Corporate Shamanism: the New Name for Innovation?

Take risks. Leap into unknown and unexplored areas. Express yourself in new ways. Do these things to locate, validate, and capitalize on new areas of growth for your business.

There are formal methods and processes for unlocking potential and manifesting new realities. We always tell clients to be true to themselves, their organizations, and to be a positive force on the planet. We embolden and encourage. We connect them to the real lives that use their creations.

For these reasons, we would like to state that real innovation work is a form of Corporate Shamanism. Shaman (pronounced SHAH-maan) is a word of the Tungis people of Siberia, which means “one who sees in the dark.”  This visionary work dates as far back as 40,000 years. A shaman uses the power, wisdom, and energies of a different frame of mind to create and promote constructive change in people and their environments. A good shaman sees him or herself as a “hollow bone” through which healing and messages are transmitted to clients.

Isn’t this the same work as an Innovation Catalyst who strives to connect their clients with their own humanity and the humans who use their products and services? Without imposing a pre-amped set of prejudices, innovation starts in the dark of discerning what people perceive of your offering.

Then, through a set of rigorous exercises, the energies are harnessed and the perceptions that are gathered are put into a new pattern, a new way of seeing, a new way of measuring value. This creative process holds true on individual, product and corporate levels.

As organizations are nothing more than collections of individuals, it makes deep sense that these time-tested, powerful methods can be used to restore organizations to a sense of mission, purpose, and optimal creativity. In fact, many actual Shamanic practices can be applied to business issues and corporate cultures with great effect.

Besides, Innovation, as a word, has no real meaning anymore. For some organizations it is a lofty goal, for others a marketing plan, and still for others a new IT platform. Yet, real innovations – categorized as Disruptive or Breakthrough – change the world they inherited.

While it seems like a wild leap of fancy, calling the discipline Corporate Shamanism instead of the empty word from the industrial revolution (innovation) is a better-fitting moniker.  Corporate Shamanism re-humanizes business, focuses on the people who use a product or services, and uses a scientific approach to achieving a visionary result.

Who wants to journey into the vast land of possibility?  Let’s go.

image credit: wikimedia

Grab your seat for the Back End of Innovation for 25% off with code BEI14IX

Wait! Before you go…

Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:

Michael Graber is the cofounder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on design thinking, business strategy, and innovation.  Follow him @SouthernGrowth

Michael Graber




Carbon neutrality: what is it, how to achieve it and why you should care

By Hubert Day | June 22, 2022

When sustainability is on the agenda, you’re likely to hear many terms mentioned that you may or may not be…

Read More

Is remote working more eco-friendly than commuting?

By Hubert Day | May 31, 2022

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash Working remotely became a part of everyday life for many people all over the…

Read More


  1. Don Creswell on September 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Michael – you nailed it. Unfortunately, like re-engineering, six-sigma and other one-time powerful concepts, innovation has become a corporate buzzword. Let’s face it – you really cannot institutionalize innovation aside from providing an environment that encourages the radical thinkers, a small minority. Let’s also face another fact – true innovation, disruption, etc. is extremely rare.

    • michael graber on September 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm


      I agree that you cannot change a culture that’s unwilling to change; however, some brave companies are setting up frameworks to allow for this type of work on all of their major brands or lines of service. They have moved away from the MBA-think of an efficient economy and moved toward one of empowering people, their professionals and the people for whom they are creating new solutions. Sounds idealistic, but it happens at least 5% of the time. Thank you for your note.

  2. Archer Tope on September 27, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    It has been my experience that triggering innovation occurs more often when you begin to expect innovation from team members. It is somewhat like a diamond mine. Often corporations treat innovation as a diamond field and only pick up the diamonds on the surface.

Leave a Comment