“What does imagination mean to you, and how do you cultivate it in others?”
What juicy questions! These questions were posed to me just last week during OWN-IT, a leadership conference hosted by and for the amazing women of Boston College.
I was on a panel discussing the role of imagination in a fulfilling life, along with my co-panelist Libby Moore, a dynamic coach and adventurer who, by the way, was also Oprah Winfrey’s chief of staff for 11 years.
The experience was so fun that I wanted to share a few highlights with you. First – the poem I wrote regarding what imagination means to me (after all it is National Poetry Month!). Second – my recommendations for cultivating imagination in others.
Imagination means everything to me.
Without it I wither. With it I thrive.
Imagination is the spark from which greatness derives.
It can’t be quantified with numbers or charts
But makes itself known in the depth of our hearts.
It can guide us and taunt us and challenge our being.
It can open us up to new ways of seeing.
And with this power so pure, so potent and true,
It’s the most precious of gifts to me and to you.
How to Cultivate Imagination
When I work with leaders in corporations, one of their common interests is inspiring creativity, imagination, and magic in the teams they lead. So I emphasize the following:
- Creating psychological safety in teams.
- Developing a culture and team environment where no one will be embarrassed or punished for speaking up.
- Listening to others with empathy so that all people trust they will be heard.
- Charles Duhigg recently wrote a powerful article on this topic for the New York Times Magazine.
When I’m working with individuals in life transition, I encourage three additional elements to foster imagination:
- Take time to listen to your voice – put down the phone and be quiet.
- Trust your voice. Allow your thoughts and dreams to flow without judgment or censure.
- Once you know what you want then visualize both the end result (for example, a promotion) as well as the steps you will take to achieve that result (develop new skills, network, etc.).
So tell me:
How do you cultivate your imagination?