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Exploring Your Social Imagination

The new frontier for company performance is social imagination – supporting issues in your community that also affect you.

Adding a recycle bin to your staff room is admirable, but it’s not going to be a game changer for your people or bottom line. I’m talking about tangible benefits at greater scale.

For example, an industrial company helped a local engineering firm build up its skills to compete for contracts that would normally be won by low-cost, offshore bidders; it’s positive for local employment and economic activity, and it’s transformed their relationship from supplier to business partner and opened up new avenues for innovation.

By using their social imagination they’ve created a win-win, or what we call shared value. A good way to start exploring your own opportunities is to pose these three questions:

  1. What social issues or problems are holding our business back?
  2. What new product opportunities lie in addressing the needs of under-served customer segments?
  3. What issues are being experienced by our existing customers and how can we help?

When you’ve brainstormed these questions, hone in on the ideas that you think, on further exploration, you might be able to build a business case around. Where might a small investment produce a decent social and financial return?

Businesses with social imagination have the jump on their competitors and developing this skills will be essential in the years ahead.


Phil Preston empowers people, businesses and organisations to make an extraordinary difference in the world. He can be reached via

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