Joseph Imbriano Crafting Life From Curiosity My Story | Joseph Imbriano
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I help leaders through crisis. You could say I am an ER doctor for organizations.

That’s why I created OmniKai: to help leaders around the world overcome crises and build profitable, sustainable, and impactful organizations that shape a better tomorrow.

I’ve been doing it since 2004. I started out in the deserts of northwest China, putting out fires for European companies that decided that the best way to expand into China was to copy and paste what worked in say, Belgium or Sweden. 

Imagine being faced with that decision, of copying a business model that works well in Nebraska and pasting it in Pakistan. Needless to say, it didn't take long for my services to be in high demand. 

After a while, I built a reputation across China, and I took this show on the road. I helped leaders in countries in Asia, Southern Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the U.S. I now live in Denver, CO.​

Right now, we live in a perfect storm.

Covid–19 is blowing strong health headwinds around the world, impacting economic and political forces that were already blowing before the pandemic, becoming a catalyst for political and social changes. These headwinds are reinforcing each other, continuously and fundamentally changing the landscape.

 

 And this affects how we lead.

We are in a special moment - and the ground is shifting below us.

And to meet those challenges, we need to be strong, adaptable, and resilient. When the ground shifts beneath us, and the headwinds bring unfamiliar and powerful challenges, our previous wins don’t matter, previous models we have come to depend upon can become useless in a flash.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve been working with leaders - in business, community, and state and local government - to adapt to this new world, and build organizations that can thrive within the uncertainty and emerge stronger on the other side.

If this feels like you, let's talk.

My Journey ​

How I got to now hasn't been linear. It's a fantastic squiggly line that dances along the spine of my curiosity.

You see, my soul runs on curiosity, and my curiosity runs on asking good questions. That simple formula has led me on a journey of adventure, adversity, and transformation. 

I'd like to share a part of that story with you here.

Not getting that investment banking job straight out of college may have been the best thing that ever happened to me...

Just a few weeks after officially receiving what I considered my "dream offer," September 11, 2001 happened. Our world had changed.

And I had no plan B.

21 years old and depressed, I flopped around for two years. One day, driving back from another failed interview, I knew I had to fundamentally change my approach.

I asked myself:

“What would I do if I had 6 months and could not fail?”

That question changed my life. 

2 weeks later, I left everything behind and moved to China.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how my life would transform…

I fell in love with China when I moved to Xi’an. The history, the vibrancy, the dynamism.

 

I was hooked.

It quickly became clear that the best way to discover more about China was to break the language barrier.

So I taught myself Chinese, packed my curiosity into a backpack, and traveled the far reaches of the country to meet and learn from people from all walks of life.

Within months of moving to China, I established a reputation as a fixer for international companies trying - and failing - to do business in China.

But something was missing.

I needed more…

 

One day, in passing, I heard the name “Kailash”, and though I didn’t know what or where it was, I knew I had to go find out.

And so began the pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash in Tibet that transformed my life.

The journey from Borneo to Tibet took 9 months.

Each day, I realized the power of aligning my life with my mission. I learned the power of forgiveness and the importance - the responsibility, even - to continuously improve myself.

I reflected on adversity I confronted when I was younger, and it was fulfilling to discover that it was in those times that I sharpened my curiosity and hardened my resilience.

That meant that when the world feels like it's crashing down, that I quickly adapted to the new reality, remained calm, and that mindset meant I could make level-headed decisions.

Afterwards, I journeyed across Asia and through Africa, stopping whenever curiosity met opportunity.

 

I continued working but I also explored other adventures.

During the tense presidential elections in Zimbabwe, after the government kicked out foreign journalists and deployed troops in their cities, I smuggled myself into Zimbabwe as a freelance journalist.

It was there in Zimbabwe that I decided to return to graduate school. The most important decisions happen in the rooms at the highest level, and I wanted a seat.

I returned to the United States in style, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.

Cape Town, South Africa to Fortaleza, Brazil.

 

33 days.

 

It was my first time sailing.

Click here to hear how this sailing trip prepared me to lead in the COVID era.

I received a master’s degree in conflict resolution. I studied some of the biggest conflicts in our history, and even participated in some part in current conflicts. I was in Syria just months before the civil war broke out.

Afterwards, I led strategy for an international fintech startup.

I  built, managed, and launched products in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas for the global team of a finance company.

 

Some of these products generated millions of dollars in revenue. 

​Joseph helped advance critical infrastructure policy for the U.S. government, improving the security and resiliency of the infrastructure so critical to the daily lives of Americans - including the electric grids, water supply, transportation, communication and manufacturing sectors. 

When Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas in 2017, Joseph led 17 teams (94 disaster responders) to provide mass care and individual assistance to survivors. ​

For 83 consecutive days, I fought to secure resources so my teams had what they needed to help survivors.

The privilege to serve the survivors of Texas is one of the most fulfilling moments of my life.

Harnessing The Power Of Community

Back in early 2020, as it became clearer to me how much COVID-19 was going to fundamentally disrupt what the world considers normal, I thought back to the breakthrough moment back in the car in 2003​. 

Two years earlier, when the Twin Towers fell in 2001, the world had fundamentally changed. And while I thought I understood that at the time, I never tried to see the world for what it had become. Not once did I try to accept the new normal. All my hard work amounted to nothing because I never tried to adapt. 

This question, "What would I do if I had 6 months and I knew I couldn't fail?" helped me break the cycle and choose a path forward. That path led to personal transformation and has brought me here.

And almost 20 years later, we again face a world that is fundamentally changing. The events of 2020 will have cascading effects for years to come. 

And my mind keeps thinking about how COVID and the social justice movements in 2020 present an incredible opportunity for community transformation. 

Here is my evolving question: 

If the decisions that best impact the community are made when all parties are at the table, how can we get all the parties to that table?

Sounds like a straightforward question, but the answer is not so simple. I think back to my experiences in the worlds of business, NGOs and government; - both in the U.S. and abroad.

I have worked across organizational levels, including everything from customer service to leading global teams talking through decisions at the executive level that affected hundreds of millions of lives.

But here's the reality: we can no longer afford not to work with each other. It there's one lesson we can take from 2020, it's that the cost of not working with each other is too high. We need to harness all of the vibrant minds in our communities.

That question keeps me thinking, often late into the night. It's a big and messy problem, with a complicated past. But I truly believe this question is a powerful step towards designing the answer. ​

For now, I focus on being the bridge between the three worlds.

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Visit OmniKai @ www.omnikai.com

Joseph Imbriano helps leaders navigate crisis and build resilient organizations that drive profit and advance impact. 

Executive Coach | Business Coach | Fractional CxO | Facilitator | COVID

Denver, CO

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