“This world is but a canvas to our imaginations.” -Henry David Thoreau
Did you ever play with LEGOS when you were a kid? How about finger painting, drawing or maybe GI-JOE action figures?… Barbie?
Part of the reason why playing was so much fun when you were a kid was because you had a vivid imagination that applied more meaning and depth to your games and actions.
GI-JOE weren’t just plastic dolls, they were a collection of good guys and bad guys, each with their own names, background stories, vehicles, and capabilities.
Some where along the way though (most of us) stopped being kids, and we stopped indulging our creative imaginations.
Trouble is, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an member of a larger company, this lack of a playful imagination can be a big disadvantage.
Here are 5 reasons why having a strong imagination can benefit your business as well as the negative consequences to not having one:
1) Without imagination you become incapable of creative problem solving. Building a business is therefore viewed as a matter hard work and always doing thing systematically well. This is fine, but without a strong imagination you will over look ideas that could grow your business by leaps and bounds, with only implement a few simple changes. Imagination allows you think outside of the box, instead of within the boundaries of what is “safe.”
For instance, with the Nintendo Wii, a whole new market of gamers (including women) was created with the product’s launch. If the same idea was originally proposed for the PS2 or for the XBOX, the idea would have been shot down. “Gamer don’t want to get off the couch,” was the conventional thinking at the time.
2) Look at the office culture and design at places like IDEO and Zappos. Employees are allowed to build out, customize, and decorate their work area however they please. This allows for a pleasurable sense of ownership and control over one’s environment.
At 37Signals on the other hand, you can observe that the design of their work environment is much more simple, lean, open, and minimalistic.
Both are original in their own ways and required a high degree of design and imagination.
Both settings are “opinionated” and “sincere,” aligned and informed by their company philosophies. (Personally, for PetoVera, our web design company, I want something closer to the 37signals office, but with more room to move around and create stuff on-the-fly.)
Without imagination your company’s office is doomed to be mediocre at best, and demoralizing at worst. Think: cubicles, dress clothes and plain white walls. Not a fun or even a practical place to work.
3) Unoriginal or non-unique product ideas are another symptom of a lack of imagination.
“It’s like Facebook, but for girls only.” What a pathetically unoriginal idea that is (no offense that’s an idea someone actually came up with). But seriously, startups and established companies come up with some pretty lame ideas for products. Another great example of this was the famous flop, called “New! Coke.”
If someone on Coca-Cola‘s product team had more imagination, perhaps they would have though of something more creative and useful. For example, they could create a premium brand of “Burpless Coke” for more formal / classy social occasions. This idea is off the top of my head and might not actually work, but it’s are more original than “New! Coke.”
4) Your marketing ideas will be stronger if you have an active imagination. For instance, a perfect example of this is the unsubscribe option on Groupon. This is brilliant and hilarious. This idea took both wit and a playful sense of humor to create. Who would want to unsubscribe after getting a good laugh out of that?
5) Using you imagination you can come up with an unlimited number of ideas for how to exceed customer expectations in your business. For Zappos, part of their claim to fame occurred as a result of (a) having friendly, unscripted customer service people answering the phones, (b) free over-night shipping for next day delivery on all orders, and (c) free return delivery if the shoes didn’t fit.
From a purely business standpoint, these ideas would not have ordinarily been considered. This is because such tactics would be seen as having a severely negative impact profit margins.
To the contrary, Zappos used this to it’s advantage because it was unexpected for that reason. Customers spread the word and Zappos grew.
The big idea here is to be more “playful” with you business strategies; use your God-given gift of imagination to grow you company into something great that does more than make money–into something that “makes meaning,” as Guy Kawasaki says.
How can you use the power of imagination in your business to come up with creative solutions that strengthen your business?