I struggle to find a more important attribute in a happy & healthy person than a good imagination.
Maybe more important than good nutrition.
Maybe I am naïve but I tend to believe a happy mind tends to guide one to a healthier body & lifestyle. And imagination feeds a happy mind <I believe there is a Life formula in there somewhere>.
Simplistic? Sure. But you gotta start somewhere.
And I also believe all those people who starve themselves or become fitness nuts or feed themselves to attain some absurd body proportions should skip the ‘meal plans’ and ‘counting whatever you want to count’ and ‘tracking plans’ and begin with what is going on in the mind <but I imagine that is a different post>.
Imagination is a powerful thing to create a healthy mind <let me just focus on that aspect>. I found some guy named Murray Hunter who must feel the same way I do because he invested a shitload of energy analyzing imagination and different types of imagination and the components of a good imagination. In fact Murray defines different imaginations <which I will outline later in the post>.
I think it is helpful to state a reminder that imagination is thinking.
Sound obvious? Maybe. But I tend to believe we don’t … well … often think this way about imagination … or maybe not enough. I tend to believe imagination has some abstract reputation that makes it elusive to the many. It sometimes becomes a characteristic of a select few rather than an aspect of all of us. In fact … I believe we herd the idea of a ‘good imagination’ into fewer and fewer people the older we get. For some reason we attribute imagination to tangible output and create imagination scorecards for people therefore leading to people who have high scores versus people who have low scores <people with good imaginations versus bad, or no, imagination>. And … well … that is kind of crazy. Mainly because that means we have evaluated an intangible <imagination> with the tangible <results>.
To me? That is nuts.
We all have imagination.
We all portray imaginative thinking.
We all may use imagination differently.
Imaginative thinking provides the ability to travel a variety of roads as we move toward some point on the horizon <in a tangible sense that would be called strategies & objectives>. By the way … that thought is relevant to Life as well as business.
Imagination simply provides us with the ability to be more divergent, or random, than logical thought. In addition imagination permits us to move more freely across different fields of thought and constructs of organized ‘attitudes & beliefs’ while logical thinking is more orientated to a narrowly focused path.
Now. Good ole Murray suggested that imagination is probably more important than knowledge <as knowledge without application is useless>. I don’t agree with that. Mostly because I do not believe you can have imagination, or at least a productive imagination, without some knowledge. Or maybe better said … more knowledge leads to more imagination. But. Rather than invest a lot of energy debating that knowledge/imagination conundrum … I will simply suggest this is the infamous chicken or egg discussion. It is simultaneous and circular. You cannot have one without the other.
Most of the following words are his and I apologize to him if, as I edited his words <to shape my own thoughts>, I have changed his intent in anyway.
Suffice it to say that imagination has multiple dimensions <too many if you actually buy everything Murray is trying to sell us>. But I do believe it is helpful to analyze the different aspects of the imagination rather than simply suggest someone is ‘using their imagination’ or ‘has a good imagination’ because … well … as with most things in life … not all imagination is created equal.
So. If the topic is not only of interest to you but also important to you then understanding some of the aspects may assist in how you approach enhancing a healthy productive imagination. Here is how Murray breaks it all down <note – I am including all his categories but I do believe he dances on the head of a pin on some aspects>:
- Effectuative imagination.
Let’s call this random imagination. Effectuative combines information together to synergize new concepts and ideas. The ideas tend to be ‘visionary’ and are often incomplete. This type of imagination needs to be enhanced, modified, and/or elaborated upon as more information from the environment comes to attention and is reflected upon.
Effectuative imagination can be either guided or triggered by random thoughts, usually stimulated by what a person experiences within the framework of their past experience. These people may also be maddening because they incubate <pondering a specific problem> by leaving the problem alone … the occasional attention lets the mind wander possibilities … or nothing … and randomly imagines a solution.
Effectuative imagination is extremely flexible and allows for continuous change. This is an important ingredient in entrepreneurial planning, strategy development, particularly in opportunity construction, development, and assembling all the necessary resources required to exploit any opportunity.
I would suggest we hate and love these people and their imaginations. In our process driven world we want to give a deadline and specific objective and milestones … and these people go to the beat of their own drum.
Here is an even crazier thought. Everyone can do this. Crazy, huh? If you buy into the randomness then some people will portray this random imagination weekly … and some once a decade. The really sad part? The once in a decade person is screwed in today’s world. If they do not deliver today they get put in a ‘non-imagination box’ and we ignore them.
Too bad <for the rest of us>. Because, frankly. an effectuative imaginative idea is an effectuative imaginative idea. One is not any better or worse than another. Quality is an independent variable where each is discrete in its value. These people, to me, are builders. Often they are building something that has never been built before <these people are often miserable because they see shit other people do not see … and, as we know, most people are resistant to the truly ‘new’>.
- Intellectual imagination.
Intellectual is utilized when considering and developing hypotheses from different pieces of information or pondering over various issues of meaning say in the areas of philosophy, management, or politics, etc. Intellectual imagination originates from a definite idea or plan and thus is guided imagination as it has a distinct purpose which in the end must be articulated after a period of painstaking and sometimes meticulous endeavor. Murray used Charles Darwin as a prime example. Intellectual imagination <the ability to imagine that which seemed semi-unimaginable> developed his hypothesis leading to The Origin of Species which took almost two decades to gestate and complete. Darwin collected information, analyzed it, evaluated and criticized the findings, and then reorganized all the information into new knowledge in the form of a hypothesis <I imagine we can find dozens of examples beyond Darwin>. Intellectual imagination is a very conscious process.
Personally I put this in the ‘renovation’ category. These people use their imagination to take that which is, break it apart and ultimately imagine it all in a new configuration. These people are less miserable than the miserable Effectuative people mostly because at least their imaginations are using mostly existing pieces to suggest change and new.
- Imaginative fantasy.
Fantasy creates and develops stories, pictures, poems, stage-plays, and the building of the esoteric. This form of imagination may be based upon the inspiration of some fact or semi-autobiographical experiences, extrapolated or analogized into new persona and events that conform to or stretch the realms of reality into some magical alternative option. Imaginative fantasy may be very tangible in its construct … very structural <people in real world settings, past, present, or future … or with real people in mythical settings>. Fantasy may totally disregard the rules of society, science and nature, or extrapolate them into a created future. Fantasy can also be based upon human emotions, distorted historical facts, historical times and political issues, take a theme and fantasize it, encapsulate dark fantasy, or evoke urban legend. Imaginative fantasy can be a mixture of guided and unguided imagination and appears to be important to artists, writers, dancers, and musicians, etc.
These people are extremely happy people … but this imagination lives in an alternative world <which means they may not fit in with the rest of mainstream very easily>. This imagination seamlessly eases its way into the world because most people clearly identify it as ‘not change’ but rather ‘not real.’ We love these people because on occasion in their ‘non-real’ imagination they figure out a way to articulate something real in our own lives. We rarely judge them on everything they do and say but rather on those magical moments when they reach inside us and show us something about the way we think or feel.
- Empathy Imagination
Empathy tied to Imagination is an interesting category. It suggests a capacity to connect to others and feel what they are feeling. Empathy imagination helps someone put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Let someone know emotionally what others are experiencing from their frame and reference. Empathy allows our mind ‘to detach itself from one’s self’ and see the world from someone else’s feelings, emotions, pain, and reasoning. Empathy links us to the larger community and thus important to human survival in enabling us to understand what is required to socially coexist with others.
Interestingly, this type of imagination, besides being extremely important in Life, can be an important characteristic in Business. It enables one to think about how competition thinks and reacts and what they would do. I guess branding can also be considered a result of empathy as marketers try and capture connections with potential customers by appealing to their emotions, self identity and aspirations.
- Strategic imagination
While Murray didn’t suggest this … I will … this type of imagination to me is very specific. Strategic is concerned about vision of ‘what could be’, the ability to recognize and evaluate opportunities by turning them into mental scenarios, seeing the benefits, identifying the types and quantities of resources required for taking particular actions, and the ability to weigh up all the issues in a strategic manner. This type of ‘imagining what could be’ helps a person focus upon the types of opportunities suited to them <their personal motivations being the main driver>.
I tend to believe that strategic imagination translates into what we everyday schmucks would call “wise people” <not wise asses>.
- Emotional Imagination
I call this “imagining how I may feel” imagination. This is concerned with manifesting emotional dispositions and extending them into emotional scenarios. Without any imagination, emotion would not be able to emerge from our psych and manifest as feelings, moods, and dispositions. Fear requires the imagination of what is fearful, hate requires imagination about what is repulsive, and worry requires the imaginative generation of scenarios that make one anxious. Through emotional imagination, beliefs are developed through giving weight to imaginative scenarios that generate further sets of higher order emotions. Emotional imagination operates at the unconscious and semi-unconscious level. Emotional imagination a very powerful type of imagination and can easily dominate the thinking processes.
By the way … I tend to believe people who have a vivid emotional imagination are typically emotional wrecks. These are the people who constantly swing between envisioning what would make them happy and living through ‘what if’ misery <I struggle to think of anything more excruciatingly painful>. These people are almost the exact opposite of what Eckhart Tolle would call “living in the now.” They live in the ‘what if.’ Me? I would shoot myself. What a waste of a good imagination.
I was surprised Murray threw dreams into Imagination but I included it because I included everything else he dreamed up <sorry for that>. He suggests that dreams are an unconscious form of imagination made up of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations … just that this imagination occurs while you sleep rather than when you are awake. An interesting thought. Dreams show that every concept in our mind has its own psychic associations and that ideas we deal with in everyday life are by no means as precise as we think. Our experiences imprint our memory passing into the subconscious where the factual characteristics can be reacquired or be revised at some point. Regardless … we are not in control of our dreams … this is completely unfettered imagination <an interesting idea in its own right>.
I will admit that I mostly left this in my post because I have a pen & paper next to my own bed. I am not sure I would call what I do when I sleep as “dreaming” but I certainly think. And it helps if I wake up to write down what I thought <before the ‘brilliance’ slips away>. I hesitate to call this ‘dreaming’ because I think of words, business & ideas … not unicorns, angels and stepping through rings of fire to save some damsel in distress. Regardless … this is an interesting aspect I am glad good ole Murray thought about.
- Memory reconstruction.
This type of imagination is the process of retrieving our memory of people, objects, and events. Our memory is made up of prior knowledge consisting of a mix of truth and belief, influenced by emotion. Recurring memory therefore carries attitudes, values, and identity as most of our memory is within the “I” or “me” paradigm. Memory is also reconstructed to fit into our current view of the world, so is very selective.
If you are truly interested in this delineation please do not hesitate to pick up Clotaire Rapaille’s The Culture Code. You will be interested because this type of imagination has to be consciously redirected because Clotaire does a fabulous job in suggesting some of the memory imprints we have are solidly imprinted in our subconscious … therefore dictating a thought platform from which our imagination leverages from. An interesting paradox if you believe imagination is a blank slate.
this has turned out to be a bear of a post to write & edit … which is a shame because it is on a topic I truly enjoy … imagination and knowledge.
In the end I wanted to break down imagination into these somewhat absurd delineations to make a point. Knowledge <and curiosity I imagine> have almost always been discussed in infinite terms. While, oddly, imagination has been discussed as finite <as in some people do not have it>.
The relationship between knowledge and imagination is inextricably tied. And both are expanding geometrically. Murray suggested somewhere in something he wrote that this exponential growth is devaluing knowledge <but not imagination>. I disagree. Adamantly disagree.
I believe the value of knowledge, in particular, is increasing exponentially … because the game of Life has raised its competitive bar. Therefore people need to be able to use all their tools, imagination included, to be more competitive with Life <not other people>. Developing capabilities to investigate and assimilate information and inventing new ways of looking at it is becoming increasingly important. Honestly that thought is at the core of Enlightened Conflict. It is the next step from encouraging curiosity <and actually acting upon your curiosity>.
To end this whole post & thought.
Seeking knowledge and using your imagination is certainly something internally driven. However … to fully prosper it needs to be nurtured … given the space and environment to be successful.
That will not happen until everyone … well … at least the everyones who can crush the potential … recognize everyone has a vivid imagination when given the opportunity. And maybe that is why I went into such excruciating detail on differentiating imagination. Maybe somewhere in the excruciating detail some anal retentive manager/leader will latch on to a reason to give someone a chance to use their imagination.