Rana Florida

Imagination is the Key to Business Success

“The true sign of intelligence,” Albert Einstein said a long time ago, “is not knowledge but imagination.” From the discovery of eyeglasses to the design of the James Webb Space Telescope, imagination fuels our creativity, which has become the chief economic driver of our age. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs used their imaginations to envision the ways that computers and digital technology writ large could change the world. Walt Disney’s entire business model turns on the work of its “imagineers.” If you don’t constantly imagine the future and the evolving role that your business could play in it, you may not have any future at all. Just think about how quickly Blockbuster Video’s business model fell to Netflix’s, and Barnes and Noble’s was overtaken by Amazon’s.

But if imagination is the fuel of innovation, it is not a synonym for it. Imagination is the faculty by which we envision new things (and new uses for old things) in our own minds—innovation is the process by which we bring those new things into existence. In the arts, it might be a symphony or a novel, which, more often than not, is created in solitude. In business, innovation emerges out of collaboration.

Successful leaders understand that the more diverse their teams, the wider the range of perspectives, insights, and ways of doing things, the better they are at innovation

Rather than squelch crazy ideas, a business leader’s mission should be to create an environment in which the word “crazy” has no meaning. In the words of Apple’s famous “Think Different” commercial, “people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Rana Florida: Chief Executive Officer of the Creative Class Group, a strategy firm led by Richard Florida, author of the book, Upgrade—Taking Your Work and Life From Ordinary to Extraordinary, writer on business and leadership for Fast Company, Inc.com, Huffington Post, and Miami Herald, and guest business analyst on The Today Show and MSNBC’s The Cycle, who has been featured in The New York Times, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

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