Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thinking in Pictures

A strategy needs a vision, and the first ingredient is imagination.

A mental picture of a desired future situation motivates people much more than does a carefully worded vision statement. If people can “see” what they are trying to achieve, it brings the vision alive for them.

Imagination (sometimes called “the mind’s eye”) is “the ability to form images and ideas in the mind, especially of things never seen or experienced directly”.

To come up with an aspirational vision, you need to project yourself into the future, take a quantum leap, and see beyond the incremental options of extending, adding-onto or tweaking what already exists.

Some people are more imaginative than others, probably because they permit themselves to be. Some people see themselves as “unimaginative”. Sometimes imagination is denigrated using phrases such as “that’s fanciful”, “completely unrealistic”, “you’re dreaming”, and “she has an overactive imagination”. Sharing an imagined new future requires courage, and the knowledge that there is likely to be some resistance.

There are three skills needed here:
1. Being able to visualize an alternative future, and
2. Being able to describe to others what you see, and
3. Being able to listen to what others are imagining, whilst suspending judgment.

Even thinking about a future very different from the present can feel extremely audacious. Have you ever thought fleetingly about some possibility and then thought better of it, not even permitting yourself to develop the idea, let alone voice it to others?

To create a mental picture of your new future, speak to yourself as if you are already achieving it, e.g. “We are…” “We have…” rather than “We will…” or “We want to…”

Marketing pioneer Theodore Levitt said “Nothing drives progress like the imagination. The idea precedes the deed”. Let your imagination go to work for you.

Without imagination, you’re stuck in precedent.

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