The New Edge in Human Performance: “Imagination Performance”

Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos
5 min readSep 17, 2020

[ Published by ORF on the occasion of their international flagship technology conference CyFy]

Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos,

Over the past century industrial revolutions have improved the quality of life and allowed for greater specialization, increased trade and the expansion of an industry of leisure and with it a greater introspection on human performance. Specialization and the combination of ‘wellness’ consciousness and wearable technology has allowed for the growth of a $5 trillion wellness economy. By the end of the 2010s, “wellness” became mainstream with mindfulness practices, digital detox, yoga and an awareness of proactive mental and physical health at the center of it.

For professional athletes and leading executives, human performance became mainstream. The 2010s was a boom particularly in the spaces of sleep performance and brain performance. Though the help of sleep coaches, professional sports teams have directed their attention to the science of sleep and how it improves cognitive and body performance during competition. Similarly high performing executives and celebrities have sought the help of brain coaches to help them improve their mind’s capabilities and expand their brain’s potential.

In this new decade of the 2020s, we are about to experience more change than in the last 100 years combined as every industry will reinvent itself. The decade kicked off with an unexpected pandemic which has touched every person, company, industry and government in the world. With pandemic induced layoffs, wide spread corporate bankruptcies, the slowdown of international supply chains and the dramatic reduction of the movement of people around the world, a new type of human performance is urgently needed to thrive through this volatility.

I propose a new sub-field within human performance — Imagination Performance.

It will be Imagination Performance that will help us adopt with agility, flourish through adversity and creatively innovate to remain relevant.

What is Imagination Performance?

My vision for imagination performance rests on a mindset of abundance, is shepherded by the continuous cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning, and is strengthened through applied novelty.

In order to allow room for unrestricted thinking people must actively abandon a scarcity mindset which is fueled by fear. Instead, an abundance mindset allows for new opportunities and possibilities to be explored without prejudice and the ingenuity derived comes from the premise that there are an abundance of options that can be created. The metaphorical pie can become bigger and for those who are not limited by the rims of the pie, the pie can be accompanied by many sides on the table.

An abundance mindset is only the foundation and is not sufficient alone to bolster imagination. It must be cultivated with an intentional desire to learn new things. The learning process is accelerated for those who are naturally and perpetually curious. For those who have lost their child like curiosity it can be worked on and revived in adulthood. Curiosity serves as an important catalyst for the challenging task of unlearning obsolete philosophies, letting go of outdated business models and reimagining antiquated ideas of social equity.

Finally, to be at one’s peak of imagination performance is to experience and to be exposed to novelty in theory and in practice. The following section expands on this.

Cross Industry Examples to Engage the Imagination Muscles

Just as there are certain foods that help brain performance, there are ideas that can serve as food for the imagination. The following table offers some food for the muscles of the imagination:

These examples serve as a mechanism to stretch the imagination in the art of the possible and enhance the mind’s ability to creatively derive solutions for other problem sets. Increasing the exposure to more diverse and novel ideas helps encode new information by tuning connections between neurons and allows the brain to strengthen the links between them. This improves the velocity of ‘dot-connecting’ that the brain does when solving for problems and increases the possibility for creative ideas.

The Paradox: Human Nature is Adverse to Change but Thrives on Novelty

Across cultures and countries people are very similar in that the average person does not like change and many people outright ignore or reject what they don’t understand. These common human traits can be seen throughout history and across the technological advancements in previous centuries. If people, businesses and governments are to thrive in the next decade of swift change, they will need to reimagine everything they know to be the ‘status-quo’.

The consequences for uninformed and unimaginative strategies to posture for future threats and opportunities will be too great to ignore the importance of “Imagination Performance”.

Coronavirus and rapid technological change have made it an imperative to further expand our understanding of human performance and embrace imagination performance as the tool that augments our strategic planning to flourish during the turbulence of the 2020s.

About the Author

Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos is a Strategy and Innovation Advisor who loves to experiment and push the bounds of the possible. Her experience spans three continents and several countries where she helps her clients think differently and posture them to make the most of new technologies in the context of changing and emerging trends. Currently she is working on futures strategy work at the U.S. Special Operations Command on emerging. She addressed the United Nations member states at the CCW GGE meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and keynotes at technology and national security conferences. She speaks and writes on disruptive technology convergence, innovation, tech ethics, and national security. In efforts to raise awareness on AI and ethics she makes reflectional art #ArtAboutAI, and made a game about emerging technology and ethics called Sapien2.0 .

You can find her on Twitter, Instagram or Linkedin, for more check out her site.



Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos

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