Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.
-George Bernard Shaw
-Is the ability to approach unforeseen problems with creative solutions.
-Finds innovative ways to lead and develop teams.
-Recognizes talent in unexpected places.
-Visualizes what their organization might face into the future.
The Art of Imagining
One of the wonderfully unique things we have been gifted with as humans is our imagination. It is our capacity to form mental images, sensations, and representations without the use of the senses. Our ability to form a picture in our mind of something that we haven’t seen or experienced – something new, something not yet real. Imagination, commonly associated with creativity, is at the heart of breakthroughs. In the arts, the imagination plays a huge role in what and how artists create. It’s the driving force that brings a work of art to life, giving it shape and form.
Imagination is more important that knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.
Imagination as Freedom
Because we can imagine, we are ontologically free. Freedom: self-determination of expression, thought, and choice of life pursuit. A consciousness that can’t imagine would be incapable of perceiving unrealized possibilities, and therefore would lack real freedom of thought or choice. Further, all of our engagements with the world have the potential to activate the imaginary process. And because the imaginary process relies on intentionality, the world is constituted not from the outside into our consciousness, but, rather, we constitute the world based on our intentions toward it.
Note that intentionality is a core element of the Ensemble Mindset principle. Intentionality is one of the values that smooths the way for the cohesion, collaboration, and innovation essential for high performance. Intention lays the groundwork for the people to become a tight unit of imaginative flow. A key to that intention is the freedom of expression, voice, and creativity fundamental to each person's contribution. A vivid imagination also strengthens improvisational capacity and the ability to move with unexpected changes.
Your Brain on Imagination
Our brains utilize a sophisticated, complex process by which we can imagine bringing together objects without previous connections. In a 2013 study, Dartmouth researchers investigated how the brain allows us to manipulate mental imagery. They measured participants’ brain activity with functional MRI, discovering that a neural network, over a large part of the brain, was responsible for imagery manipulations.
Sometimes referred to as “mental workspace,” this network consciously manipulates images, symbols, ideas and theories and gives us the mental focus needed to solve complex problems and come up with new ideas. As illustrated in the diagram above, twelve different regions are activated when imagining, not just the visual cortex, as might be expected.
This network becomes the most active when we are focusing our attention inward. Responsible for daydreaming, thinking about the future and setting goals, the “mental workspace” is also triggered when we try to understand someone else’s point of view and, as the saying goes, walk a mile in their shoes.
Neuroscience tells us that the brain is unable to distinguish between the mind’s imagination and reality. Brain imaging shows that imagining an object or situation lights up similar regions as when experiencing the same. Clearly, your imagination is a very powerful tool.
As You Imagine, So You Lead
Mental imagery is vital in the daily organizing our lives. As leaders, we think about and plan our futures by imagining objects and scenarios that will exponentially increase the scope of what we are capable of.
The development of products and services are a manifestation of imagination that can improve the conditions in which we live. That is our power — to make real the thoughts that expand our ability to live more effectively and productively.
Imagination allows for possibilities that do not currently exist —new things, new connections and new applications. Imagination is visual, emotional, free, and at best, intuitive. We can characterize imagination as the music of our minds—a powerful resource to instill an emotional and visual connection to possibility.