Morosini has recently published The Seven Keys to Imagination: Creating the future by imagining the unthinkable and delivering it. He discusses his inspiration for the book.
Why did you want to write this book?
I’ve always had an intense curiosity about what is behind sustainably hyper-performing organisations and leaders, and what makes them so different. I observed a number of organisations and researched the data, and for some months I couldn’t really interpret the data correctly, because each approach did not encapsulate the qualitative side.
Then one day I was hiking in Peru. Maybe it was the altitude, but it suddenly became clear that what made these organisations stand out was incredibly simple. It is the ability to consistently imagine alternatives to reality.
How does imagination relate to strategy?
If you put this in the context of the strategy field, this book is unique in that it focuses on the power of imagination both as a start and end point of the practice of strategy. It isn’t about engaging in analytical exercises, it’s a very different process. It focuses on elements that are traditionally missing from the strategic field.
How do successful leaders use imagination?
There are three elements. They keep an open and unprejudiced mind; they engage in an amazing exercise of empathy with the customer; and they manage their emotions. In traditional organisations this means keeping your emotions at bay and not letting them interfere with analysis. These people managed their emotions in a different way. They used them effectively. The interaction of these three things enabled them to imagine a different future.
They unleashed their imagination, saw the world through their customer’s eyes, and boom, an image of the future appeared. It resembles a magical process rather than a scientific one.
How have leaders profited from this approach?
The book examines a few examples, one of which is Zara. It now has 4,700 stores, but it was started by Amancio Ortega in the poorest region of Spain in 1975. The life cycle of fashion then was traditionally four collections a year. He created the idea of instant fashions: of having 104 collections a year but priced cheaply enough for everyone to afford it. This didn’t come from a strategic planning process. It came from empathy with the buyer. He knew women were always looking for something new, and found a way to offer that.
Have all your leaders been household names?
There are examples of the success of this type of approach in all endeavours. I studied a drug rehabilitation centre in Italy with an incredible success rate. Some 70% of all people who go in will recover and at half the cost of traditional rehabilitation.
Again this came from empathy. The founder talked to drug addicts. He found they weren’t bad people or sick or in any way defective. They had families who loved them, but didn’t spend much time with them, so he invited them to join his family.
They don’t use drugs or therapists. They have a beautiful place in Rimini and run 57 activities. In each of the areas they are involved in, they are world champions, because the family sees things in one another that other people have missed and get the best out of one another.
Why do other leaders fail to exploit this approach?
We are educated not to use the power of imagination. We are taught that strategy is about analysis. Obviously this is important, but it is only part of the story.