful at getting NASA to sanction the project, Myers did what good artists do and found a way to sneak it through.
From just my first month on this pale blue dot, all of these cultural data points would combine with trillions of others to shape pieces of how I constructed the story of my place in the world. This story, in turn, informs how I find meaning and where I see value.
What are the cultural data points that shape your story? How does the story you tell about those things liberate or unlock what you imagine to be possible in the future?
Culture and Imagination
Today, identity, media, and technology are intersecting and accelerating change at a pace unknown in human history. Always in dialogue with each other, culture and imagination are dynamic. They are always in transition, always in motion. In the process, they shape everything we think we know and how we see ourselves and others.
Through a lens of culture and imagination, we come to understand the connectedness of our internal (I) and external (E) human instincts. Through the synchronization of those internal and external instincts, we make decisions about where we feel like we belong and how much of ourselves we are willing to give to the groups in which we are involved.
Culture and imagination shape how we make meaning in our lives. And culture, more than almost any other thing, influences our well-being. Indeed it has been stated that culture is the operating system of humanity. While work and income help us to live, culture reminds us what is worth living for.
Great Resignation or Great Imagination?
#Imagination is a precursor to #creativity. Both are constructed at the individual employee and organizational levels. But, more often than not, many leaders don’t seem to understand the imperative of aligning the two levels when seeking to unlock #innovation. This is why #inclusion matters to #business. It assists in transforming an organization’s latent capacity into enterprise-wide #value creation.
Our varied lived experiences as Americans give each of us unique insights on where to look for #meaning and how to create #value in our lives. It stands to reason that our differences, then, are the cultural source code of great innovations to come. As our nation seeks to expand its portfolio of options for solving a myriad of important challenges taking place within a multitude of ambiguous operating environments, we need all of us to feel like we #belong and can meaningfully contribute toward #cocreating #solutions.
However, we continue to see more evidence suggesting our legacy systems and structures may not be fully up to the challenge of unlocking the latent creativity capacity of the workforce.
For instance, The New York Times recently profiles an illuminating study in an article entitled, We Have a Creativity Problem: Outwardly, we praise innovation. Inwardly, we harbor a visceral aversion to it, studies have found.
From the article: “emerging science of implicit bias has revealed that what people say about creativity isn’t necessarily how they feel about it. Research has found that we actually harbor an aversion to creators and creativity; subconsciously, we see creativity as noxious and disruptive, and as a recent study demonstrated, this bias can potentially discourage us from undertaking an innovative project or hiring a creative employee.”
Courageous Imagination™ Study — LAUNCHING IN MAY 2022 as part of CU DENVER’S IMAGINATOR ACADEMY
In a just a few weeks, our team from the University of Colorado Denver, together with a global network of artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, educators, and business leaders, are gearing up to embark on an ambitious #research adventure to cipher through the noise and use culturally-responsive #data and #analytics to understand how and where #courage aligns with #imagination in #business, #health, and #education to make the future work for all in America.
We will deploy scientific and creative methods from across many disciplines to understand how #hope #trust #belonging #curiosity #wellbeing #culturalwellbeing #awe #media #identity and much more are shaping America’s imagination. The data will be used to support people and companies in co-creating inclusive innovation cultures of Courageous Imagination™
Today, let us celebrate World Creativity & Innovation Day and the diverse, brilliant, and radiant stories of human creativity in the world. Tomorrow, my hope is that we wake with a powerful, important purpose to raise up Courageous Imagination™and live the best story we can tell?
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