May 25, 2017

“Situations refuse to stand still. We need more organic and imaginative ways of adapting to and making continual sense of our workplace,” observed Gareth Morgan, author of “Imaginization: New Ways of Seeing, Organizing, and Managing.”

Fusing “imagination” and “organization,” Morgan created the term “imaginization” to describe a problem-solving technique of thinking in new images or metaphors. The ability to invent new images which describe the challenges at hand and help motivate and mobilize employees is becoming a key managerial skill, pointed out Morgan.

All our thinking is based on metaphors — unconscious images — like the image of a sports team, said Morgan. Through imaginization, we make conscious new metaphors and use them to direct our actions… to be more effective.

“Most of the conceptions we’ve developed about organizations are mechanistic,” said Morgan. “They’re based on the idea that we’re designing something equivalent to a machine… get a clear structure and then slot people in and hope it works. With the pace of change in today’s electronic age, we have to create flexible, adaptable organizations — more like organisms than machines.”

“The more you structure your organization, the more you freeze it,” noted Morgan. “In order to get out of the mechanistic approach, you have to have new ways of thinking about what you’re doing. That’s where imaginization comes in.”


You manage a company trying to reinvent itself. Encourage your staff to think about the image of living in a house while they demolish and completely rebuild it. Identify key load-bearing walls you must retain while rebuilding, to keep the business functioning while new load-bearing walls for future business are constructed.

It’s much better than ‘How do we re-engineer?'” observed Morgan. “Otherwise, the fear of losing what you’ve got will stop you from moving into new territory — ‘We can’t do that because we’ll lose our existing customers…'”

“Most management these days is about paradox — wanting higher quality and reduced costs, better service and less staff, empowered staff and more control. These paradoxes require creative thinking if they’re to be possible,” said Morgan.

One of Morgan’s favorite new metaphors of decentralized management? It’s the image of a spider plant with little offshoots branching everywhere. The spider plant illustrates an organization where everything is controlled and connected, but where power is given to decentralized units which may one day become autonomous.

Another of Morgan’s metaphors: Managers as bumblebees. They don’t schedule or go in a straight line — they go where the pollen is, cross-pollinating, adding value. Bumblebees are not authoritarian: they don’t damage what they visit. At the same time they must add value to clients without stinging them.

The job of a manager (supervisor) is to have super-vision, said Morgan. You must be able to see better than anyone else. Get a new image of yourself as value-adder, problem solver, catalyst. “Learn to understand how you are seeing things and get a new mindset. Otherwise you’ll be ineffective, imprisoned by your old metaphors,” warned Morgan.

© 2017