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What If? Imagine Then…

A series of thought experiments that one may apply to a range of topics.

A few examples.

Return to the office.

What if there is a company operating in 2021 where keys to remaining competitive are attracting and retaining a diverse workforce of highly skilled talent, ensuring flexibility/agility, and competing with several new start-ups.

Imagine then if one of that firm’s priorities is to get employees back to the office since it is” critical “to build culture, training, and relationships”. After all ideas cannot be generated outside of the office (though that was the reason for off-sites), relationships cannot be built online or at events or locations outside an office such as restaurants and bars or conferences (which is where people went to collaborate and network) and one cannot learn or be educated anywhere but the office despite most significant learning taking place outside it. Finally, culture can only be built in the office which is another name for a museum of old artifacts infused with essential history and senior folks working in the guild of “tradition” and “apprenticeship” of some nostalgic age.

The Importance of Speed.

What if speed is indeed a competitive weapon and moving fast provides one an edge in hyper fluctuating and reacting markets.

Imagine then if in this need for espresso action every decision is lovingly percolated like at high tea or Japanese tea ceremony. Months pass between sending a Request for Proposal (RFP), receiving responses and an actual decision being made. Where more time is spent evaluating a decision than if the decision had been made and market reaction gauged, and a program adapted with real world data to determine its viability.

The Cost of Differentiated Inputs.

What if there is abundant evidence that the difference in productivity and impact between an excellent talent and an average talent can be 10x in knowledge industries and that most companies understanding this justify significant multiples in compensation for their top talent and management versus that of the average worker.

Imagine then if the focus of the organization is to zero base budget costs and find the lowest priced suppliers to whom they can pay the least in the slowest way possible way. This approach may impact who is placed on the business, the attention it gets and the quality of suppliers who might work with the firm. But if one believes an hour of input is an hour of input one should also buy meat in volume since after all there is no difference in what part of the cow is purchased since the hoof should have the same quality as Kobe beef!

The Importance of Time.

What if one has 75 years of a physically healthy life. Someone in their mid-forties therefore has less than 10,000 days left and someone turning 60 is dwindling down to less than 5000.  What if time is the only asset and as Franz Kafka said the meaning of life is that it ends.

Imagine then if time is taken for granted. By you or by others. When people ask for time for no or little compensation (earning, learning or joy of doing). When one delays, procrastinates, dithers, and lingers.

The definition of Success.

What if a definition of success is to have the freedom to spend time in the way that gives one joy? This joy is often accompanied by a sense of flow when deeply immersed in doing, a feeling of grace and serenity when feeling as one with all around and often excitement and ecstasy of pleasurable pursuits.

Imagine then living in other people’s minds trying to ensure they think highly of us. Pursuing the plumbing and process of life and forgetting the poetry and passion. Watching the scoreboard and losing track of the ball.

Photographs by Michael Kenna

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Rishad Tobaccowala (@rishad) is the author of the bestselling “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” published by HarperCollins globally in January 2020. It has been described as an “operating manual” for managing people, teams and careers in the age we live in and The Economist Magazine called it perhaps the best recent book on Stakeholder Capitalism. Business and Strategy named it among the best business books of the year and the best book on Marketing in 2020. Rishad is also a speaker, teacher and advisor who helps people think, feel and see differently about how to grow their companies, their teams and themselves. More at

2 comments on “What If? Imagine Then…


    This just might be my fav. It is re- affirming. Will pass it on to the museum of old artifacts, I am continually advising.

    1. Rishad says:

      Brenda thank you. Will reach out to connect

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