Imagination in the Workplace

Imagination:  What is It?

Imagination is the ability to form new images in your mind.  It’s the ability to create something new, something that is unreal, but has the potential of becoming real.  Imagination deals with new ideas and new thoughts.

Imagination:  Why is it important?

Imagination is, in its truest sense, creativity: when we use our imaginations we are creating new thoughts and ideas. It is easy to see its utility in creative industries, but what about for managers? It is, after all, essential to good problem solving. If you can’t imagine a solution, how are you going to choose an appropriate one? Without imagination, how can you think up new, innovative services that will meet your users’ needs? Without it, how can we be empathetic? Empathy, as we know, is an important part of emotional intelligence, one of the biggest predictors of on-the-job success. JK Rowling spoke about the importance of imagination when she gave the 2011 commencement address at Harvard.

Imagination:  How can you cultivate it?

There are two ways when we might want to cultivate our imagination. One is in emergency situations, when we are faced with the need to problem solve or otherwise get creative. The other is a general improvement in our imagination.

Lateral Action offers a great step-by-step guide to getting more creative when you have a specific task you are stuck on. To improve your creativity generally, it’s important to play. It’s important to tinker. Perhaps this is why maker spaces have become so popular. Many adults have lost their instinct and ability to play. So what can we do? Here’s a very basic list to get you started (in no particular order):

  • Draw a picture
  • Build with blocks or Lego
  • Take an art, drama, writing or improv class,
  • Knit, crochet or sew
  • Read a novel or short story and think mindfully about the characters’ personalities and motivation.
  • Make something out of wood
  • Think about how something broken could be repaired
  • Ask yourself “what if”
  • Plant a garden
  • Go bird watching or foraging

The more we insert our imagination into our daily lives the stronger it will be. And the stronger our imagination is the better we will be at innovating, problem solving and empathizing in the workplace.

I’d love to hear from you about how you weave creativity into your daily life. How do you cultivate your imagination? How has this helped you on the job?

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