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Green Templeton College | Oxford

Imagination in Management

Presented by Professor Per Olof Berg, Head of Marketing Section, Stockholm University School of Business on Thursday 31 May in the E P Abraham Lecture Theatre at Green Templeton College.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.
Albert Einstein 19291

It is generally assumed that modern management is a rational knowledge-based activity following a set of logical actions to produce an outcome in the most efficient way. However, as indicated in the quote from Albert Einstein above, knowledge cannot replace imagination driven by intuition and inspiration when it comes to embracing the whole world, stimulating progress and giving birth to evolution. In his lecture professor Berg will show how imagination over the years has become increasingly important in order to understand business and manage organizations.

The lecture referred to Richard Normann’s early work on the importance of business logics, and his later recognition of the existing of multiple logics, such as the service dominant logic in the eighties and the concept of innovative value constellations in the nineties. In all his work, Richard Normann emphasized the importance of imagination as a driving force behind business strategies.

The second part of the lecture examined the challenges businesses are facing today, and propose a complementary perspective based on the managerial efficacy of imagination. The consequences of this 'imagination perspective' for business and management will then be examined.

1. Berlin, 1929. The poet and journalist George Sylvester Viereck has charmed an interview out of an initially reluctant superstar physicist. He asks: "How do you account for your discoveries? Through intuition or inspiration?"

Albert Einstein replies: "Both. I sometimes feel I am right, but do not know it. When two expeditions of scientists went to test my theory I was convinced they would confirm my theory. I wasn't surprised when the results confirmed my intuition, but I would have been surprised had I been wrong. I'm enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

Source: Taylor, Kathleen
Is imagination more important than knowledge?

Professor Per Olof Berg

After graduating as an engineer in 1967, and military service in 1968-69, Per Olof Berg began to study Business Administration at Lund University. In 1975, he was visiting scholar at Stanford University and UCLA, studying the impact of Organization Development interventions, and in 1979 he presented a dissertation entitled Emotional Structures in Organizations at Lund University. He was also appointed assistant professor, and later associate professor at Lund University.

In 1981-82 he was invited as a visiting professor to INSEAD, and was there able to develop a conceptual framework on 'Organizational Symbolism', as well as to lay the foundation for the Standing Conference on Organization Symbolism (SCOS).

In 1990, Per Olof Berg was appointed Professor in Strategic Management at Copenhagen Business School, where he was also founder and head of the Department of Management Politics and Philosophy. Being a Swedish born professor in Copenhagen he was heavily involved in researching the attempts to create a new transnational region (Öresund), in relation to the building of the fixed link between Denmark and Sweden.

From 2000 to 2005, professor Berg was director of the newly created Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, which is an education-alliance between five of the leading universities in Stockholm, created to promote innovative and entrepreneurial activities. Here he achieved his mission of starting up and expanding the school, and to make it an integrated part of the regional innovation system in the Stockholm region.

Since 2005, Professor Berg is holding an endowed Chair in Corporate and Market Communication, at Stockholm University School of Business, where he is today head of the Marketing Section. He is presently deeply engaged in the Stockholm Program for Place Branding (STOPP), which studies the way in which large metropolitan cities position themselves strategically and competes with each other globally.

As a scholar, Per Olof Berg has contributed to the international diffusion of the symbolic perspective on organization and management, in articles as well as books like Corporate Culture and Organizational Symbolism (with Mats Alvesson). He is currently active in contributing to the scientific exploration of cities and regions through publications and in international networks. He is one of the founders of European Academy of Management (EURAM), and is also a proud member of the Academy of Culinary Arts and Meal Sciences.