"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."
--- Dr. Seuss
In his biography of Steve Jobs, titled by the same name, Walter Isaacson tells of how Jobs would instill his sense of what he called, "Distorted Reality" into his team members to get them to believe the unbelievable. Whether it was creating rounded corners for the Apple products, (Jobs hated squares with corners), or stretching the imagination of engineers to develop the iPad, Jobs had a way of not believing in reality and persuading others to see things on a different level.
There were probably some management flaws in Jobs, but it is hard to argue the success of Apple as a result of Jobs forcing his imagination upon the company. Jobs as well as other great leaders learned that the status quo or standard operation procedures is not always the best route to take in business.
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
--- Mark Twain
There are many ways to exercise the imagination muscle, but I will list three I've learned that seems to work, especially when you are in a rut and things are in need of a little shake-up.
The first is to get in the habit of making lists. These lists are not to-do list. We all know we have way too many of those! Instead, these lists contain creative ideas for various projects. The best way to begin these lists is to be forceful and keep your appointment with yourself to make the list. All it takes is ten minutes and is well worth the time. Take any project that is before you and list alternative solutions for completing the project. If it is finding a way to sell banners to local schools, list every possible method of getting it accomplished.
"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
Remove all barriers when doing this exercise. If you can only name six "standard" solutions such as meeting with school board, etc. begin listing outrageous ones such as pulling a banner by plane over the school, or renting a mascot suit to meet with the school Principal. Work that imagination muscle.
Next, practice reality distortion. Don't settle for what is thought to be true. If your team is thinking that it will take three weeks to complete a project, lead them to believing it can be done in six days. This is of course, outrageous, but that is the point. Help others to stretch their imaginations and see more than what is visible.
"The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world."
--- Malcolm Gladwell
Finally, think like a child. I know, you're probably thinking that you have enough of those people in your company, but really give it a try. Steve Jobs had an engineer at Pixar who always wanted to create a movie where the toys came to life. He saw the entire story unfold through the eyes of a child, but in his own head. Of course, the movie Toy Story became a mega hit with sequels, but it all started with reverting back to thinking the imaginary thoughts of a child. It works in more than just animated movies too. Leaders of auto manufacturers, restaurants, 3M, private aviation companies, and more have all had great success thinking like a child.
Try these three exercises this month and apply your strengthening imagination muscle to your business projects and enjoy the recharged energy and productivity.
"Live out of your imagination, not your history."
--- Stephen Covey
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