Innovate

A Simple Way to Inspire Innovation

'The Handmaid's Tale' author Margaret Atwood's fight against censorship shows the transformative role of imaginative speculation.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
images header

BY ROBIN LANDA, PROFESSOR, KEAN UNIVERSITY@RLANDA

"What if?" is a vital question for business owners seeking to spark innovation. It is a springboard to imaginative scenarios and has the potential to ignite a wealth of transformative marketing campaigns and business ideas. By incorporating speculative thinking into your approach, you not only open up unconventional avenues but also lay the foundation for pioneering ventures and advertising across a spectrum of industries.

The year 2023 has witnessed a concerning surge in the number of book bans and instances of censorship within North American classrooms and school libraries. Libraries are purging books. An alarming trend that threatens to surpass previous records, this wave of suppression echoes historical authoritarian regimes and their implementation of censorship and book burning as tools of control and dominance. From Nazi Germany's book-burning campaigns to China's contemporary information control to censoring Shakespeare in Florida, censorship's insidious specter has cast its shadow over societies worldwide. 

Facing this renewed wave of suppression, what if there were a way to make books truly unburnable? Amid this current tide of censorship, an imaginative marketing collaboration emerged. Penguin Random House, in partnership with PEN America and creative agency Rethink, embarked on a thought-provoking initiative--"The Unburnable Book." 

In a symbolic act of defiance, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood wielded a flamethrower against a copy of her own work, The Handmaid's Tale--a book that ranks among the most frequently banned. This project sought to craft an impervious edition of Atwood's seminal work, designed to withstand even the flames of a flamethrower. This endeavor illuminated the resilience of literature against the forces of suppression.

Creativity is a much-desired business skill.

As 2023 unfolds, the World Economic Forum identifies creative thinking as a pivotal skill. In a climate where oppressive regimes seek to stifle freedom of expression, creative minds provide a beacon of hope. Imagining scenarios where censorship and surveillance reign, the question arises--what if authors like Atwood were denied the liberty to express their thoughts? What if governing bodies tightly controlled and censored the written word?

"Writers around the world face grave risks for speaking out, telling truths, and pushing back against the powerful. For that, they are often detained, arbitrarily arrested, attacked, tortured, and sometimes executed. Along with our partners around the world, PEN America and its Members advocate on behalf of writers at risk globally, rallying to their defense and promoting the freedom to write," explains PEN America, an organization that fights censorship and promotes freedom of literary expression worldwide.

What-ifs are not just for creative professionals. Any speculative prompt--such as "What would change if...?" and "Suppose that . . ."--works to seed business and marketing ideas. As I first explained in my recent book, The New Art of Ideas, these types of prompts often foster inspired and unconventional avenues of thought. You can employ what-if thinking to conceive business and advertising ideas, create brand extensions, or modify existing services, processes or products. 

Forge a future where freedom and creativity converge.

In a landscape where freedom of expression faces renewed challenges, Margaret Atwood's act of defiance and the "Unburnable Book" project stand as powerful testaments to the enduring strength of creativity in the face of suppression. The simple act of asking "What If?" not only fuels artistic expression but also sparks the flames of innovation in business and marketing. 

As we navigate this intricate terrain, business owners can seize the potential of speculative thinking to carve out new trajectories, envision daring ventures, and pioneer transformative solutions. Embracing the power of 'What-If,' we not only safeguard our creative liberties but also unlock a trove of untapped potential for business growth and evolution.

Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Last update:
Publish date: