Creativity and Imagination

New research shows that creativity and imagination are two important qualities in human performance and are often overlooked attributes. Today, most employee performance evaluation checklists show metrics that measure one’s analytical skills, job competencies, interpersonal and communicative skills, but creativity and imagination are often not revered and/or evaluated.

Jonah Lehrer discusses in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works that it is creativity and imagination that are seminal in generating ideas that can lead to innovative solutions in the marketplace. For instance, a simple example is project presentations that leverage these two attributes, which (when used) usually have a higher likelihood of winning over skeptics both internally and/or externally to get a particular project started or funded. Imagination and creativity are often what differentiates a mediocre performance from an outstanding one — not just regarding presentations, but many facets of various work.

Along the same lines as above, imagination and creativity also allow people to prepare and plan for future actions by creating creative solutions that can only happen when imagination and creativity are working together. As business processes get more and more complex, it is often our imagination and creativity that saves the day. Using imagery and imagination allows us to prepare, rehearse, and perfect our future actions. This type of planning and practice is a consistent pattern for peak performers in both business and sport. As we get older in age, we unfortunately often get less imaginative. Imagination and creativity are also important aspects of brain plasticity, and maintaining these skills help us sustain our cognitive reserve as we grow older allowing us to operate optimally late into life.

There are simple things we can do to maintain our imagination at any age. One exercise is to draw a peaceful landscape that does not exist in reality. The definition of “peaceful” is unique to each individual, so you have creative license to draw whatever you want as long as the environment is completely imagined (i.e. not drawn from memory). The way we perceive and operate in the world is personal to our respective selves. The world as we know it is defined by our experiences and developing our creativity also allows us to expand our capacity to understand our human experience. In short, these are important but often overlooked skills in both one’s professional life, as well as one’s personal life.