How to make imagination a competitive advantage

Blue sky creativity isn't just the realm of lone geniuses and small children. It can be systematised, says the chair of BCG Henderson Institute.

by Martin Reeves

Competitive advantage is increasingly short lived: since the 1960s, the average number of companies exiting the Fortune 500 has increased by 36% annually, according to data from S&P Capital IQ and BCG Henderson Institute analysis. Additionally, companies face pressure from declining market growth driven by an aging population, tough societal challenges that require new collective solutions, and the rise of AI which will displace routine cognitive work.

In these challenging times, imagination is more important than ever. Fortunately, it is something that leaders can build into their organisations, by doing three things. 

1. HARNESSING IMAGINATION 

We define imagination as “the ability to create a mental model of something that doesn’t exist yet.” This is also known as “counterfactual thinking”: the ability to create mental objects that are not merely reproductions of the outside world. While some believe that imagination is essentially mental, individual, and unmanageable, imagination can in fact be harnessed systematically.

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