Recently I had the privilege of spending 90 minutes with my grand daughter Emma playing in the sand. With no buckets or sand toys in tow, I suspected that our time would be short before she lost interest.
Was I ever wrong!
For the next 90 minutes I was invited into the imaginative dream world of a 2 year old who created layer upon layer of stories from the raw material of her mind, the sand, and conversation with grandpa.
In the process I was led to embrace "the child within" as sand people emerged with personalities and story lines that surpassed Hollywood dramas for epic-ness and emotional investment.
To prove my point, here is Emma singing "Sally" to sleep after a busy day
of adventures with her mom and little brother. To see Sally and to understand the best way to meet her needs took tremendous imagination, coupled with an openness to notice things that are often invisible to the naked eye.
It is difficult to talk about imagination without mentioning a person who is widely considered one of the most imaginative leaders ever to grace this earth, Walt Disney.
Most people know Disney for the theme parks that bear his name, but one of his most imaginative ventures was Epcot Center. Epcot was designed by Walt himself, and he considered it one of his greatest creations. Unfortunately, he did not live to see its construction…or did he? As the story is told, after Walt Disney's death a visitor at the newly built Epcot Center said, "I bet Walt would have wished he could have seen this!" The Epcot staff person responded, "Oh, he did!"
A leader is someone who values and cultivates imagination as a precious resource. The servant-leader sees life in all its glorious messiness without all the loose ends tied up in neat, simplistic bows. Then, like oxygen to a fire, adds imagination that ignites ideas into actionable plans that draw others in.
Here are 3 ways to grow your imagination:
1. Spend an hour with a child or watching children play. Notice how they play and what they pay
attention to. Take the spirit of freedom, joy, and curiosity into your workday and see what happens.
2. Utilize a principle from the world of improv called "Yes, and." Whenever you encounter an obstacle
in your day say "yes, and what if I imagined a completely different approach to getting around this?
Now take what you imagined and apply it.
3. Go to Barnes and Noble or the local news stand and pick up several magazines on themes totally
unrelated to your current hobbies, life work, or interests. Look at pictures, ads, articles and see what
new ideation comes to mind. Notice how they made you feel and what new thoughts came to mind.