Applied imagination is my specialty. I work with teams, typically with leadership teams spearheading massive software or transformation projects, using a navigation system that I created called the Imagination Age. The system was created to help individuals, teams and organizations abandon old habits associated with a way of thinking and working that is outdated, while adopting a new path for moving forward toward a shared goal.

While every project is different, there are a few principles at the core of the way I think about imagination. As the new year gets underway, I wanted to share them with you. This list is always a work in progress, and there are lots more where these came from, but it’s a starting point.

These are the 26 Glyphs of the Imagination Age. They each correspond to a different focus area. I wrote about a few of them here, and I will write about more of them soon.

The Principles of Applied Imagination

  1. All people, everywhere, are born with imagination.
  2. Imagination is the way the brain forms a path between where you are and where you want to go.
  3. Some people are fantasizers who have wild imaginations. Others are followers who want a path cut for them that they can comfortably follow. Some want to apply their imaginations in pragmatic ways.
  4. Imagination helps us to see what it not there yet, and to understand, more fully, what is there.
  5. Imagination is a mix of nebulous and tangible elements.
  6. The nebulous aspects of this path can be made tangible, and the tangible aspects can be deprioritized to constantly update the imagined path forward.
  7. The advanced practitioner learns to prioritize the elements of this path, to root out the unnecessary parts and develop the important parts of them in real time as it changes.
  8. Children are not just playing with their imaginations. They are learning how to solve problems. As children grow, they learn that society has rules to keep their thinking in line. The thinking has already been done for them. Imagination is wrongly viewed as frivolous.
  9. Applied imagination requires clear communication. People aren’t mind readers.
  10. Clearly communicated ideas influence the imagination of others, for better or worse. If someone else’s vision is an upgrade from your own, consider updating yours rather than resisting new ideas.
  11. Imagination takes practice, like learning a language or playing an instrument. You can get rusty and lose your progress.
  12. The future is invented through applied imagination, collaboratively developed and clearly communicated to people who are committed to making the vision real.

Rita J. King is a futurist and the EVP for Business Development at Science House, a strategic consultancy in NYC that helps professional teams envision and achieve the future they imagine. Science House is a cathedral of the imagination where teams focus to do their best creative work toward a shared mission.

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