Byron's Babbles

Imaginal Leader Cells

Graphic Recording By Kelvy Bird


Yesterday I had the distinct honor of spending the day learning with The Value Web. One of the discussions involved the work of Imaginal Labs and the work of Carolyn Buck Luce and Rob Evans. When first seeing the word “imaginal” my thoughts were drawn to “imagining” or having an “imagination.” I quickly learned, however, “imaginal” is a biology term. The imaginal cells and the Blue Morpho Didius Butterfly 🦋 were the inspiration for Imaginal Labs. 

I am way over-symplifying here but basically imaginal discs (cells) are what allow the caterpillar to metamorphosis into something completely different – the butterfly. Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, genitals and all the other features of an adult butterfly or moth. The imaginal disc might begin with only 50 cells and increase to more than 50,000 cells by the end of metamorphosis.

So, when thinking in terms of “imaginal” it is about creating new ideas and concepts of things that do not yet exist. As leaders we must do this at times. We must also be able to use our “imaginal leader cells” to iterate or metamorphosis the innovations and creations of our organizations. I like the way the Imaginal Labs puts it: 

“We believe that courageous leaders are the Imaginal cells within their organizations to help them transform to meet the challenges of our times.” ~ Imaginal Labs

Are you an Imaginal Leader?

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