Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan are co-founders of The Impossible Institute, a strategic think tank that helps organisations navigate the business world of the future.
You get your clients to embrace “impossible” questions and thoughts. Why?
Gregory: Most people’s limits are imagined, and what they can see for their business or see in terms of innovation is incredibly narrow.
Can you give us an example?
Flanagan: We asked one client, who gets a huge volume of customer calls, what it would take for people to want to be put on hold. What they are now looking at is rewarding callers for time spent on hold.
So at five minutes, customers could get a discount off a bill or a free coffee. They are suspending a belief that being on hold sucks. It’s about opening up people’s field of vision.
What are your key messages for corporate leaders?
Flanagan: In the past, we focused on IQ and then EQ [emotional intelligence]. Today, we absolutely need collaborative intelligence, or what we call We-Q. It’s one of the key future skills that everybody needs to develop.
Businesses also have to reimagine creativity. [We] think that our ability to draw is what creativity is about. But creativity is an ability to think.
How can businesses progress from talking about innovating to actually being innovative?
Gregory: We have engineered our organisations in such a way that innovation doesn’t happen. Businesses have to be prepared to break the current paradigm and, if you’re an employee, this means you’re potentially engineering yourself out of a job.
So leaders need to create a culture where it’s safe to experiment, safe to try things, safe to fail.
And remember, sometimes the most innovative ideas come from people outside the industry they are innovating in. Talk to people in different industries so you are exposed to new collisions of ideas.
How can a business or a person improve their brand?
Flanagan: Don’t underestimate the power of your uniqueness. Most businesses are too generic.
For example, hairdressers talk about being good at cutting hair and put a pair of scissors in their logo.
Accountants tell people they are good with numbers and money. Think about what you’ve got beyond that, and how to harness that uniqueness.