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Imagination and Possibility

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This chapter is from the book
  • In the previous chapter, I asked you to consider the question “Where is the ‘foam’ in my environment, in my industry, in my business?” And suppose you have figured out an answer, be it an idea or product or process. Now you need to ponder a new question: “How does the ‘foam’ change what I do?”

Why Creativity Is Not Enough

The answers to both of these questions will allow us, as individuals and organizations, to construct a bridge between what we know and what we can do to maximize our knowledge in the presence of emerging technologies. But these answers require imagination rather than creativity—imagination because they are images of the mind; images of possibility. Applying creativity to what already exists will not do anymore.

Remember, creativity is chiefly a development tool, applied to an object or idea that has already been imagined. Creativity deploys mental skills to develop an idea but not to generate it, and often leads to “interpretation” rather than invention.

Creativity usually starts with the formulation or identification of a problem and ends with the formulation of a satisfactory solution. There are generally two steps to applying creativity to a set problem. The first is psychological preparation to think “outside of the box”: getting rid of some preconceptions while still focusing on the problem at hand. The second is pursuing the solution in a linear and logical fashion that includes selecting the methods and designing the tools used to solve the problem.

As a capability, creativity provides suitable solutions to identified problems in every field, with the desired result being something that is also “new” and “original.” But how new and how original can a solution be when it comes from a given problem area? Would a multitude of individuals provide a multitude of solutions, or are we in effect looking at the same solution represented in different forms?

A critical difference between creativity and imagination is the existence of the problem in the former and its absence in the latter.

Imagination allows us, as individuals or corporations, to build experimental platforms from which we can survey our surroundings with new eyes. From this vantage point, we may develop a new vision of ourselves and a new point of view toward the future, seeing beyond the horizon that is visible from the ground. Seeing what is not immediately obvious will allow us to bridge the imagination gap and achieve meaningful breakthroughs.

What individuals are ready for this? What is the shape of the organization ready to nurture and take advantage of unbounded imagination? What is the shape of the education system that will instill the qualities and capabilities of the imagination society?

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