Imagination — A Looming Death, or More Important Than Ever?

Reality’s sameness more than ever needs imagination. High-Speed communication technologies have undeniably sped up the pace of life. We rarely question the underlying meaning behind the many and random tasks we accomplish with technology each day. 

So few of us find any space, or even a little time to reflect on our inner self, 

that part of us that imagines, dreams, explores, or questions things. That part lies dormant, so often tuned out completely. Losing something of your inner self is the saddest thing to observe across this earth as 7.6 billion of us become more connected in a daily deluge of data. We go down a Google drain every time we are stumped for ideas.

We are at serious risk of losing our imagination.

We're always looking outwards for answers, but are we looking inwards?

We're always looking outwards for answers, but are we looking inwards?

Most of us have formed definite neural pathways of thought. We use habitual methods of thinking to approach life's challenges. In this way we have created deep ruts in our brain. Technology for most will make those ruts even deeper as we follow our favourites round the Internet who tell us what to wear, eat, think and look at. We gorge on screens everywhere wanting to know everything it seems and we become increasingly distanced from ourselves as we live our lives vicariously through others. Without our rock star chef and actors we feel as inadequate in the kitchen as the bedroom. 

Many of us are losing something of our inner selves as this reflection time disappears in our excessively consumptive lives.

When was the last time someone challenged you to use you imagination? Most think these days it means reaching for the keyboard. Imagination is the ability to form a mental image of something that is not perceived through the five senses. It is the ability of the mind to build mental scenes, objects or events that do not exist, are not present, or have not even happened in the past.

A developed and strong imagination will strengthen your creative abilities, which is so necessary in the process of reinvention. It is easy to tell how vivid a person’s imagination is. Simply give them a pen and ask them to draw something — to repeat a mental image on paper. The key to turning imagination into reality is acting as if the imagined scene were real and already accomplished. Often in innovation exercises, we see that asking people to play out something delivers rich ideas for change.

Nikola Tesla's imagination led to numerous patented inventions. Here's a figure from an original patent (1886).

Nikola Tesla's imagination led to numerous patented inventions. Here's a figure from an original patent (1886).

Nikola Tesla at an early age trained his powers of visualisation. In his autobiography “My Inventions” he described, “every night when alone, I would start out on my journeys in my head — see new places, cities and countries — live there, meet people, make friendships and acquaintances and, however unbelievable, it is a fact that they were just as dear to me as those in actual life and not a bit less intense in their manifestations”.

Tesla was a prolific and unparalleled genius,

giving us AC electricity and the electric car, as well as many other devices — some which have not seen the light of day because they would revolutionise man’s approach to energy.

What’s particularly exciting is the discovery that focused mental exercise can alter the brain. For example, scans of some of Thailand's most advanced Monks found that through years of meditation they had strengthened the centres in the brain that deal with such vital life skills as attention, emotional balance and compassion.

Ongoing meditation strengthens the mental capacity of Monks — can sustaining a habit of imagining do the same?

Ongoing meditation strengthens the mental capacity of Monks — can sustaining a habit of imagining do the same?

Our whole experience of life is filtered through our minds, and we continually project our own sense of meaning onto people and things.

If you have no time to build your own reserves of imagination then you will automatically through media be deluged from elsewhere.

Today’s youth pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into each and every day (Kaiser Family Foundation) That’s well over 60 hours per week and I wonder will this end where one has no longer a mind of ones own. No doubt we will become highly efficient information processors but as Picasso once said

“computers are useless they can only give you answers”. 

The answers that mattered to Picasso were not the result of numerical calculations, but of human calculations, or intuitions. What was important to him was art constructed in the brain. He would probably say the same thing now even though computers have a much wider application than they did 50 years ago.

It may have been 1968 when Picasso denounced computers, but his insight remains true.

It may have been 1968 when Picasso denounced computers, but his insight remains true.

In general, a computer cannot make a person smarter, it can only ever be as smart as the user. Moreover, frequently the computer might make a user less intelligent. The only reason computers have been making the world a smarter place (in general) is that they allow people to connect themselves to individuals who are smarter or more educated.

Real innovation is a dance of three things: imagination, creativity and critical thinking.

It is an iterative process entailing a collaborative revealing of what is needed and what is possible. It is a process that often asks “what if…?” and “how might we…?” and “why doesn’t it already exist?” questions. Both asking and answering these questions requires a lot of imagination.

Reality’s sameness more than ever needs imagination.