1. Lessons In Leadership
  2. Thoughts from the Zeitgeist

Just Imagine

Possibilities become probabilities when we solve problems together.

A couple of months ago, our executive leadership team carved out a few days for an offsite to focus on our strategic plan for the future. This tight-knit group needed all the things that a sense of community provides — including a pause in the action to rebuild our resilience and affirm our shared purpose.

A highlight of the event was a panel of deep thinkers with unique perspectives on how the future might unfold. One of the panelists was Jane McGonigal, PhD, the futurist, author, and world-renowned video game designer who has engaged users in solving real and hypothetical problems on a massive scale. If you think this sounds a bit sci-fi, consider that one of the hypothetical problems she tackled in 2008 was an immersive online game in which nearly 10,000 players confronted the terror of a respiratory virus pandemic that disrupted the supply chain and provoked the spread of misinformation via social media. It doesn’t get more relevant than that.

Her most recent book, “Imaginable,” is subtitled, “How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything—Even Things That Seem Impossible Today.” In the book, she shares strategies — actual exercises in imagination — designed to help us recover our confidence and creativity in these stressful times. She touches on themes that affirm many of the priorities that today’s leaders are working to address.  

For example, I have long maintained that, as social animals, we are uniquely designed to collaborate on thorny problems that by definition require diverse perspectives to solve. Moreover, I believe that the live events industry serves its higher purpose by creating a safe space in which community-led problem solving takes place.

Traditionally, the events industry bias favored face-to-face experience; the pandemic forced us to embrace digital connections. Listening to Ms. McGonigal, I felt vindicated in my long-standing assertion that our enthusiasm for “live” events — which is justified — does not preclude the benefits of virtual connections. They too can happen in real-time and allow for interpersonal exchanges, while extending the breadth of our reach and enriching the diversity of participants. It is my opinion that what we are labeling as “hybrid” events today will quickly become so much the norm that the term will disappear. In-person live events will still happen and represent those things we are most passionate about and inclined to dedicate time to, but they will be hub events for communities of people who meet regularly in multiple ways throughout the year, including in gamified problem-solving exercises.

This line from “Imaginable” stays with me: “If anything can increase your ability to influence how the future turns out, it’s this: planting seeds of imagination in the minds of tens or hundreds or thousands of other people who can help you make whatever changes you’re imagining.”

We should all work within our respective communities to nurture those seeds of imagination. Whether it’s through Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games or a local conference for preschool teachers, the challenges of the future are best solved together, however we manage to join forces.

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