06/30/2010 02:36 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sparking the Collective Imagination

I read about an executive who had a real flat response from his employees when he put out the question "How can we best the best company in the world?" There was a long pause and a deep silence in the room until a worker said, "How about this: how can we be the best company for the world?" And that was the question that charged everyone's imaginations and started everyone thinking creatively. It's not about what we can get. It's more about what we can give. And it's our giving that opens the door to all the abundance we are going to receive in the world, as a person or a corporation.

Just as a battery is charged by the union of positive and negative forces, just as a child is conceived by the union of a male sperm and female ovum, just as a thought issues forth from the union of right and left brain, so does original thinking emerge from the practice of joining "us" and "them" into a "we."

Our imaginations are the most potent engines of change in the universe. There is no doubt that we can evolve ourselves forward once we replace our dualistic thinking with thought processes that re-pair the opposites and cause convergence.

In this matter, emotions are essential. They are our guide, our body's means of instant messaging to the brain. Yes, this decision is wise. No, that choice is unwise. Our bodies are hardwired for survival of the species. If we listen deeply to them, if we are wise enough
to trust the feelings they emanate on our behalf, then we will find the clarity necessary to make
inspired choices that are as good for the whole as they are for the one, which is an absolute prerequisite for thought leadership today. And because the work of transforming our own
thought processes is so evolutionary an act, it requires the total engagement of body, mind, and spirit. This is not business as usual. This is reorienting to a new star.

We are organisms in a constant state of flux, exposed to an ever-changing environment. The more we inquire into our own state of consciousness and notice the evolution of our own ideas, the more aware we become of our place in the family of things. As a civilization, we are shifting out of an industrial, assembly-line mindset of isolated units into an organic, knowledge-based network of communities.

There is a tectonic shift of consciousness occurring and an evolutionary tendency away from the mechanical and back toward the natural. This may be seen as Mother Nature's mid-course correction. As the thinking neurons of the planet, biologically oriented toward survival, we are finding ways of connecting and communicating with unimaginable speed and precision. Someone has calculated that we can globally transmit the contents of the Library of Congress across a single fiber optic line in 1.6 seconds. Science and nature have announced their

It is not the task of creators to know the answers, but to articulate the questions we face as a people and to call us together to create our solutions.

This is the potential of corporate America--to re-think their structures and processes in such a way that they become furnaces of inspiration, centers of creative ingenuity, arbiters of a culture conscious enough to bring the whole human family into the picture. The profits from such an endeavor--materially, culturally, spiritually--could overwhelm the most skeptic imagination.

Thought leaders do not think in terms of "me" and "mine." They think in terms of "we" and "ours." They do not think outside the box, they live outside the box. No matter what their address, they think of themselves as global citizens, responsible to the earth, responsible to the human family, and aware that their well-being is tied to the well-being of others. They are balanced and in tune with their own inner life, and they are awake to the immense possibilities that erupt when the inner lives and imaginations of their colleagues are fully engaged.

These are the kinds of alliances that can emerge when we change our questions from "What can we gain?" to "What can we give?" Businesses have always been on the cutting edge of creative innovation, and finding ways of bridging their bottom line concerns with the basic
needs of the poor opens up whole new avenues for win-win solutions.

There is a tremendous opportunity here for commercial enterprises that balance commerce with compassion, that reframe "the poor" from a category of charity to a category of collaborator, and that imagine new ways of working with and in these communities so that everyone benefits.

From The Art of Original Thinking, by Jan Phillips.