What does imagination have to do with business? After all, business is a serious matter in which the rules are fairly clear - focus on what's really important, put systems in place to monitor performance, manage finite resources etc. On the other hand, too much dreaming about what we'd like to do, rather than what's possible, is surely a recipe for problems. But is this really true?

Let's look at this question in two steps. Firstly, what is imagination about, then what happens if we try, or don't try, to apply it?

Imagination is not the same as dreaming. There's nothing wrong with dreaming (or aspiration) so long as it has some basis in reality, but it's almost the opposite of imagination, which in fact is all about thinking more broadly and deeply than normal. If we don't do that, we don't see the possibilities in a given situation - perhaps argue too much over the same territory, rather than pushing the boundaries - and overall end up with a substandard outcome.

Furthermore, imagination has a role to play in avoiding the downside of things. In any risk calculation, we can draw on information/data and intuition/experience, but these are backward-looking analyses. We also need to have some insight, however uncertain, into the future. How would we work with this other organisation's culture, if we merge? Can we really see ourselves building a successful relationship with this client? Imagination is about awareness of the world outside, but it's about ourselves too.


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