Courageous Imagination – Bringing Scientists, Creatives and Business Leaders to the same table

Almost every corporate culture statement or job posting includes some combination of the words creativity, wellbeing and collaboration. It’s become a foundation of the American workplace and our society as a whole. But what if we had the courage to take the collaboration one step further. Instead of innovating and working together with just your team, company or industry… could you collaborate with leaders in completely different industries. What innovation and growth could we spark if artists, economists, scientists and educators all collaborated? Imagine an infrastructure connecting creativity between different industries and cultures. That is exactly what Energize Colorado volunteer and lead Cultural Strategist for the Small Business Resiliency Index, Theo Edmonds, is leading for the University of Colorado Denver’s Imaginator Academy. 

Theo is a skilled, energetic Culture Futurist™ and innovator with 25 years of senior-level strategic national and international leadership experience spanning the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. A seasoned communicator, Theo’s unconventional background traverses and connects scholarly research with pop culture across scientific disciplines, data analytics, creativity, and cultural wellbeing in the places we work, learn, heal, and explore. As Directing co-founder of CU Denver’s Imaginator Academy – a cultural analytics, strategy, and futurist innovation hub, Theo is a weaver of ideas who scouts global networks of entrepreneurs, companies, scientists, artists, creative innovators, and change-makers of all kinds in order to find hidden opportunities that others miss. 

With the understanding that culture shapes business, artists shape culture, and people shape change – Theo, Cameron Lister (SBRI’s lead Data Scientist) and CU Denver’s growing Imaginator network  aim to develop:  America’s Creativity Infrastructure. Just like the physical infrastructure of roads and bridges that connect communities, America’s Creative Infrastructure connects ideas and innovation. Even more importantly, it uses quantitative data to assess and improve culture readiness for moving good ideas forward. Backed by science, grounded in Courageous Imagination™, the Imaginator Academy is working to future-proof American innovation through creativity, workplace wellbeing and cross-cultural collaboration. 


Theo explains, “Quantitative science can guide us to better  questions. Put the data in the hands of creatives and artists who are working as part of business innovation teams across many different sectors, some amazing things can happen!” 

Building America’s creativity infrastructure for the future of work requires deep, respectful partnerships between artists, scientists and business. This may feel like an abstract concept, but corporations and local governments have been trying to incorporate the strategies of innovation and collaboration for years. Led by the University of Colorado Denver with a global network of collaborators, Imaginator Academy is a different kind of innovation initiative. With the June 2022 launch of the Workforce Creativity & Wellbeing Census, the organization is embarking on a bold first step towards unlocking inclusive growth as we shape the future of culture in business, healthcare, education, and media. This unique data dashboard will be used to create growth initiatives that bridge culture change with innovation so the two can be managed more impactfully and create more meaningful work experiences.

Initial census results were discussed during the Imaginator Summit in October. At the summit, Theo and the Imaginator team worked to create a shared language so that inclusive innovation could occur between artists, scientists and business leaders. In Theo’s words, Energize Colorado was  positioned as a perfect partner for this summit. Theo’s time as a volunteer with the Small Business Resiliency Index (SBRI) project team demonstrated that Energize Colorado is already digging into the Imaginator Academy’s ideas. To determine the resilience of small businesses, the SBRI index, created by Energize Colorado, measures business’ social capital – hope, trust, and belonging. Digging deeper into these vectors of social capital you find: community, curiosity, well-being and creativity. These are all pieces of the Creative Infrastructure. 

In our conversation with Theo, he expressed, “With Energize Colorado there is a network of individuals that are incredible professionals who are excellent at what they do. Yet, they understand that you can accomplish more with others than you can on your own. Energize Colorado is already using a creative infrastructure.”

Following the Imaginator Summit, Theo noticed three themes:

1. Despite having some of the most accomplished people in their fields as part of this summit, there was a genuine curiosity that everyone shared. An understanding that each discipline has only part of an answer. Putting them together is powerful. We are pushing forward in a way that feels collaborative and connective. 

2. There was a theme that everything we know – economies, industries, schools, nations – come from only two things: the earth and human imagination. There is nothing else. People started thinking about that concept in their own ways and applying it to their fields.

3. People walked away with the feeling that they wanted to learn more. There are a lot of similarities between artists and entrepreneurs in today’s world. We need to celebrate those similarities, as well as the differences. Creativity is the language of connection between arts, science and business.

How can you get involved in this exciting work? 

Take 10-minutes to co-create this movement with Theo by taking the workforce census on creativity and belonging. Your input will help map, measure and make real the science behind courageous imagination. 

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