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The power of impossible

Alexandre Asselineau (CEREN EA 7477, Burgundy School of Business, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Dijon, France)
Gilles Grolleau (CEE-M, Univ. Montpellier, CNRS, INRAE, Institut Agro, Montpellier, France)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 18 June 2021

Issue publication date: 12 August 2022

98

Abstract

Purpose

Labeling something as “impossible” can be performative and deprive businesses from promising ideas, by activating limiting mental models and self-fulfilling prophecies. Adopting an “everything may be(come) possible” thinking as the default option can lead businesses to discover unexpected and valuable directions and make the world a better place. This paper aims to propose practical insights to harness the power of “impossible” thinking such as considering impossibility as a current and temporary state, adopting an unconventional mindset and redirecting the reflection on what is needed to make the idea possible. Falling in love with any impossible target is obviously not without downsides.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper discusses conceptually how adopting an impossible thinking approach can help business to discover unexpected and valuable directions.

Findings

The authors caution managers on the inappropriate use of the “impossible” label that can be performative, activate a limiting mental model, lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy and deprive businesses from promising ideas. This paper proposes ways by which the power of impossible thinking can be harnessed to make a difference.

Research limitations/implications

Discarding impossible ideas seems perfectly justified from a logical or cultural viewpoint while constituting simultaneously a bad decision from a business viewpoint. The generalization of authors’ insight must be undertaken with caution, given that harnessing the power of impossible does not mean to fall in love with any impossible idea.

Practical implications

Learning to not neglect seemingly impossible options and sometimes to reveal them can lead to sustainable competitive advantages.

Social implications

While generating a competitive advantage for the concerned companies, implementing impossible ideas can also contribute to make the world a better place.

Originality/value

The authors identify some mechanisms that can make impossible thinking beneficial and profitable for companies. These insights can help managers to nurture an environment that facilitates the emergence of pathbreaking advances.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Authors are very grateful to Naoufel Mzoughi and several other colleagues for their feedback. Authors also thank the Journal of Business Strategy for its help in improving the manuscript. The usual caveat applies.

Citation

Asselineau, A. and Grolleau, G. (2022), "The power of impossible", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 43 No. 5, pp. 291-297. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-03-2021-0035

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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