The eye can only see so many colors, but the artist using his or her imagination puts them together in ways that we never imagined and suddenly a blank canvas speaks to our souls. While this voice seems real we struggle to try to explain it to anyone and words fail to explain really why we love or hate the work. Imagination has trumped knowledge in nearly every realm of study, yet we tend to nurture knowledge and leave imagination to the artists. Yet imagination is what brings revolution to business. Henry Ford rethought how the assembly line might work and Steve Jobs rethought the phone. Imagination makes our world work better. Maybe we should nurture that as well.
With the vastly overwhelming amount of knowledge out there it might seem radical to point out an unfortunate truth. Knowledge is limited. There is a finite amount of knowledge out there that our limited minds can take in and assimilate. However, imagination is unlimited and we can freely use this powerful tool to explore the possibilities of how to utilize the knowledge at our disposal.
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
― Robert Fulghum,
Imagination is strength: A pile of Lego building blocks are sitting in the middle of the living room. They have no life on their own. Their assorted colors might be considered beautiful on their own but all together useless. Now send in a group of six or seven year olds and set them free to build. That mindless group of blocks suddenly learns to become a airplane, boat or building. Anything the child has ever seen or dreamed of can be created out of those blocks. What is not seen though is how this process strengthens the mind of the child. The brain is exercised and strengthened. Problems are solved at minute levels in the child’s mind and he or she discovers basic building principles like cantilevers and solid foundations to hold up their immense structures. Their mind strengthens as they find pleasant combinations of colors and joy as they learn acceptance. These skills are transferred to challenges at school and on the playground. For the child this stronger mind makes them a force to be reckoned with in the highly competitive world of education where scholarships are on the line and colleges of choice are waiting. Imagination is a fantastic exercise. In the Contrarian Leader, author Steve Sample, shares a story of General Electric engineers solving a problem with a dishwasher using their imagination. Using all of their mechanical and scientific knowledge at their disposal they put all the possibilities out on the table. They could not come up with any solution. Out of frustration they were challenged to try to solve the problem by using animal parts. Using their imaginations they brought together elephant trunks and lion paws or monkey tails and suddenly the answer appeared. Imagination succeeded where years of education and knowledge had failed.
Build your imagination: There are many ways to rekindle and grow the power you have to utilize your imagination. Take up painting or sculpture. Start on the cheap with play dough and crayons. Create something, anything and imagine it coming to life. Give it a voice and a heart. Let it develop personality in your head. Let your mind run with it and enjoy the process.
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
― Albert Einstein
Imagination will take you places: Where would you go, do or buy if your current reality was not in play? Take a trip to Mars or talk with great historical figures. General Patton was believed to believe in reincarnation yet his staff historian, Martin Blumenson who authored many military histories, most notably The Patton Papers, stated that he did not think Patton believed in reincarnation, but that his life-long study in history gave him such a sense of the places and events, that he could talk like he had been there. What sort of advantage would it give you to so know history and its leaders that you would have an almost déjà vu feeling when you step into the challenges. Imagination can take you there.
Build your imagination: Create a diverse group and call them your historical counsel. Study their lives in every way possible. When you step into the unknown and have a challenge gather your counsel and listen to their advice. Sometimes the wisdom of the ancients will help you to solve the impossible. Make your counsel diverse in skill sets and culture and your counsel will be extremely rich and beneficial.
“Everything you can imagine is real.”
― Pablo Picasso
Imagination will ultimately bring us to reality: Have you ever thought about the fact that everything that we take for granted today was once stuck in someone’s imagination? Today we have sinks in our home because someone was tired of walking down to the river with a bucket. The idea that we could share blogs like this one with most of the world able to grab a hold of the information was once just simple fantasy. Early movies tried to create what going to the moon would look like and likely sparked the desire in the scientists who worked to make those movies come true. The IPOD was named from a scene in the movie 2001. So much of what we see as common place in our world today became a reality primarily because of imagination.
Build your imagination: Build something today. Don’t put it off. You can use a kit if you like but it’s better if you don’t. I once created a racetrack ramp out of old scraps of wood that were in the garage. I built bumpers and tested it out with my boy’s matchbox cars. They loved it. But the building enabled me to utilize a portion of my brain that I need for creation. This sort of exercise has enabled me to create programs and concepts that help men and women fight off addiction or other unhealthy behaviors. Build a better mousetrap and you might stumble on things like the pocket fisherman or a way to capture pollution that actually saves money. Have fun with it and don’t worry if it looks stupid. My racetrack looked dumb but when the cars were racing the boys could care less.
Imagination is a very powerful tool that we tend to forget about and rarely use as it was designed. Take time this week to build your imagination and dream of a better world.