Einstein believed that imagination is more important than knowledge.
We agree, because not only can imagination be used to apply knowledge it can, also be used to inspire others into joining with you in pursuit of your vision or idea.
Some say the best leaders are those who inspire followership. There’s certainly some truth to that, but we see it a little differently. We believe the most effective leaders are those who can create stakeholders—people who feel they are co-owners of a vision or idea.
One way to do that is to invite those critical to your success to imagine with you—to join in the creation of a vision or a plan. As they engage their own imagination and feel the excitement and illumination that comes from co-mingling their genius in the vision-making process, they become emotionally invested. Part of them becomes infused into the vision.
But how often do you use your imagination to get contagiously excited about your own vision or to enroll others? If you’re like most of us in our busy world, not nearly enough. Yet, as one client shared with us, busy is never a good excuse for bypassing brilliance.
So, how can you learn to better engage your imagination? Simple . . . you practice.
For example, here's a quick imagination exercise that might get you started. Take this simple sentence and “imagifi” it. That is, use your imagination to make it more interesting.
“He walked across the room and looked out the window.”
What can you turn this into?
Here’s a few examples:
“He staggered across the room, collapsed against the wall, and gazed desperately out the window.”
Or, “He minced his way across the littered floor, dodging toys and stuffed animals, finally arriving at the window where he pressed his nose to the glass and giggled.”
These are just words but they demonstrate how we can use our imagination to make things more interesting. The same principle applies to just about every area of our life and work. Many moments present themselves like a nearly blank canvass, ready for our artistic innovation.
For instance, when it comes to enrolling people to be more engaged in a seemingly mundane project or process, you could use your imagination to transform an ordinary meeting into one that gets people engaged.
By simply using playing the "What If?" game.
If the meeting has become lackluster, focus on the meeting's intention, vision, or goal (regardless of how mundane it may seem) and pose a simple, but powerful question:
“What if we were to turn this meeting (or project) into something so fun, inspiring, or meaningful that people were begging to be involved? What would that look like?”
People may laugh and resist at first, but take a risk. Be a little gutsy and push the question until people start chiming in. As with every good brainstorming process, remember there aren't any wrong answers to such a question so reward every contribution with appreciation. And the more outrageous the idea, the better (especially it they evoke laughter). You can always filter the most practical ones out later (and sometimes the craziest ideas inspire the most brilliant ones).
Why would take a chance in doing this? Because you'll be breathing life into the meeting and the minds of those attending.
Clearly you may have naysayers among the group, but often they’re not as hard to get on board as one might think. Just ask them, “What could we do to make this meeting fun or worth it for you?”
Use the naysayer’s imagination to tease out what’s boring or lacking about the project or meeting process. Sometimes skeptics or contrarians can be vital players in bringing a vision to life. And once you listen to them, engage their brain, and utilize some of their ideas, they often become your project’s biggest allies.
Here’s the point. As long as you and your team are spending time doing something, why not make it fun and imaginative and easy for them to get on board?
Fun, as numerous studies now demonstrate, can quickly turn into productivity. Happy, engaged people work smarter, better, and tend to stick around. When work turns into play, the sky’s the limit. Just ask any successful entrepreneur. Not only do they love what they are doing, they manage to convince others to join in.
For one thing, they use their imagination, often painting a vision of meaning and purpose and profitability that proves irresistible to others, including those who fund their dream.
This Thriving principle is available to all of us. We just need to experiment and grow our imagination muscles.
Here’s your Thriving tip for the week from our book Thriving in Business and Life:
“If you can imagine it,
you can create it.”
Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson