The Most Innovative And Inclusive Leaders Daydream; Here Is Why

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”

 Albert Einstein.

Let’s allow ourselves to daydream about what an ideal, gender balanced world in sport and business looks like beyond gender biases and discrimination. Let’s daydream about a nirvana like environment that truly has a level playing field, where we are collectively realising our full potential. Yes, let’s daydream a little.

For some of you, my first paragraph may have caused a small frisson of excitement at the thought of constructing that utopian-like world. For others, you may have had a different reaction.  You might have thought ‘yeah, yeah that will never happen’ which you tell yourself is a reaction more grounded in reality and practicality.

Irrespective of your reaction, I am asking you to stop forensically examining or studiously ignoring the issue of inequality, and start imagining a workplace and society that does move beyond gender bias and discrimination. I get it. This is tough work. I know. Because this is my work.

Imagining to Innovate

Daydreaming, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a pleasant visionary usually wishful creation of the imagination,” and is proving to be a tactic that delivers more than just a handful of scientifically proven benefits! I want more leaders to give themselves and their teams the space to daydream and to imagine what a simply great workplace looks and feels like.

We know that an individual who has an always on and busy brain is likely to have lower creativity and productivity in the long run. We also know that busy teams who are rarely permitted to stop, breathe and reflect are less likely to be developing creative, innovative solutions to problems. This is because being in a constant state of doing is only using the decision-making/analytic part of the brain and not exercising the relatable empathetic part of the brain. Put simply, daydreaming allows both of these parts of the brain to work fluidly together like a kind of vacuum cleaner of different ideas and thoughts that will possibly start to connect.

There are many articles that credit daydreaming as the birthplace of great ideas and creative solutions to wicked problems. There is as much literature that tell us that analysing problems and taking a data driven only approach works fine for  process improvement, but it’s not the birthplace of innovation. Relying solely on data to problem solve is the same as only using one part of our brain. It is unlikely to enable a human centred approach and will just as likely result in an uninspiring and frankly, unimaginative solution to workplace culture.

With that in mind, I am enthusiastically encouraging leaders to use daydreaming and imagination to help solve the wicked problem of inequity, discrimination and exclusion in the workplace.

Imagining From Good to Great

OK, so your workplace might be good for women. It might be bad for women. Truth is that it’s likely to be somewhere in between. But what DOES great look like?

Your teams need to be in an environment where they can dream up the most innovative and disruptive ideas. An environment where their  diverse minds can collaborate, share perspectives, listen empathetically and challenge one another dynamically. An environment where they can visualise what great looks like.

Visualisation is the mother of all design tools. It’s the key ingredient for innovating your way from a good to great workplace. Whilst modern brain science debunks ‘left brain/right brain’ terminology as it’s too narrow, its useful terminology in this instance.  We want to create the environment where we can ‘boot up’ the right brain of your teams and, through daydreaming, imagining and visualisation, create a picture of what your ‘good to great’ workplace looks like and feels like.

 Getting Started

The beauty of what I am asking you, as organisation leaders,  to do is that it cost almost nothing! But it takes commitment of time and effort.

Step 1: Book your team out for a minimum of 4 hours. Find a room away from the workplace, with no laptops, phones or any other technology distractions.

Step 2: Develop the problem or challenge statement. It might be: “Picture this –  our workplace is the best place to work in <insert location> for all people”

Step 3: Start the visualisation exercises. Some ideas:

  • Draw the future great workplace (Tools: butchers paper, coloured markers, imagination)
  • Create a vision board of the future great workplace (Tools: lots of magazines, newspapers, scissors, glue, large cardboard sheets, imagination)
  • Tell a story about the future great workplace using photographs (Tools: lots of photographs that can be used to tell a visual story of the future workplace + imagination)
  • Write a front-page newspaper story about the future great workplace (Tools: paper, pens, imagination)

Work individually, in small teams or rotating teams, it doesn’t matter. Simply allow your people plenty of relatively unconstructed time to daydream, imagine, draw, discuss and develop a visula representation of your future, great workplace.

What Now?

Clearly this is a way of solving problems that can be used in almost any business context.  There a important steps to take after a visulisation exercise. I can talk to you about that. But why not use daydreaming, imagination and visualisation to help solve this wicked problem and wonderful opportunity. Because lets face it, I want to occupy a gender balanced world in sport and business which looks beyond gender biases and discrimination. Let’s use all the tools at our disposal to create a level playing field where we are individually and collectively realising our full potential.

Michelle Redfern advises, guides and inspires leaders in sport and business about how to move gender diversity from conversation to action. For a confidential conversation about your workplace, please contact Michelle.

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