Act bodly on instinct; do not wait for the data to tell you what to do. You have to respect the data but love imagination more. – Beth Comstock
A business memoir themed around creating change, Imagine it Forward covers Beth Comstock’s story working at GE and pushing for what she felt it could be.
There are some interesting ideas throughout the book but too often it feels like she’s trying to settle old scores. Despite that, there are many thoughts that can be applied to tourism and experience development.
Changing the way things are done requires the effort of the entire team and marketing can play a key role in keeping the visitor at the centre of the process.
Canola fields in Red Deer County
The Key Ideas
Looking at the ideas shared throughout the book, a few of them stand out from a tourism and experience development perspective.
Too often we focus on our current situation and improving what we have instead of looking at what we could have. Changing the mindset allows us to define the future instead of simply reacting to changes. Marketing departments, and in tourism DMO’s, can bring that outsider perspective needed to design new experiences. To get there they need to move from theory to practice and become involved in all stages of experience development. That being said, while creating new experiences it’s important to learn to listen and trust your doubts.
To get there we need to focus on 3 timelines: the now (next 18 months), what’s next (3-5+ years) and the future (5-10+ years). The now is about winning the present with incremental innovation, the next is about finding new markets for existing products or new products for existing markets and the future is the disruptive offers that allow us to create the future we want.
To be innovative, you have to learn to be comfortable with some level of “maybe”. Too often we want proof that something is right or will work, instead of looking at what we’re willing to lose if we are wrong. We need to set up systems that allow us to make changes when creating new experiences and look at metrics that allow us to experiment rather than punish new ideas with slower growth.
Constraints and obstacles are necessary to achieve change through creative ideas. The process often leads to conflict and tension. This is an important part of creating the future and something the team needs to work through instead of avoiding it. If everybody agrees then the new idea is probably not pushing the boundaries enough.
You have to believe in your story before you can authentically share it. A major element of creating change is bringing others on board. This is nearly impossible if you don’t first believe in the idea yourself and second if you can’t make the story concrete enough for them to buy into it.
You’re never fully done. After the first launch, it’s time for continuous improvements. Too often our metrics are based around neat projects with start and finish dates. We need to move beyond these to focus on ongoing experience development.
The old way was about controlling power, the new way is about being open, participatory and peer-driven. It’s about working collaboratively to increase returns for everybody. Partnerships are messy. Even the good ones take work.
One of my favourite section however is about the difference between a coach and a consultant:
I wish I had appreciated the role of coaches earlier: master crafts -men and -women who teach their apprentices the craft of imagination-making. Consultants tell you what to do and leave. Coaches lean over a business leader’s shoulder and advise them: “Good. Good, bad. Right move. Now faster.” The coach’s role is the essence of emergence – it’s about setting a good “mission objective” – giving the teams the freedom to iterate and learn forward.
Look at what isn’t happening and imagine what could. – Beth Comstock