"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


[Extracted & adapted from the 'Optimum Performance Technologies' weblog.]

I am always fascinated by the power of imagination.

With imagination, my mind becomes my playground. Coupling with fantasy, it becomes my amusement park.

Naturally, I love to read books about enhancing imagination.

On that note, several old classic books come quickly to mind:

- 'Applied Imagination', by Alex Osborn, the advertising guy who coined "brainstorming";

- 'Imagineering: How to Profit from Your Creative Powers', by Michael Lebouef (I love his premise: "You let your imagination to soar & then you engineer it down to earth.");

During my corporate days, I had even read 'Corporate Imagination Plus' by James Bandrowski, who asserted the importance of imagination in strategic planning.

A few months ago, I have read 'Turn Your Imagination into Money', which is actually a reprint of an old classic.

I reckon the most memorable personal experience in appreciating the power of imagination is my first visit to the Disneyland World Resort in Anaheim, California, during the eighties, to experience the imagineering masterpieces of the legendary Walt Disney.

The joyful encounter was followed by further visits to The Tokyo Disneyland in Japan & the Walt Disney World Resort (+ the EPCOT Centre) in Orlando, Florida. In fact, I had revisited the latter after a time gap of ten years in 2000.

Following a stumble-upon on the net, I have acquired & read 'The Imagination Challenge: Strategic Foresight & Innovation in the Global Economy', by Alexander Manu, a strategic innovation practitioner.

After perusal, I must say this book definitely ranks in a totally different league, when compared to all the stuff I have already read earlier.

It's almost a scholarly exposition, although I detect that there is a very playful streak in the writing, which is clear & succinct.

The first thing I got out of the book is the lucid distinction between 'imagination' & 'creativity' since most of us, including myself, tend to lump them together.

Also, I get a better understanding of the apparently subtle difference between 'strategic innovation' & 'tactical innovation'.

From the way I read it, the book is specifically written from a human user-centred design perspective. This has to do with the author's original design background.

Also, much of the material in the book is drawn from the author's professional experiences, while serving as Research Director in the Beal Institute for Strategic Creativity.

[Currently, I understand he is the Chief Imaginator with InnoSpa Consulting of Finland.]

I certainly appreciate the author's many key premises at the onset of the book's beginning chapters:

- creative & innovative thinking creates (or recreates) value in a product or service, but it is the power of our imagination that provides the quantum leap in our thinking as well as experimentation to help build & enhance the ultimate user experiences with our products & services;

- it's the ability to imagine without limits, & asking 'what if...?' questions incessantly that will allow us to create innovative products & services;

- to trigger imagination, we need to become real kids again, as serious play (to kids, play is never a task, in fact to them, play = work) is a powerful means to unlocking our creative & innovative potential;

- it's our imagination that give life & meaning to technology;

- the best approach to designing wonderful customer experiences is through the eyes of a kid, be curious about the world, about everything, experiment, reason everything before drawing up conclusions, don't jump on forms but rather define what the forms must do & how they interact with users before deciding how they look;

- in the words of the authors, strategic innovation requires an understanding of the underlying behaviours, desires & motivations of the ultimate design solution;

- interestingly, more questions will come from the play instinct, as play is exploring, searching, seeing things in a new light, communicating, interacting, & more importantly, be-ing what we are from day one - born with creative impulses;

- as organisations, we need to create an ecology of possibility or play space, so to speak, to allow our people to explore the possible & to come up with breakthrough solutions, & more importantly, to be play-wise & play-ready;

- hands do not initiate play; the mind must do it first, so I reckon what keeps our mind agile is how we use & stimulate it; The book is packed with inspiring stories & illustrative anecdotes.

What I like most is the author's complete set of 8 flexible steps that can serve as a framework for investigating viable opportunities, culminating into what the author has designated as 'The Strategic Imagination Circle' (Chapter 11):

1) signal discovery;
2) emerging signals mapping;
3) imaginative questions;
4) points of departure;
5) future scenarios;
6) experience opportunity definition;
7) economic opportunity modeling;
8) post-signal learning;

At first glance, it seems complicated. It has taken me quite a while to understand & digest how it works.

I can sense, to some extent, some of the stuff here, at least:

- in terms of "just playing around leads to great discoveries", correlates to Michael Schrage's 'Serious Play: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate', although the latter has a primary focus on prototyping;

- in terms of "reading signals", correlates to the work of George Day & Paul Schoemaker, who wrote 'Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals that Would Make or Break Your Company', with the principal premise: how good are you in sensing, interpreting & acting on the signals?

[Please read my review in an earlier post.]

The adverse comments I am going to make here are, as follows: The suggested tools to be used at each stage of the 'Strategic Imagination Circle' are seemingly lacking adequate elaboration or amplification on the part of the author. Also, for me, I have this feeling that the link to strategic foresight has not been well addressed by the author.

Notwithstanding the above comments, I dare to say that this book is still worthwhile to be pursued. It's not just about the power of imagination & the wonder of play.

It's also about insight restructuring & opportunity finding.

By the way, readers can access sample chapters of the book at this link.

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