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On Imagination

November 28, 2023

“A person can’t believe impossible things,” said Alice.

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

My three-year-old daughter is bursting with imagination.

One Sunday morning this fall, I could hear her talking before I opened the door to her room to get her up. She gave me a big smile and said that she was already having church with her Elsa doll. This same afternoon she played with her toy kitchen and brought us a dozen different food items she “made” for us to enjoy. I remember marveling at how easily she played, falling into different characters and activities, with whatever and whoever was there to play.

I love this stage of childhood. Imaginations run wild, and children aren’t afraid to dive headfirst into them and experience the joy of being or doing something new. 

Isn’t it sad how these imaginations grow more dim with each passing year? I think it’s because the older we get, the more we realize that we can’t imagine our way out of reality. Life is hard, and sometimes, it feels more safe to only acknowledge what is right in front of us rather than what could be.

Yet, we would all benefit from some more imagination.

Boston Consulting Group’s Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller explained it this way: “Imagination gives us the ability to explore the realm of what is not but could be, enabling us to conceive and create new things and to shape what is.”

Imagination doesn’t just help us temporarily escape reality. Often, it helps us create real solutions to make our reality better. By imagining what is not but could be, we lay the groundwork for innovation and begin to seek new ways to grow. This is especially important for businesses. If you want your company to flourish, imagination is essential.

Here are four benefits of fostering imagination in your organization:

1. Imagination leads to more outside exposure and influence. Imaginative individuals will be naturally curious about other people and the way they do business. Encouraging your team members to learn more about other organizations (even if you don’t agree with everything they do) can help you stay nimble and grow in places you didn’t know needed help.

2. Imagination fosters cognitive diversity. An organization of people who are only encouraged to think one way will leave little room for new ideas, creativity, and innovation. Imagination encourages many different lines of thinking to join the conversation and make the work better.

3. Imagination breaks the tyranny of metrics. It’s easy for businesses to emphasize measurable results, and they should! But if these metrics become the only measure of success, growth, or value, it will be difficult for an organization to mature to its full potential.

4. Imagination gives autonomy to team members. Most organizations hire individuals for a specific role and purpose, but imagination allows these individuals to speak into and help contribute to the work in a holistic way. Instead of saying “that’s not my job,” imagination empowers individuals to help solve problems across departments and work together toward a common goal.

Imagination isn’t just for children. It’s for you, for me, and for our organizations. Let’s work hard to celebrate it and to foster it in order to make our work and our world the best it can be.


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