“Use your imagination!”

What do you picture? A toddler in a superhero cape perhaps, or holding some crayons?

We tend to think of imagination as the territory of the young, and as an individual pursuit. But what would it look like if imagining were reclaimed by groups of adults? What might we unleash together?

This idea of collective imagination was one of the early starting points for the ideas in my newest book. The I in ELASTIC was where the acronym began. I was curious (stay tuned for the C) about the untapped possibilities lying dormant because of our failure to imagine them together, in enough detail to bring them into being.

My interest is in wiser decisions faster. We tend to rely far more heavily on our experience, and occasionally our evidence, when making decisions than we do on our imagination. Can you hear how the first two lead to rear view mirror thinking, while the latter propels us forward? As I write on p. 87: “Decisions based on evidence and experience alone may be credible and familiar, but they are highly unlikely to be generative or disruptive. Those decisions are based on lag indicators. Their genesis has status quo baked in.” What if imagination were not child’s play, but actually wisdom in action?

My favourite two resources on collective imagination are The Imagination Machine and From What Is to What If, if you are interested in a longer treatment on the subject.

In the meantime, because imagination is a skill (and one that differs from creativity or innovation, by the way), I want to leave you with at least one fascinating way to get better at it. And it’s this: make memories. Neurologically, we draw heavily from the past to imagine what lies ahead. The more we have experienced, the more we can imagine. So, expose yourself to lots of diverse people and contexts. As Dorie Clark would say, “optimize for interesting.” To me, that sounds like a very fun way to get better at something.

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