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Innovation through Imagination

Innovation through Imagination

There are many calls for innovative thinking. Building the pathway between great science, good ideas, and innovative products and services takes imagination.

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

Albert Einstein

What is “imagination” ..?

Definition of “imagination”:

"It is the production or simulation of novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input from the senses, the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful"

Imagination can then be described as a process of the mind somewhere between cognition, recall, and play, that allows a person to create novel ideas, sensations, and visualizations. Somewhere between play and wool-gathering, imagination is the capacity of an individual to conjure up ideas that can be pleasing or frightening, phantasmagoric or peaceful. Sometimes the experience of imagination is a self-contained pleasure; other times it becomes a catalyst for new ways of living or new products and services that can help the public in different ways.

Imagination is the starting point for innovation. It stimulates innovation through the experience of a mental what-if, unconstrained by the realities of physics or finance. Imagination is a talent that can be learned and refined over time, benefiting from the reinforcement of envisioning that which might be, and using that vision as a test case for that which can be. Everyone can exercise imagination, and through this practice, make the world around them a better place!

SA Centre of Excellence

What helps build the pathway from science to imagination to innovation begins with an idea that addresses an important problem. Imagination complements science, making it possible to see what science enables. Achieving the full promise of innovation again requires a dose of science because leveraging what is already known to what could possibly be is what brings an imagined future into an innovative reality. It takes imagination to sketch out a future, and even more imagination to find (or build) the elements needed to make that future real.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Albert Einstein

Imagination is our companion. Cultivating your own imagination improves your ability to learn from others whose worldviews differ from your own, recognizing the difference not as a threat, but as an alternative. Imagination helps us envision a range of future states, conducting the mental ‘what if we did . . . .’ exercise and engaging others to join us in that exercise. Imagination-fueled innovation helps us determine whether a lack of ‘fit for the mission’ heralds a need to re-think the innovative idea or a recognition that we must re-examine our mission. And building the skill of imagination augments our practical problem-solving skills so that anticipated and unanticipated glitches can be addressed with creative strategies. Finally, imagination contributes to our ability to foresee a future without a familiar and much-beloved program, as well as one in which a fledgling program becomes a sustainable core of our enterprise.

The process …

When exploring the concepts of imagination and innovation, you will find yourself focused on the spark, the new idea, the very act of innovation. The move from fostering innovation to sustaining innovation does not require one to abandon the effort to imagine; it requires a continuous refreshing of imagination. This leads not only to the initial innovation but to the myriad steps needed to guide the innovation toward its full contribution.

  • Imagination
  • Strategise
  • Innovation

However, don’t fear that the value of cultivating imagination ends once the inaugural innovation is envisioned – you’ll need that skill all along the journey!