Chief Imagination Officer

Name: Tom Grueskin


Company: Gateway 2000

Age: 34

With the Company For: 8 years

Previous Title: Senior Marketing Manager

Degree: BS, Finance

It took a stretch of the imagination for Gateway 2000 founder Ted Waitt to put a cattleman’s rugged independence together with high technology to break the first ground in “Silicon Prairie.” Now that the $5 billion computer supplier ships its cow-spotted boxes around the globe, Waitt has created an official role for imagination in the company. As the industry’s first chief imagination officer, that’s Tom Grueskin’s job.

Organizations are brimming with chiefs — chief technology officers, chief information officers, even chief knowledge officers; why add a chief imagination officer to the mix?

As organizations grow, creativity tends to get blocked. People’s roles become more specialized and they tend to distance themselves from the big picture. My job is to supply the building blocks of creativity.

What’s the best exercise for the imaginations at Gateway?

We pull people out of their positions for a day and get them to talk about what the cow-spotted box means. We say, “Forget the product, what else is inside it?”

Once you’ve set the imagination free, what’s the biggest challenge of your job?

Synchronization. Whenever our customers see a cow-spotted box, we want the same set of values communicated.

Can the imagination ever run too wild?

The imagination itself, no. What’s done with it, yes.

Where do you do your best imagining?

On my skis and on my bike.