daydream imagine in a field

Putting Imagination To Work

I’m always amazed to hear the things my kids say. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing they will say the “craziest” things. I usually laugh about it and move on. The other day though it hit me. Somewhere along the way most adults lose the imagination they had when they were kids. This is sad because I believe imagination can be one of the most powerful abilities to have in life…and in business.

Imagination at the Office

Imagination in the workplace? Sounds a bit crazy. I mean daydreaming at your desk can get you fired can’t it? Maybe the problem is the demand put on people to be nothing more than drones or robots. Humans are imaginative, creative creatures. It’s wrong to stifle that creativity and the result is a very difficult work environment. Those who do dare to be creative, to rebel against the drone mentality are often rebuked by others, shunned as being disruptive, or worst of all simply ignored. We lose the imagination and the creativity we once held captive as a child. And it can be nearly impossible to regain.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Dare to Dream

That’s a catchy little title, Dare to Dream, but I don’t mean what you probably think first. Let’s look at the two main words, and lets look at dream first. I don’t mean inspiration dreaming, the accomplishing-great-things type of dreaming. Instead I mean the natural, deep-seated creative dreaming. Think “crazy” and see what happens. Don’t stop yourself and analyze every aspect of an idea – just dream.

 

And secondly, dare. Dare implies just by nature some level of risk is involved. As I mentioned earlier dreaming is frowned upon (usually) and as a result most people are a bit intimidated about the idea of dreaming. Dare yourself to dream. Take a chance, and be risky. Force yourself to step outside the box you’ve been placed in and allow yourself to dream.

Slow Down

Technology has encouraged the human race to move faster. Under the pretense of simplifying our lives we have created more and more technology. This new tech has done the very opposite of what we anticipated. We are “busier” now than ever before. Our days (and now our nights) fly by at breakneck speed and most of us simply hold on for dear life and try to survive the pace. When you’re moving at this ridiculous speed you have very little time to dream.

In order to use your imagination you need to slow down a bit. Need to see this in action? Take a child for a walk. You will find yourself walking with a purpose while the little one will be meandering behind you. Everything is interesting to them; every flower, every rock, everything is a new and exciting discovery. Now think. What would you normally do here? You’d call out for them to “catch up” to “hurry” and to quit dawdling. We’ve lost the excitement of a lazy, aimless stroll. We have been conditioned by our world to always be moving fast. Slow down. Your imagination and creativity will blossom if you take the time to let your mind wander aimlessly. 

Imagination Station

Where I live there used to be a hands-on “museum” where you could engage in different games and entertainment called the imagination station. I love the name. I never thought of it in terms of business though until recently. I think its a fantastic name for a department most companies already have. Of course it has a more professional name now. Companies call this department, Research and Development (R&D). In reality though, this is the imagination station. And this department should not be limited to a specific room or building. Everyone has an imagination and should be encouraged to use it.

This is where imagination gets put to work. It seems counter intuitive to some that imagination and work should coexist. The truth is every company on earth wants imagination. They might call it R&D but more commonly you’ll hear another term used. Innovation. There it is. The holy grail for companies. If they could only innovate then they would capture market share, grow to new heights, and become the “next big thing”.

Innovation

Here’s my firm belief. Innovation = Imagination. Yep, rather than fighting against imagination and “crazy” thinking – companies should encourage dreaming. There are of course some companies who get this and believe in allowing everyone the opportunity to dream. Unfortunately, I think these are the exception and not the rule. More people should be encouraged to slow down, dare to dream, and imagine innovate.

“Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.”
– Maria Montessori

The next time you find yourself moving too fast to even think clearly – force yourself to stop. Step away from your desk. Go outside, find a new path you’ve not walked before and just meander. Pretend you’re a child exploring a new world and see the world with different eyes. Daydream. You’ll be happier, healthier, and quite possibly innovative.

I’ll leave you with a rather famous quote. It may be somewhat overused lately but it’s still very relevant and definitely worth a read.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
– Steve Jobs