Exercise Your Imagination NOW!
Regularly using your imagination will enhance your ability to innovate.
Posted September 10, 2018
Putting your imagination to work is not only fun, it might even be profitable. And, there are so many different products, machines, toys, events, scenarios, adventures and so on that you can imagine. It is natural to imagine that something can be nicer, or faster, or stronger, or cleaner, or tastier - even if you think it’s impossible - because we all want a better world to live in. Imagination is the core activity of innovation.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Albert Einstein
When my children were younger, my imagination was tested every night. I would make up bedtime stories for them without any preparation or planning. They were always off the cuff. It was challenging because if the story wasn’t interesting they would complain. Occasionally I made one up that they loved and would request over and over again. I would get tired of the story before they would, so I would add to it - or enhance it in different ways - continuing to use my imagination.
“Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” Philip José Farmer
Imagination is a great escape from our stressful daily lives. I actually tell myself stories to help me fall asleep at night. I imagine adventures with me as the central character. The adventures aren’t too exciting because the goal is to fall asleep. They are interesting, but a little mundane. Some I will use for days or weeks until I get bored with it. Others have sustained my interest for months, and one for years. That one, with a number of variations, was about building, then packing, a homemade rocket ship that I would fly to the moon.
“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” Carl Sagan
Imagination is not just for children or daydreamers. My passion is storytelling, which explains how and why I typically use my imagination. I also like to make people laugh, so I frequently look for humorous connections so I can make a joke on the spot. I also do this when I prepare for a speech. I study the audience and try to find common quirks about their business or industry, and then use that to create a joke that helps them accept me as an insider. For example, I might say to a group of accountants, “You never really learn to swear, until you’ve worked during tax season.”
“Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.” Maria Montessori
You may use your imagination when you are daydreaming about a perfect date, or planning an exciting vacation. Perhaps you use it to visualize a new business about which you’ve been wishing to establish. Maybe you imagine starting a cause or a charity for a community problem that you’re fervently devoted to fixing. Imagination enables us to develop and express thoughts about things or situations that don’t currently exist.
“Reason is intelligence taking exercise. Imagination is intelligence with an erection.” Victor Hugo
Imagination is not all about fantasy, it is something we use routinely in very practical ways. It is what motivates us to make plans for the future; we visualize how everything will come together. We do this when shopping for a new car or house. We do this when we have children and think about how we want to raise them. In business we imagine how we can attract new customers. Imagination helps you prepare for potential problems. So, it's important to exercise your imagination frequently (see my article Four Easy Ways to Exercise Your Creativity for more suggestions on how to stimulate your imagination).
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau
Most of us use our imagination via imagery or visualization, but you can use all five senses to create something new. I like to think of Mozart in the movie Amadeus as he imagines the notes of his compositions in his head before he writes them down on paper. How can you use your senses of hearing, smell, taste, and touch to imagine something new. I will occasionally imagine how certain flavors might work together - then create a new recipe - like my peanut butter and jalapeno sandwich. Yum!
“What is now proved was once only imagined.” William Blake
How are you using your imagination? Whether it is for business or pleasure, you should take it out and play with it every day.
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an innovation/change speaker, author, and consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive through innovation and with people who want to think more creatively.