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Imagination, Play, and Possibility

  • It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptive to change.

    —Charles Darwin

Why is work—in its current definition—an activity that does not encourage imaginative possibility? Unlike play, work is something that we generally “learn to do.” We can spend days and weeks learning the methodology of golf, but we will not have a complete understanding of it until we actually play golf. There are things one can learn, and there are things one needs to master. Play is something we need to master—the missing and essential element that complements what we learn as work. It is the continuous learning and unlearning of very simple things—play patterns—that lead to the mastery of simplicity.

Imagine Tiger Woods. Now imagine his “job description.” Essentially it would read very much like this: “Put the ball in the hole.” But his job requires both strategy and tactics. What is the strategic goal? Put the ball in the hole. How does this happen? Tactical execution. The tactical execution is play.

Strategy and tactics—as in imagination and creativity—are blended when you play. In this free activity of make-believe, with no time limits, play as tactical execution requires imagination. Before swinging the club, most expert golfers will visualize every aspect, from the plane of the club to the landing zone and the roll of the ball. All of this requires imagination and the ability to adapt quickly as conditions change. In play, conditions change all the time, requiring one to adapt, re-imagine, unlearn, and learn again.

In effect, this is really the primary dynamic of life: Markets, industries, -societies, bodies, and ecosystems all change constantly, requiring us to constantly re-imagine, unlearn, and learn, again and again. In order to meet the demands of our dynamic modern economy and society, we must learn how to unlearn.

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