I’d never heard of Isaac Asimov until a co-founder of 4iforum shared a MIT Technology Review about a 1959 Essay he wrote On Creativity
In the article Asimov posits the idea of cerebration sessions not as a place where new ideas will be created but as somewhere where individuals can educate themselves “in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.” At 4iforum we call this collective learning, and we believe that you will leave our forums with more questions than answers. Asimov’s description of cerebration sessions as a relaxed affair are on par with what we are trying to create in our virtual spaces with 4iforum – although I would prefer if we excluded the dirty jokes. His session-arbiter is our disruptor tasked with asking the forum members shrewd questions and keeping people on point.
Cerebration is not a word I had come across previously but means “the working of the brain; thinking” – which is the whole point of 4iforum. One of the challenges that we are facing in setting up 4iforum is that in a world where organisations and leaders are used to paying for experts to tell them the answers it’s difficult to explain to the uninitiated the value of spending scarce time resource on thinking.
But this isn’t something that people are used to experiencing in organisational life.
The general rule of thumb is that an issue is identified, people with knowledge, expertise or experience gather, they exchange views and a decision is made. This is how business has worked and what the last 100 years of management training teaches us, key skills being a rational-logic approach to problem solving, persuasion and influencing skills. Everything that we know about business leadership is based on three key pillars – the business model, the business case and the business capabilities. Go forth and manage.
But what happens when that doesn’t work? When no one is an expert? When we don’t know what we don’t know, and our knowledge is limited? When there is no experience to fall back on? Sure, we have our processes, but when what we know can change on the next pandemic briefing that evening how do you develop a sustainable response to “this”.
Being counter-cultural in the midst of the biggest crisis to face mankind in our lifetime is either foolhardy or daring. But it is necessary. We can’t do business as usual and I don’t mean returning to business pre-pandemic where social distancing, home working and furlough are no longer part of our business planning. Cerebration is required because the “way” we approach leading and managing our businesses needs to fundamentally, irrevocably changed. The questions we usually ask, the processes we usually follow to solve issues, even the way we spend our time as leaders needs to change. Not just what we do, but how we do what we do.