Imagination and NASA
Imagination is an ability we are all born with; however, according to a NASA study conducted by George Land and Beth Jarman, only 2% of adults are using it to its full potential. This is not because we lose the ability as we grow older, but rather because we have not been trained to develop the skill.
What are the benefits of training and improving our imagination?
One benefit is that we can develop divergent thinking, or the ability to generate new and original solutions to problems - in other words, think outside the box. Imagination is also a foundation for important abilities such as insightful thinking, creative problem-solving skills, intuitive thinking, and creativity.
The Imagination Improvement Institute conducts research on mechanisms for effectively strengthening imagination.
Ainsworth-Land, George T., and Beth Jarman. Breakpoint and beyond: Mastering the Future--Today. HarperBusiness, 1993.
“Divergent thinking.” Merriam-Webster.com Medical Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/divergent%20thinking.
Imagination and Top 10 skills of 2025
The World Economic Forum has created a list of the top 10 essential work skills by 2025. According to the Forum's 'Future of Jobs Report,' as technology and artificial intelligence continue to advance and adoption of technology increases, approximately 50% of all employees worldwide will require reskilling by 2025.
Many of these skills are impacted by the strength of imagination, not just creativity.
Skills affected by imagination (skills with red lines):
Creativity, originality, and initiative
Resilience, stress tolerance, flexibility
Imagination can serve as the foundation for many of the skills that will be needed in the near future. As machines continue to improve, human abilities such as leadership, creativity, empathy, and curiosity become even more important. A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) supports this, as businesses see nurturing these human skills as essential for taking full advantage of the potential benefits of new technology.
At the Imagination Improvement Institute, we explore mechanisms for effectively improving imagination, as this ability is supportive of many of these skills.
Imagination and the Future of Work 2030
How will work look like by 2030? While no one knows the answer to the question, we found an interesting report published by PwC on the prediction of the future of work by 2030. The report was created by PwC and the Said Business School of Oxford University, and it describes four possible futures driven by the "mega trends," such as technological breakthroughs, rapid urbanization, global economic changes, aging population, resource scarcity and climate change. How will the workforce look like in each of these scenarios?
More information on each scenario can be found on this report: Workforce of the future – The competing forces shaping 2030 (pwc.com), but we've summarized the impact on the workforce as below:
Although the four predicted scenarios would look vastly different, they all have one thing in common: the integration of advanced technologies such as automation and AI in the workforce. PwC suggests that as adoption of automations and machines increases, it puts more advantages to workers with problem-solving, leadership, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), empathy and creativity skills. This means skills machines cannot yet replace will become pivotal - creativity, innovation, imagination and design skills will be prioritized by employers.
According to the report, this view is endorsed by CEOs worldwide who participated in their CEO survey. The skills business leaders are particularly looking for are: problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, leadership, creativity and innovation. However, they claim that finding these essential skills become the biggest threat to their business.
At the Imagination Improvement Institute, we explore mechanisms for improving one of these essential skills: imagination.
Imagination and Strategies for Future
In a world that is rapidly evolving, how can we develop strategies that work for the future? In an interview with McKinsey & Company, Roger Martin, a strategy advisor recognized as the world's #1 management thinker, provides some insights on this topic.
Below is what Martin has stated in the interview:
“If you base your strategy on analyzing the past, then you are implicitly making the assumption that the future will be identical to the past. Because it’s based on rigorous analysis—and you’ve been taught…that rigorous analysis is correct—then you will not be ready for the future to end up looking different than the past, and you’re more likely to stick with your strategy for longer because it’s “right,” based on the analysis. As a result, you’ll stick with the strategy longer and probably crash worse.”
Martin suggests that if we view strategy as an exercise for dealing with the future and design a strategy for an uncertain future, we should follow the advice of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle, a father of science, stated that a scientific method only works in a part of the world where analyzing the past provides a certain answer on how the future will look. However, in a part of the world where the future can differ from the past, a scientific method should never be used. In such a world, Martin advises us to rely more on imagination and less on data to make decisions:
“What Aritsotle said is you must imagine possibilities of that future and choose the one for which the most compelling argument can be made. So I think strategies will be more robust for the future when we stop imagining that we can analyze the past to determine our strategy and rather understand that it is an exercise in imagination—imagining a future and then testing out the logic to ask which possibility for the future is the most logically compelling…I think that’s the best way to deal with the uncertainty of the future—to shape it, not let it happen to you—but you have to have this imagination and a belief that you can shape the future rather than a belief that you can extrapolate the past. That’ll make for better strategy.”
Martin states imagination is required more than data to make great choices. He also answers how this can be implemented.
“It’s mainly an exercise in freeing people up, in saying to them that in order to shape your strategy for the future, you don’t have to go by what the data say. What you can do is imagine things that you think would be better for us, better for the consumer, better for the world, etcetera, and then we’ll test those. I think the world of business has put people in a straightjacket of strict, rigorous data analysis. Once freed from it, they are game to play..”
At the Imagination Improvement Institute, we investigate mechanisms to improve imagination.
More on this interview can be read from:
Activities and Plans
Students are invited to participate in the program and provide feedback. To reach potential participants, we collaborate with universities and educational institutions.