Managing the radical shift with the imagination

by Ann Papoulis & Suzanne Lafont
LES ECHOS 23 May 2018 Paris

We are in the midst of a radical shift in how we live on earth. The quantum leaps in technological advancement in a condensed period of time coupled with the deep questioning of many aspects of life that marked the 20th century have led to the crumbling of structures that held for millennia. This has brought us to the dawn of a new era that is both precarious and fascinating. We are faced with the challenge of envisioning and creating new architectures for our lives and work. Two vital ingredients can help us meet this challenge and generate unprecedented solutions.

Define a vision

Having a clear vision — knowing where we want to go and what we are trying to achieve — provides us with a metaphoric lighthouse that keeps us on course, even when we are passing through dark, unpredictable waters. It delineates a collective purpose that helps us stay focused with our collaborators. It brings value to what we are doing and helps us clarify our role in a larger context. It provides us with stability in a world in continual mutation, guiding us towards the solutions we need for the future. 

Open the imagination

To realize this vision, we need an active imagination so that we can deconstruct our habitual thinking practices, face uncertainty, dive into the unknown and tap into our very human desire to discover new territory. Opening our imaginations is not fundamental to how we are educated, but it is fundamental to being human. Since our beginnings, people who opened new directions — adventurers, artists, scientists, philosophers, theologians, inventors of all kinds — have been mining the imagination. They effect mind and body shifts that enable them to descend into their inner world and uncover resources that lead them to novel ideas. To face the challenges of our chaotic world and create unprecedented solutions, it is essential that we know both individually and collectively how to access the vast resources of our imagination.

Companies can greatly benefit from these resources if the imagination becomes an integral part of the corporate culture and teams are given means of integrating it into their daily work through: clear vision, managerial alignment, training in the activation of the imagination, the design of physical spaces dedicated to opening the imagination. Organizing spaces where the right brain is stimulated through music, art, movement and stories allows for the emergence of ideas that would not come to the surface if only our left brain is in control of our thoughts and actions. 

Navigate the imagination

To be able to draw opportune resources from the imagination, we need to be able to navigate with agility through it. For this, we need a map of some kind. The Iris Map, a cartography that has its origins in the performing arts, distinguishes seven principal territories of the imagination that are symbolized by colors and that can be connected to seven human archetypes. Each of these territories gives us access to states of mind and body that enable us to change perspective and open fields of ideas previously inaccessible.

In the first territory, you are able to think, feel and act like an Explorer. You are driven by your curiosity, which enables you to get beyond your limits. In the second territory, you are deeply connected to your singularity and aware of what you can bring to situations that no one else can. You become a Sage. In the third area, the world is your playground. You become a Player, capable of reaching original combinations. Your state of being in the fourth space is one of a Builder. You are alert and full of energy, able to bring your passions and dreams into reality. In the fifth territory, you think and feel like a Connector. You have a refined perception of the ecosystem inside of which you are. You know how to flourish inside of it and contribute to its development. In the sixth space, you become a Storyteller, capable of creating narratives that are nourished by the past and the present and that bring meaning to future possibilities. In the seventh territory, you embody your values and are driven to bring them to life to inspire and influence the world around you. You are a Prophet.

We can learn to inhabit these territories and move in and out of them at will, not unlike an actor changing roles. Companies can identify what territories will yield the optimal states of being for individuals and teams in different projects. Liberating the imagination of collaborators to realize a clear vision not only allows for the emergence of new solutions but also enables daily working life to become a fertile ground for creativity.


The imagination is a vast inexhaustible resource. It is the mother of creativity and innovation. Exploring and navigating it with agility and putting the resources we uncover inside of it at the service of our visions can help us manage the radical shift through which we are living. The imagination holds the solutions for our individual and collective future. It is up to us to nourish it and take care of it.