Delving into Creative Imagination by employees for a company to occupy a formidable Strategic Position

By Prof. J. Aditya of WSB

Divergence of ideas and convergence of several different kinds of knowledge lead to a quantum leap of progress. Companies often conduct brainstorming sessions to encourage a free flow of ideas. However, brainstorming sessions may lead to a psychological phenomenon called groupthink, in which, conformity is given more importance. As a result, ideas are susceptible to emulation. Therefore, there is a need to identify ways for employees to delve into creative imagination to generate ideas that are not easy to emulate. Ideas that are not easy to emulate provide an opportunity for a company to occupy a formidable strategic position. After occupying a formidable strategic position, a firm is all set to experience a quantum leap, in which, there is significant development or growth.

Embracing Obscurity :

Entrepreneurs and innovators take risks by embracing uncertainty. Employees in an organization should embrace obscurity in the process of delving into creative imagination. A disruptive idea may emerge when employees connect complex and recondite information to something that is known.

Embracing obscurity may further lead to differentiation, which is a critical element of strategic positioning. Differentiation is also one of Porter’s generic strategies. An employee who conquers obscurity will have a competitive edge over others and this may persuade other employees to explore obscurity. This scenario creates a competitive environment for employees within a function of an organization. When there is obscurity in all the functions of an organization, there should be cross functional collaboration that leads to a broad divergence of ideas.

Being Counter-Intuitive: 

Companies should operate like a yacht to be disruptive. The operator of a yacht should push the tiller in the direction opposite to the direction in which  the yacht needs to move . Hence steering a yacht is counterintuitive.

When an employee puts forward a plan or an idea that seems familiar and proven, others should not hesitate to provide counterintuitive ideas by delving into creative imagination.

According to Michael Porter, one of the elements of a strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position by engaging in a different set of actions. Furthermore, Michael Porter proposed that strategic position emerges from   (i) serving a few needs of many customers, (ii) serving broad needs of a few customers and (iii) serving broad needs of many customers in a narrow market. Being counterintuitive leads to disruption and this in turn leads to choosing a different set of actions thereby occupying a unique position.

  Think like a lunatic fringe : 

There are also some unusual ways to delve into creative imagination. When an employee thinks like a person in the lunatic fringe, he or she is putting forward ideas that are extreme and bizarre. For example, the concept of reverse aging was a bizarre idea fifteen years ago but today it is possible through processes like stem cell technology and there is an increasing demand for reverse aging. The concept of autonomous cars was also a fringe idea fifteen years ago. However, they are likely to flood the markets in the next four to five years.

Thinking like a person in the lunatic fringe may safeguard ideas and concepts from becoming commoditized. One of the ways to prevent an organization’s value generating idea from becoming commoditized is to think like a person in the lunatic fringe and constantly change ideas before the circumstances in the environment force the organization to do so. When there is a healthy and constant change, the company is all set to occupy a formidable strategic position.