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June 23, 2005

Imaginary Board of Directors

A best practice for creative problem solving is to form an Imaginary Board Of Directors.

The Imaginary Board of Directors is a "...fantasy board of powerhouse business leaders and innovators who will assist you in overcoming your business challenges." (from the book Thinkertoys)

This board may consist of any person you admire most, living or dead. The instructions Michael Michalko offers in Thinkertoys to form and use this board are as follows:*

  1. Select three to five business movers and shakers, living or dead, whom you admire most.
  2. Get photographs of your Board and pin them up to constantly remind you of the talent at your disposal.
  3. Research your heroes. Read everything about your heroes that you can get your hands on.
  4. Take notes on your favorite passages. Pay particular attention to the creative techniques they employed to solve problems.
  5. When you have a challenge, consult the members of your board and imagine how they would solve it.

One of the fellas on my Imaginary Board of Directors is Walt Disney. I have admired him all my life.

Others on my list include: Henry Ford, Tom Edison, Al Einstein, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Steve Martin and the McVicker brothers.

When trying to solve a business or marketing problem... I'll ask myself... what would Twain say? What would Edison do? How would Martin handle this situation?

Who would be on your list?

*Paraphrased from the great book:Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1991. pg. 178


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What an intriguing concept! And you're the second person in a month to recommend that book. I guess I'll have to add it to the mountain of books I call my reading list.

Love the idea. My imaginary board of directors?

Joyce C. Hall, Tom Peters,Will Rogers, Steve Jobs, Dave Jewitt

Oh, and work on your math Paul. 1 + 7 = 3 to 5?

Ben Franklin -- great choice.

I might bring on board Teddy and FDR. They knew how to get things done -- one by bulldozing, the other by charming.

Of course, the problem with this imaginary scenario: it only works with privately-owned companies. That's because powerhouse board members often scheme to take over companies - and almost as often succeed. While you don't want rubber stamps, you also (I'm guessing) want to keep your job as CEO.

I don't see Walt attempting a hostile takeover from Paul's bulletin board, but I guess if anyone could be reanimated why not him?

Dustin - thanks for your comments... I know... I know... I gots too many folks on my board... I only call some of them in at at time... typically not all at once.

Great topic, Paul. Here's my imaginary board. It's small, but then again, I'm selective. *grin*

Ricardo Semler
Randy Komisar
Steve Jobs
Steven Spielberg
Halley Suitt
Madeline Albright (not business, but WTH)
Dave Winer

Okay ... I had to let this thought-provoking question simmer for a day.

My 'fake' board of directors would include:
* Malcolm Gladwell
* Seth Godin
* Lisa Denney Compton (former boss at Starbucks)
* Margaret Wittenberg (former boss at Whole Foods)
* Gil Scott-Heron (my favorite bluesologist)

What an insightful idea. My board of directors would be:
Jesus Christ - Chairman of the board, and the One that can show us all the way
Dr. John Maxwell - Easy selection. He can write, lead and inspire us all.
Abe Lincoln - phenomenal courage to do what's right even in the face of adversity
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - inspirational doesn't begin to scratch the surface of Dr. King's value to my board.
Brian Tracy - on the board for many of the same reasons as Dr. Maxwell.
Jim Collins - Good to Great analysis will be necesarry for my board, as I'm more of a visionary.
I'll be posting these, with pictures, on my blog. Thanks for the inspiration Paul!

Very creative idea. However, be careful who you choose. Fast Company has picked Walt Disney as one of their Psychopath CEO's.

"A dictorial boss who underpaid his workers, clashed with labor, mad anti-sematic remarks, and stole the drawings of Mickey Mouse." - Fast Company, July 2005 pg. 49.

He sure did make us dream though. I guess you have to be careful with Fast Company these days. It is just trying to stay afloat. Now that I have Seth Godin's blog, who needs them. Haha.

Such a great idea I had to share it on my blog for new mediators. Since most of my readers are new to business so the idea that they can learn from great (and not so great business leaders) is so useful and empowering.

I tried to think who I would choose if I had a women only board. So far, these women come to mind:

Meg Whitman of Ebay
Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay
Ann Fudge formerly of Kraft

Who else am I missing? Somehow I hesitate to add Carly Fiorina, even though I think she was unfairly treated.

Dina Beach Lynch

All great choices. But isn't the problem with B.O.D.'s these days that they are isolated from current market-think by their own previous successes? Putting all "icons" on the board can lead down the wrong path, they tend to think like icons not consumers.

It'd be good to have a mere customer or two on the B.O.D. to balance out all the greatness. Depending on the market....maybe a 35 year old single mom. Or a young family guy with a big mortgage and more credit card debt than he can stand. Or an older baby boomer who wants to live a lot before he dies. Or a kid right out of college. Too many Boards are out of step with average consumers, who they are, how they think, what makes them choose what they choose.

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